Disintegration: Hands-on with the New Strategy Shooter

Den of Geek got involved with the technical beta for Disintegration. This is how it went.

In late January, V1 Interactive and Private Division hosted an online technical beta test for Disintegration, the upcoming shooter game that comes to us from former Bungie creative art director and Halo developer Marcus Lehto. Den of Geek logged onto PS4 and got involved, sampling some early hands-on time with two of the game’s multiplayer modes. Long story short: we had a good time with Disintegration, and it left us wanting more.

The game’s story takes place in a dark future in which mankind has integrated with machines to survive, but, as you’d expect, these multiplayer modes only really give you a tiny taste of that narrative. Instead, the two modes that we played are mainly focused on getting players to compete against each other online. Each player takes control of a flying vehicle and a team of support soldiers on the ground. In both modes, the players are split into two teams to duke it out.

A highly enjoyable tutorial explained how we’d be controlling our squad of machine-enhanced soldiers: using a combination of the controller’s sticks and shoulder buttons, your core task is flying your ship around the battlefield and firing at your foes. You can also give commands to your ground soldiers, tasking them with shooting at certain foes, covering a specific area, or dishing out a special attack. Once you get used to them, these controls feel like a fresh way to traverse your way through a battle. You’ll feel like a real tactical genius if you pull off certain maneuvers — sending your troops to dispatch one enemy while you shoot another from the sky, for example. And the controls are simple enough to pick up, so you should be able to reach this level of expertise quite comfortably.

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But before you can bring your newfound skills to the multiplayer modes, you have to choose which exact squad you want to bring into online battle. There is a selection of pre-made squads, each of which has its own visual identity and unique weaponry. There’s a samurai-style squad, a Mad Max-y sort of squad, a Cyberpunk-looking squad, and so on. You’ll be able to use in-game currency to buy different loadouts for your squads, which will give them alternate weapons options and a slight cosmetic makeover.

Having chosen the samurai option and souped it up a little, since we’d been given some currency to spend, we were ready to get battling. We wound up spawning in a junkyard-style map for a game of “Territorial Control” with nine other players. Split into two teams of five, we had to use our squads to battle for control of three bases around the map. It’s essentially a high-octane game of Halo‘s “Territories” mode, which throws up some really fun moments that see you rushing from one control point to the next before the clock runs out. But the mode also lacks the nuance of the single-player portions teased in the tutorial. 

Back in the tutorial, it felt like we had real decisions to make and that our choices had the potential to bring about some triumphant tactical moments. But during our brief time in this particular multiplayer mode, everything felt more chaotic – with so many players controlling so many squads, it felt like everyone was shooting at everyone else all the time. Chances for nuanced approaches seemed slim, with slap-dash grabs for power being more the order of the day. As something of a bonus, though: every time you die you can choose to respawn as a different kind of squad, which allows you to vary your approach based on your squad’s strengths and stats. Still, when you get back to the fight, it will still feel like more of a free-for-all than a fully tactical experience. That’s not to say it isn’t fun to play this mode, but it feels like there should be more thought involved in winning than there is.

Next, we loaded up a game of “Retrieval” in a grounded urban map called Low Town. A game of two halves, one defensive and one offensive, Retrieval is a multiplayer mode that centers on three explosive cores: in one half of the game, you’ll be trying to grab these cores, and in the other half, you’ll be trying to protect them from your enemies. You’ll have to work with your teammates to pick up the cores and deliver them back to base without being shot to pieces by your foes, and then you’ll swap roles with your opponents and try to stop them doing the exact same thing.

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Although the core gameplay mechanic of traveling around the map and shooting your opponents’ ships/soldiers remains consistent across these two modes, Retrieval feels like a better example of what this game can do – the forced focus on either attacking or defending encourages you to actually work together and think about tactics, while Territorial Control feels a bit looser since you only have to think about taking over bases and trying not to die. It should also be said that the graphics looked pretty snazzy on the two maps we tried. Despite the fact we’d been warned of potential technical issues in this beta, we didn’t have any trouble loading up game after game and trying to get the hang of it.

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Disintegration feels like a game that is trying to do a lot of things – it offers chaotic shooter battles, real-time strategy, and also an eye-catching array of squads and maps to choose from. There is room for all of this, of course, and different bits will appeal to different people. The fun 1vE battles in the tutorial also left us with high hopes for the single-player campaign, where we’d hope to find some tricky battles and thought-provoking tactical options. Certainly, we’ve seen enough from this beta to want to try the full game.

Disintegration will launch later in 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.