Disintegration has a long way to go to convince newcomers on its weird genre mash-up

There’s something admirable about how different Disintegration feels from just about anything else in shooters. Flying around in weird drone-esque hovercraft, ordering troops on the ground, exploring unique aerial maps, it’s all novel and initially enthralling. It’s the first game to mix real-time action with real-time strategy since Brutal Legend, and I respect the ambition it takes to tackle such a divisive concept.

However, all the admiration in the world can’t hide the feeling I have after hours of capturing points and unleashing nukes. The shine of a new toy doesn’t last long with Disintegration‘s beta, and I can only hope that what wasn’t there gets the package back off the ground.

Hovering around Disintegration‘s wasteland

Disintegration Preview Nuke Gameplay

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Disintegration is a first-person shooter where the first person pilots a hoverbike. Instead of running and gunning, you’re skimming around corners in what amounts to an oversized drone. A crew of AI companions follow you on foot, shoot enemies and capture objectives. You can order them around with squad mechanics ripped out of games as far back as Star Wars: Republic Commando. If you choose not to, they generally stay alive as long as you do, and they’re pretty easy to revive.

Your buddies all have special abilities, although most of them feel about as vital as smoke grenades, and the awkward button combo you need to press to activate them doesn’t help. I’ve seen Disintegration describe itself as melding shooting with strategy, and maybe it does that on a high level. When you first pick up the game, those strategic elements feel so minimized that they may as well not exist.

That’s probably a little harsh, as translating any mixture of action and strategy to a standard gamepad is a Herculean feat. Still, even considering the difficulty, they didn’t completely meet the mark here. The shooting feels fine in a vacuum, but the nature of what you’re fighting puts basic combat higher than you’d like on the learning curve.

At any moment, you have to fend off incoming fire from units on the ground and the erratic movements of enemy hovercraft. Learning to shift your movements and stay on target would be enough for a whole game on its own. It comes off as overkill in a game that’s already asking you to make strategic choices, switch between various weapons and abilities, and even act as a healer if you choose that class.

Meet the crews of Disintegration

Disintegration Preview Crew Neon Dreams

Yes, Disintegration is a hero shooter of sorts, with a wild mixture of crews to choose from. Each one varies wildly in both weapons selection and style. You can choose from Mad Max goons obsessed with explosives, 80s themed synth heads with EMP launchers, and medieval knights working support. It’ll be a thrill to see how the developers tie all this together into a cohesive campaign, but the variety works for jumping into a deathmatch. In fact, the different playstyles remind me of For Honor more than anything. There are crews that are useless on their own, and you probably won’t play more than a couple seriously if you go all in.

The recent beta features two of the three modes coming in the full game, all remixed versions of genre staples. There’s a zone control mode which splits the map in three and a spin on Kill Confirmed that I wish I could have sampled. The final mode is kind of similar to Capture the Flag, except your minions are capturing and you’re working to defend them from enemy fire. I wasn’t a fan of how this shook out. It feels difficult for anyone to stop one of the little guys before they could secure a point. Defenders only really succeeded when they were stomping on the attackers with a coordinated effort, a problem likely solved by the availability of a deathmatch mode down the line.

Disintegration Preview | The need for more speed

Disintegration Preview Javelin Launcher Gameplay

Speaking of basic gameplay requirements, I do wish the bikes had a bit more maneuverability by default. Your default speed and your tendency to ram into the scenery on a regular basis make you feel less like an ace pilot and more like REX taking Star Tours out for the first time. Considering the rich history of flying and hovering vehicles in other shooters where such gameplay isn’t the main focus, it’s disappointing that it feels so clunky here.

Despite being downright hostile to newcomers (even with a decent tutorial), Disintegration eventually lets you settle into a groove and have some fun. Considering the pedigree behind the leaders of the team, you’d expect them to nail the shooting. Once you know what you’re aiming for, they mostly do. I especially enjoyed being able to flank enemies easily with my bike’s boost, rising up from under them as they tried to dispatch a teammate. There were also opportunities to surprise enemies thanks to out of the way pathways above and below the normal line of sight.

Disintegration‘s best moments came from this style of play. Even if the vehicles aren’t as fast as I’d like, the weird mixture of Ace Combat dogfighting and Titanfall weapons is something you won’t get out of any other shooter on the market. Considering that this is a stress test, I have hope that the men and women of V1 Interactive can take feedback from the community and produce a better game. If it’s anything like the turnaround from the Halo 3 beta, we should be in for a great surprise when Disintegration‘s final version takes flight.

Game Revolution previewed Disintegration on PC via Steam and Xbox One as part of the Technical Beta. It’s coming to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year.