In preparation for its Open Technical Beta On January 31st and February 1st, the good people of V1 Interactive recently held a Closed Technical Beta for their upcoming sci-fi first-person shooter Disintegration (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC). In it, members of the media and others had an opportunity to play two of the game’s three multiplayer modes, “Retrieval” and “Zone Control.”
What follows are my impressions of the game.
Upon loading up…
Disintegration‘s Closed Technical Beta I was entered into a training program for the Gravcycle, the vehicle you pilot in the game. But while its name and look suggests it is similar to the Sparrow from Destiny and Destiny 2, or a speeder bike from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Gravcycles actually work more like helicopters crossed with mechs. Rather than move fast in straight lines, they instead float above the battlefields, slowly gliding forward, backward, and to the sides. Though they can also, like a mech, do a quick dash forward or to the side. They also come standard with a scanner, built-in twin guns, and a health-regenerating device deployment system.
Disintegration also puts you in control of a small squad of ground troopers, who you command with the touch of the right bumper. They will not only attack any nearby enemies, or one you’ve specified, but can also be told to access door controls or toss concussion grenades. Just make sure you grab their floating brain containers when they die so you can resurrect them.
I then had comprehension of the controls tested in a fight with some ‘bots. It was during this skirmish that I realized Disintegration‘s combat feels like Anthem‘s. Well, at least how I played Anthem, with me, hovering above the battlefield, raining death down on my enemy. And for those wondering, yes, this is a good thing; Anthem may have problems, but shooting enemies from on-high was not one of them.
After completing the Gravcycle and squad command training program, I moved on to the multiplayer portion of Disintegration. It was here that I was able to customize the game, somewhat, by picking my badges, banners, and emotes, but not my actual appearance. For that, I had to go into the “Crew Appearance” section, as each crew has a distinct and consistent look for the pilot, vehicle, and companions. These include a group (Neon Dreams) who are clearly fans of Tron Legacy‘s penchant for neon black and blue, another (Warhedz) who prefer the rusted metal scrap aesthetic of Mad Max: Fury Road, and still another (The Sideshow), who are clearly superfans of the Jokerz from Batman Beyond. All of these clan outfits also come with both regular and alternative looks (and yes, the alt color scheme for The Sideshow was purple and green; how did you know?).
Your crew choice in Disintegration…
isn’t just an aesthetic one, however. It also changes the Gravcycle’s gun from, say, a machinegun to an assault rifle to something that’s like a crossbow that shoots bolts of electricity.
Moving on, I then went into the “Matchmaking” section. While the menu makes it seem that we’ll be able to choose what mode to play when the game comes out, this was not open yet; instead, we had to go with “Quickplay.”
For my first match, I played “Zone Control,” which, on the surface, seems like a basic capture point mode. But it actually feels a bit different by virtue of having you be in a Gravcycle that’s hovering over the battlefield, and with troops at your command. Especially if, like me, you go high while they go low, and you constantly issue new orders to your disciples.
Next, I played a round of “Retrieval,” which is a classic bomb delivery mode. But like with “Zone Control,” being the pilot of a Gravcycle puts an interesting (read: aerial) spin on this familiar gametype as well. Though I did feel, in this specific mode, that both I and my opponents spent much more time shooting each other’s Gravcycles and not enough time looking after our squads.
(Along with “Zone Control” and “Retrieval,” Disintegration also has a third mode, “Collector,” which seems to be like “Kill Confirmed” in Call Of Duty: Black Ops III, in that you not only have to kill your enemies, but also have to pick up something to, well, confirm their kill.)
What also sets…
the multiplayer modes in Disintegration apart from similar modes in other games, somewhat, are the maps. Take “Junkyard,” which looks like the planet Thor landed on in Thor: Ragnarok. Like the other maps I played (but was too busy taking notes to notice their names), this was made of high walls that formed narrow pathways that connected more open areas. But while your Gravcycle can hover above the action, it can’t get high enough to go over the walls. This, admittedly, makes things kind of interesting, though it’s hard not to imagine how some variety in this regard would’ve been even better.
Not being able to go over the walls wasn’t the only issue I had with this early version of Disintegration, though. For one thing, if your Gravcycle has a machinegun, it tends to overheat really fast.
It also seems like Disintegration could benefit from allowing players to change the button configuration. As is, you use the left bumper to raise your Gravcycle’s elevation, and the left trigger to lower it, as opposed to using “A” (on Xbox) or “X” (PS4) for the former and “B” (Xbox) or “O” (PS4) for the latter, like you have in other games with similar vertical vehicles. And this is regardless of which of the two button layouts you chose. This is especially problematic if, like me, you play a lot of first-person shooters and instinctively use the left trigger for iron sights. I know for a fact that I died twice during rounds of “Retrieval” because I was trying to look down the barrel of my gun but instead just moved closer to the ground.
Every mode of Disintegration, including the training one, also had a problem so common these days that I just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review and preview: some of the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you too — you’ll have trouble reading the button prompts and mission objectives. There were even times, mostly in the training section, when even being too close to the TV didn’t help since the text was white and set against a light blue background. The irony being that the captions were not only a decent size, but came with a background that made them more readable.
While the Closed Technical Beta…
gave me some sense of what to expect from Disintegration, there is obviously a lot more to this game. Most notably, a story-driven single-player campaign (the plot of which is explained, somewhat, on their website). Though it does seem, from both this beta and the announcement trailer, that you will play both this mode and multiplayer with your butt firmly planted in the seat of your Gravcycle; you won’t be dismounting like you did in Titanfall 2. And while it will be a while before we find out for sure — since Disintegration’s release date is currently listed as some point between April 1st of this year and March 31st of 2021 — if what I got to play during the Closed Technical Beta is any indication, Disintegration will, at the very least, be a unique sci-fi shooter.