While helicopters have been powerful enemies in countless shooters, there haven’t been too many games lately where you get to fly one into combat yourself. But while piloting a futuristic helicopter-like vehicle in the sci-fi first-person shooter Disintegration (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) isn’t always as exciting as trying to shoot down an attack copter with a pistol is in other games, both the story-driven campaign and multiplayer modes do make this entertaining despite its flaws.
Set in the far future,
Disintegration casts you the pilot of a Gravcycle, which looks like a speeder bike from Return Of The Jedi with wings, but moves like — you guessed it — a helicopter. It hovers, goes left and right and front to back, and doesn’t fly so fast that you might accidentally slam into a tree while chasing a teddy bear. Though you’re not just a Gravcycle pilot, you’re also a cyborg, one living in a world where it’s possible to install someone’s brain in a prosthetic body. Hence why you and most of your friends look like Cayde-6 from Destiny if he insisted on wearing pants.
With Disintegration being a first-person shooter, you naturally spend the bulk of this game, well, shooting things. But unlike DOOM Eternal, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, and other first-person shooters, this doesn’t have you with your feet on the ground, reaching for the stars. Instead, you hover over the battlefield, dealing death from above. Again, like in a helicopter.
Your Gravcycle also, like a helicopter, has guns, albeit ones that only shoot forward. But those aren’t your only weapons. You also command a small squad of ground troops. And they’re not just cannon fodder, either. In both multiplayer and the campaign, your troops have special attacks — including mortars and concussion grenades — as well as the professionalism to go where you tell them to go and do what you tell them to do (which, in the campaign, mostly just means opening the box you just told them to open).
More importantly, your ground troops are smart enough to be left alone. Which is why Disintegration never feels like a real-time strategy game. Even when you do tell them to do something, they don’t just stop and admire their handiwork when they finish; they continue fighting. So much so that, save for when you need them to hack a jammer or open a box, you can basically leave them to their own devices, secure in the knowledge that they’ll keep fighting…and they’ll win.
It also helps…
that your Gravcycle has an endless amount of ammo. Which may seem like it would make this way too easy, but it actually makes this fun in the same way old school side-scrolling shooters that also had endless amounts of ammo were fun.
This comes in very helpful in the game’s story mode. In it, you’re a Gravcycle pilot turned rebel who believes it’s my body, my choice when it comes to cyberization. But not everybody does, which is why you’re trying to stop Black Shuck, the pro-life, er, pro-cyborg warden of the prison you escaped from in the game’s opening cutscenes.
As a shooter, Disintegration‘s campaign works well. The firefights are frantic, with enemies attacking from all sides. There’s also a good variety of enemy types, including large mechs, drones, other Gravcycles, and one I won’t spoil save to say it was deeply satisfying every time I took one of those bastards down. In addition, you have to contend with EMP bursts that kill your engines, land mines that pop up and hover in mid-air until they’re triggered, and jammers that shut down your weapons. Plus, just when you think a battle’s ended, more enemies will arrive to extend the fight. Not so many that it seems unfair, mind you, but enough to keep things interesting.
The levels in Disintegration‘s campaign are also nicely varied, usually with lots of cover for enemies to hide behind. Well, temporarily; wooden barriers aren’t bullet resistant, and along with destructible cover, enemy bases also have lots of electrical panels that short out and red gas barrels that explode.
Unfortunately, your enemies in Disintegration‘s story mode aren’t as interesting as where they work. They often seem distracted, and don’t always notice that an armed, helicopter-like vehicle is approaching from the South with three mechs in tow. Enemy ground troops also seem more concerned with your squad than with you, often to the point of ignoring you.
isn’t the only problem with the campaign in Disintegration. For instance, while your Gravcycle has a good variety of weapons, including machine guns and cannons, you’re never given a choice when you start a mission. And the same goes for the special attacks of your ground troops.
It’s also irritating that you often can’t command your troops to interact with something on the battlefield until you scan the item first, even if you’ve seen one before.
You’re also quickly penalized if you go out of bounds, even if doing so would make tactical sense. In one early mission, for example, enemies break down the gate of a rebel base. But if you go out the gate to attack them before they come in — which, obviously, would be a smart strategic move — you get a stern warning to turn around or you’ll fail the mission.
Disintegration could also use variety in its missions. While you can do some exploring, and there are times when you have to go it alone, or be more hands-on with your troops because your weapons are being jammed, this mostly has you flying from point A to point B, shooting everything in between.
It also doesn’t help that Disintegration’s story isn’t all that interesting. My earlier references to the abortion debate go deeper than this game ever does, and the story is largely rote and predictable. And the same can be said for some of the voice acting.
Along with the story-driven campaign,
Disintegration also has three multiplayer modes. Which, like the campaign, have their flaws, but still manage to be fun.
They also puts an interesting spin on some familiar game types. “Zone Control,” for instance, is your basic capture point mode; “Retrieval” has you delivering bombs or trying to stop bomb delivery workers from doing their jobs; while “Collector,” is basically “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 their brain-cans to, well, confirm their kill.
While all three work well, they also feel slightly different than they do in other games because you’re above the fray and commanding troops to do your dirty work. Though unlike the campaign, where you could clear out an area and then tell your ground troops what to do, in multiplayer there is no respite from the onslaught on incoming enemies. Good thing your Gravcycle moves slightly faster here than in the campaign, where it seems like it always needs a tune-up.
Along with the aerial perspective and command structure, the multiplayer modes in Disintegration also feel different because of the maps. Rather than have big open battlefields, the ones in multiplayer are built more like mazes, with high walls keeping you somewhat contained. In such maps as “Junkyard” — which recalls the garbage pile Thor crash landed on in Thor: Ragnarok — there’s small open battlefields connected by narrow pathways. It’s just too bad they’re all like this, and that there isn’t at least one wide open area for a massive battle.
It also doesn’t help that multiplayer in Disintegration is just the three modes, and that none take advantage of the game’s command structure, something where you’d be in charge of even more troops on the ground.
Disintegration‘s multiplayer modes also,
unlike the campaign, gives you choices when it comes to your weapons…sort of. There are different crews you can join, each with their own main gun. And while this does raise a superficial issue — in that you can only change weapons by changing your crew, and some of the crews are silly looking — having to dress like Daft Punk from Tron: Legacy is a small price to pay to have machine guns instead of a useless crossbow.
Not surprisingly, there are problems with Disintegration that aren’t mode specific. Most notably, how it works with a controller. Unlike most games where you pilot something that hovers, this doesn’t use “A” (on Xbox) or “X” (PS4) to go up and “B” (Xbox) or “O” (PS4) to go down. Instead, the default has you using the left bumper for the former and the left trigger for the latter, while an alternative control scheme has you using the right and left bumpers.
But the bigger problem with the two button layouts is that both have you pressing in the right thumbstick for iron sights, as opposed to using the left trigger like every other shooter lately. Granted, this does work better here than it did in the early Halo games, but it’s still doesn’t work well. Which is a problem because having that added accuracy would be helpful, given how you’re usually high above your enemies.
Disintegration also has a problem so common that I basically just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review: the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have a lot of trouble reading the menus (especially the numbers). The subtitles are also hard to see, though mostly because the letters are really light and often against similarly light backgrounds.
despite these annoying — and what would seem to be easily avoided — issues, Disintegration still manages to be a fun shooter. Sure, it is just a succession of fire fights, but they’re engaging fire fights, and give you the opportunity to shoot people from a perspective we haven’t seen enough lately: hovering above the fray in your very own helicopter. Er, Gravcycle.