Sci-fi is a favourite genre of mine. When it’s good, it’s incredible and even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. V1 Interactive’s first title, Disintegration, thankfully looks as though it’s in the former camp. Set 150 years in the future, Disintegration takes place on an earth that’s been “forever changed by continued global climate extremes, food shortages, riots and things that have led humanity to be stressed to the point of a potential extinction event.”
In order to preserve what’s left of humanity, people begin using a process called ‘integration.’ This process extracts the human brain and implants it into an armoured shell which is then integrated into a robotic armature. As the planet becomes more hostile to human life and more people become integrated the side effects start to become more evident.
As factions form with some hoping to one day become human again and others leaving humanity behind, civil war breaks out. It’s at this point that the story takes place with players stepping into the shoes of Romer Shoal.
We recently had the opportunity to see Disintegration in action and speak with Marcus Lehto, President of V1 Interactive and Director of Disintegration. You might recognise Lehto as one of the creators of Halo and with Disintegration, he’s hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a second time around.
Earlier this year a beta for Disintegration’s multiplayer was held and it led some players to believe it was a multiplayer-only title. Lehto is keen to set the record straight.
“We started out as a single-player campaign game and that has been a very large part of what we’ve been building all along,” he said, adding “we also built a large multiplayer component to the game.
“Both are equally important to us.”
As for the single-player campaign, players will control Romer as he fights against the forces of the Rayonne and their leader Black Shuck. The Rayonne have risen to power across the globe and are hunting ‘naturals’ to integrate into their army. A resistance against the Rayonne has formed and people are fighting back. At the beginning of the campaign, Romer is being held prisoner by Black Shuck who wants him to join the Rayonne, however, he escapes and finds a ragtag group of integrated people just like him.
This group forms the basis for the campaign’s story and gameplay.
Disintegration is a first-person shooter but Lehto says it’s “unlike any that you’ve ever played.” Players control a vehicle called a Grav Cycle which can move freely in space while at the same time giving commands to their ground units. It’s a combination of first-person shooter and real-time tactical elements and it takes some getting used to.
Lehto refers to the Grav Cycle and ground units as the player’s left and right hand respectively and said that playing without one is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. When questioned on the potential difficulty of learning the mechanics he said that most players take about 5 minutes to start understanding the game.
They start to pick up the commands or the gameplay mechanics of flying the Grav Cycle around. It’s within that five minute mark that they understand, “Oh, this is how I can use my units effectively.”
The barrier to entry is fairly low, which is great. Understanding of the deeper game play mechanics will take longer and certainly that’s what campaign is designed for, to gradually take you through some of those, learning elements of how to utilise your crew effectively, how to utilise their abilities effectively and build that tool set as you get into the later missions.
From the Grav Cycle, players can issue commands to the ground units to tell them where to go, who to shoot, which objectives to attack and more. Each ground unit also comes with a special ability which includes a Slow Field, Mortar Barrage, Concussion Grenade and others. Some of these abilities were able to be used in the multiplayer beta, however, the campaign functions differently as it doesn’t have to accommodate multiple players.
While players are “staging” a unit’s ability in the campaign, time slows down. In multiplayer, players aren’t afforded this benefit.
The time dilation “gives you this really unique ability to move around the environment while you’re staging the unit’s special ability and even allowing you to combo other abilities in addition to that,” Lehto explained. Comboing abilities and time dilation simply aren’t possible in multiplayer so there’s an interesting tactical aspect in the single-player campaign that certainly gives it a unique flavour.
In addition to learning how to use your units’ abilities, give commands and control the Grav Cycle, players will need to use Scan Mode. Lehto calls it “essential” as it uncovers information about the world and shows players where to find items and critical objectives. After an objective has been scanned, players can direct their units to interact with it, destroy it or unlock it. One example are Health Stations which can heal your units if they’re low.
Something really exciting about Disintegration and the way the ground units work is their autonomy. When a player directs them to a specific location, they’ll move there and then take up smart positions behind cover. We’ve all played games where your units stand around like muppets and get shot to pieces so it’s great to see V1 Interactive attempting to remove that from this game.
The cover in Disintegration can be used by friendlies and enemies alike and it’s destructible. If it’s destroyed by the enemy, your units will seek out other cover however, Lehto stressed that “as the commander in the sky you’re responsible for maintaining their wellbeing in the midst of combat.
“So you want to reposition them, frequently, move them throughout the environment, scan for enemies where you can find them and prioritise targets when you can.”
Throughout the campaign, in each mission, players will have between three and four ground units at their command as well as different Grav Cycles and loadouts. Additionally, during some missions, players will be able to rescue “Red Shirts” who join you in battle and become part of your mini army. If you play well enough, you can keep them with you throughout the mission and have extra firepower that you normally wouldn’t
As for Disintegration’s narrative, Lehto said the core is considering what it means to be human. It’s also a response to the “pervasiveness of technology, our reliance on it and what happens if we left it unchecked,” according to Lehto. The current climate crisis is also at the heart of Disintegration’s story as it posits a world where nothing has been done to fix it.
That being said, Disintegration isn’t post-apocalyptic. The world is lush and while humanity has struggled, nature has thrived. Lehto said, “it’s a beautiful world to explore but a dark theme to play with.”
Disintegration certainly looks like an interesting and unique title. The narrative deals with some deep, dark, posthumanist ideas rooted in contemporary society and its myriad issues. It’s the gameplay mechanics that are truly interesting though. Having played the multiplayer beta I’m keen to see how differently the single-player campaign feels, especially when it comes to commanding your ground units.
If V1 Interactive can ensure that playing Disintegration is consistently fun, engaging and intuitive then it has the potential to be an absolute blockbuster. My fingers and toes are crossed.
Disintegration is coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2020.