Disjunction review for PS4.
Blending genres is a popular trend because, when successful, it can result in a fresh experience with the best of both worlds. Disjunction is one of these hybrid games as it attempts to fuse a stealthier Metal Gear-type title with the top-down action of Hotline Miami. But this Hotline Miami Gear is far less than the sum of its disparate parts because of its imbalanced, tedious, and repetitive design.
Disjunction stars three characters: a hacker called Spider, a cyber-eyed private eye named Frank, and a brute who goes by Joe “Lockjaw” Murphy. All four have different abilities and their own gun, which allows for a trio of slightly unique gameplay styles that match each of their personalities.
Admittedly, they all sneak and knock out guards in a similar fashion — a shock grenade and a concussive grenade don’t differ too much in practice — but this minor gameplay change is drastic compared to how repetitive the gameplay and level design are. The game throws almost all of its tricks at the player in the first level or two and it’s all downhill from there as this promising game quickly unravels.
All the gadgets are unlocked within the first handful of minutes so there’s not much in the way of progression, learning, or using the existing tools in new and exciting ways. The RPG leveling mechanics are also minor and only marginally improve the player’s abilities. Levels come in just a couple different visual variants and all pretty much have the same corridors and rectangular rooms with nothing to use, except for the stools that are too easy to get stuck on. Only a couple additional enemies are added to the roster, most of which are essentially the same goons as before but with different hat or gun. Dying from an Uzi or a shotgun doesn’t feel all that different so these changes are hardly noticeable.
With the same abilities, same enemies, same levels, and no attempts to mix it up, Disjunction grows extremely repetitive shortly after its introduction. It’s numbing to repeat the same tasks over and over to get to the goal, which is what good stealth games avoid.
All games are better when they are less predictable and monotonous, but the stealth genre excels when it lets players mix and match their approaches and tools. Metal Gear Solid 5, Dishonored, Hitman 3, and Mark of the Ninja demonstrate this idea beautifully and are lauded because of it. No such complexity is here and that is painfully apparent early on as each dull environment and objective blends into the one before it and the one after it.
Instead of growing in intricacy, the later stages just add more enemies into the same ol’ tight areas and take away checkpoints in a deluded attempt to make it harder. Sneaking around only gets more tedious as mistakes are more harshly punished. One wrong move can erase multiple minutes of progress, especially if the player has low health or energy when they activate a checkpoint as they have to complete these gauntlets with almost nothing. Enemies can have cheap strategies, too, like being able to shoot players through cover and walls so it can be frustrating from almost all angles. Its hints of potential suffocate under the weight of the continuous onslaught of oversights and shortcomings.
Disjunction utterly fails as a stealth game but stumbles comparatively less with its cyberpunk world. While the aforementioned levels are bland, the few gold-heavy establishing shots look slick and faithfully translate the dystopian aesthetic into its pixelated art. It leans heavily on the ambient electronic tunes and it, surprisingly, doesn’t change up the tempo at all, but they fit the Blade Runner-like tone the game is going for. Both elements combine into a decent if familiar interpretation of the many cyberpunk tropes.
The story is full of cyberpunk tropes as well and is also a little uneven. Corporate greed, societal collapse, and hacking lie at the center and even though it sets up a mysterious tale of intrigue that strings the game along well enough, its storytelling methods sell it short. Much like the gameplay, it repeats itself too much as players find a terminal, trace it, confront someone, and then repeat that process until the very end. A lot of names get thrown around as well and even though highlighted (and very, very tiny) text explains important events and people, it’s a lot to take in and it can be confusing at times. It’s not great, but it is one of the highlights since the gameplay is the obvious lowlight.
Disjunction Review | The final verdict
“Disjunction” sounds like a made-up word, but it is used to describe something that has a “lack of correspondence or consistency,” according to the dictionary. And that is an apt description of this game that wears this word as its name. It attempts to blend two diametrically opposed gameplay systems — a novel concept — but does so sloppily, resulting in a disjointed, discordant, and disappointing experience that substitutes repetition for depth. Hotline Miami and Metal Gear deserve to be fused together to form some sort of upgraded cyborg, but the two have just been haphazardly merged into a mass of bloody flesh and rusty metal that’s better off left in either a biohazardous waste bag or the scrap heap.
Game Revolution reviewed Disjunction on PS5 through backwards compatibility. Code provided by the publisher. Disjunction is also on PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.