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Feature Article

Shooter, Real-Time Strategy Form A Hectic Mix In Disintegration

In Disintegration, you can't just worry about keeping yourself alive--you have to save your squad, too.

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From the big cinematic trailer revealed at Gamescom, it's not immediately apparent exactly what V1 Interactive's first game, Disintegration, actually is. The trailer highlights a futuristic, bulky hovering vehicle called a grav-cycle that you'll be piloting, and its first-person shooter pedigree gives some clues--it's headed up by Marcus Lehto, a co-creator of the Halo universe. It turns out that Disintegration is more than just another futuristic FPS, though. It mixes in elements of the real-time strategy genre to become a hectic hybrid, requiring you not just to land your headshots, but to use your head, as well.

At Gamescom, we played a few matches of Disintegration's multiplayer PvP mode, which pits teams of five players against one another. Each player pilots a floating armored tank known as a grav-cycle, while also taking command of a small squad of other units. The FPS aspect of the game has you blasting away at ground troops and other grav-cycles with machine guns and grenade launchers that are attached to the rig. You're also responsible for a team on the ground that might consist of characters carrying sniper or assault rifles, as well as a beefier teammate in what looks like an Aliens power loader. As the team leader, you're not just responsible for racking up kills and dealing damage with your powerful weapons; you also need to tell your squad what to do and when to deploy their special abilities, which can change the flow of battle pretty significantly.

Lehto said the idea is that your grav-cycle and its weapons are basically your right hand, while the squad on the ground is your left. Each member of your group can do different things, like deploy a stasis field that slows enemy units or fire off a missile barrage that does big damage in a certain area. Your job is as much to guide them as to keep them alive, though; when your squad gets blasted, you'll have to wait for them to respawn, which puts you at a serious disadvantage.

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You need to take care of your squad because they're more easily killed than your much-tougher grav-cycle, but that doesn't mean you're babysitting them, Lehto said. A big challenge in designing the game was making the squad feel like an extension of the player in terms of combat, without making them an irritation. That meant making the units a little more autonomous than what you might expect from an RTS, he explained.

"We're building in a lot of mechanics to keep those units close to you at all times," Lehto told GameSpot. "They're tethered to the grav-cycle. If the player moves the units, they're literally firing a weapon from the grav-cycle down to the terrain to say move here, or attack this, or prioritize this as a target. So you can engage other grav-cycles and other enemy units and have your units focus-fire on them, and that sort of thing, or tell them to move over to a particular location where they can engage in combat and you can flank from a different perspective. So there are a lot of ways that you can engage as a crew, as a singular unit, and that's the way we think about this game, where pilot and grav-cycle are one part of the equation and the units are another part of the equation, and they are a single entity."

The game type in the demo was sort of a reverse of capture the flag. One team plays offense and the other defense, with the attacking team attempting to carry one of two bombs into the defenders' territory to score a point. The thing is, bombs can only be carried by your smaller units. That means you need to defend your squad and be careful about where you send them. If they die, the bomb drops on the ground, and after a short while, it explodes, taking anyone in the vicinity with it.

While there's already a lot going on in any given battle thanks to plenty of grav-cycles and units, Disintegration adds another layer to your tactical thinking by letting you choose from different grav-cycle crews to control at any point during a match. Each crew has a different visual theme, a different squad makeup, and a different set of abilities; Lehto likened them to "biker gangs of the future." It's here that Disintegration lets you adjust your capabilities to meet your style or your team's needs. Some crews are better at long-range combat, others are heavy hitters close up. You might grab a crew that specializes in deploying abilities that slow up enemies so your teammates can blast them, or hang back and shoot your teammates with a healing weapon that helps them stay in the fight longer.

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It's a lot to keep track of, and our hands-on time with Disintegration started with a steep learning curve of getting used to handling the grav-cycle, which is a bit slow and methodical in its movement. The benefit is the cycle can gain or drop altitude to gain better sightlines and boost short distances to get out of danger. Things started to gel as our team got the hang of how V1 wants you to think about Disintegration, however. It's not a rip-roaring run-and-gun kind of game; it's a slower and more cerebral experience, even when there are several players and their units engaging in a single battle.

Because you have the squad with you, it's necessary to think about how best to use your units to your advantage. You can send them to a location to get them into cover or give them a better shot at enemies while you engage enemy grav-cycles yourself. Between shooting, positioning your grav-cycle, positioning your units, using their abilities, and coordinating with your human teammates, there's a lot to keep in mind. But those elements also give you a wealth of combat possibilities that go beyond just charging into a fight and slugging it out with an enemy group. If you can keep your head when things start to get messy, you can outmaneuver and outplay your enemies--but that requires changing how you think about first-person shooter engagements. Fast responses and strategic assessments are essential, and in our session, we finally managed victory when our team started surrounding and flanking opponents to make it tough for them to chase down bomb-carrying units.

Lehto said that even though V1 is a smaller studio--it only sports a staff of about 30--players can expect more post-release content for Disintegration.

"The point of what we're constructing right now is that we're making sure that we can easily add onto it," he said. "Especially on the multiplayer side, with regards to new multiplayer modes, new maps, new crews, new skins for players to aesthetically upgrade their crews for the way they look, and attachments for your grav-cycle so you can really customize things and make things your own."

Disintegration is set to launch sometime in 2020 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.
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