In the far future our soft, squishy brains will be fused into mechanical shells, at least that's the lore that sets up Disintegration, a game in which you're walking in the metallic shoes of a robot hoping to reclaim its humanity. Naturally, your search for yourself brings you into conflict with other robo-humans after the same thing, or something like that, and that's the setup that defines V1 Interactive's new hybrid shooter.
In an interesting twist on the FPS genre, players will control the action from a hoverbike. Seated upon this floating ride in the sky, you'll be able to spit flame and metal down on your opponents, and you won't be alone, as each player has control of a small team of soldiers and a mech that scurry around underneath. This little unit follows you about the battlefield, taking orders and attacking enemies, and you float around them, supporting their efforts and looking out for flanking opponents. It sits somewhere between Destiny (think Cayde-6 riding a sparrow with a fireteam on the ground beneath him) and the tight unit-focused RTS action in games like Company of Heroes, and this unlikely fusion of ingredients actually turns out to be pretty fun.
The single-player portion of the game was described to us rather than shown, and it sounds like you'll be able to customise your robotic-avatar and their supporting troops, tweaking abilities as you see fit, at least within the confines of the in-game customisation. Multiplayer, on the other hand, was available to try after our briefing from publishing label Private Division, and we played a couple of rounds of an objective-based mode whereby each team took turns to attack an objective in order to remove a core, while the other team tried to defend it with their very lives.
The big difference between solo and multiplayer is that your options are somewhat limited and instead of having a free hand to shape your team, you're restricted to choosing from a number of preset options, each with their own colourful designs and bespoke armaments. In our humble opinion, visually speaking, these preset styles felt a little on the generic side, with the futuristic designs harking back to fairly common tropes (medieval knights, samurai, neon-tinted punks - you get the idea), but these distinct cosmetic differences are mostly there to differentiate your units from others on the battlefield and that being the case, the route one colour schemes work just fine.
More important to each unit are the abilities that come with them, as these have a direct impact on the way you play. You can be more nimble and lightweight if you prefer, but you're going to be squishy as a result of that increased mobility. Likewise, you can slowly roll into battle with a grenade launcher and slow-to-recharge heavy rocket attack that can be devastating if aimed and timed correctly. We only played a couple of rounds so we didn't get to see many of the different builds, but those we tried felt distinct thanks to their individual strengths and weaknesses.
The mode we played had both teams battling in a dilapidated urban environment, with one group trying to grab the defending team's core and remove it, and naturally, the other team's job was to stop them from doing so at all costs. Teams of up to five players must, therefore, band together and coordinate their attacks, and the various abilities and additional bodies on the ground seemed to offer plenty of tactical options in the moment, and coordination seems key (at least when playing this objective-driven mode). Neither team was able to extract the core in our demo and it ended a draw, but we spent much of our time focused on causing as much damage as possible, and to that end, we were more than successful.
After our hands-on and during our talk with developer-in-chief Marcus Lehto (whose previous credits include being one of the creators of the original Halo during his days at Bungie), we got a better sense of how this mishmash of ideas came to fruition. Originally the idea was that the player was simply going to oversee the action from their floating camera in the sky, but it didn't take long for the team to realise that it would be much more fun to strap some guns to that camera and have the player get more directly involved. With hindsight, it was a great call, and this fusion of ideas, this coming together of shooter gameplay and tactical oversight, looks like it could work out very well and provide a distinctive experience that sits alone in a crowded space.
We're going to have wait and see how this fusion of genres plays out in the solo campaign, but our brief hands-on with the multiplayer gave us enough insight into this work-in-progress concept to know that we're interested in seeing more. It was the briefest of glimpses, snatched in a crowded room in bowels of the business area of Gamescom, but it was enough to grab our attention. Disintegration is heading to PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime next year, and when it lands we'll be there, riding our hoverbike and blasting our enemies to oblivion as we seek to regain our long-lost humanity.