'Disintegration' demo: Is Halo co-creator's genre-buster the next big FPS?

Could this be the next groundbreaking new video game subgenre?

There’s really no easy way to describe Disintegration, a new video game due out sometime in 2020 from V1 Interactive, the small indie studio founded by Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto. You could technically call it a first-person shooter, or a hero shooter, but it’s also kind of a MOBA meets real-time strategy video game experience. Like me, you might be overwhelmed by how unfamiliar it feels to hover around in a Gravcycle while controlling troops on the ground in team-based warfare, but once you catch on, Disintegration delivers a unique combat experience that might be the next big thing in gaming.

Originally announced in August, Disintegration looks remarkably similar to Destiny and Anthem with its robotic characters fighting other robots with lasers and futuristic technology. But it feels like something closer to a middle point between Overwatch and League of Legends in its execution.

Each playable “character” brings a unique toolkit that leans into typical party roles; You have tanks, healers, DPS, and everything in between. Yet unlike Overwatch, you don’t actually control a single character — you control the leader of a “crew,” manually activating the abilities of each member as you lead them into battle. They’ll automatically attack enemies within sight (think of these ground troops like minions from League of Legends, only with more variety).

There's a lot going on in 'Disintegration' multiplayer, but once you grow accustomed to the sensory overload, the tactical shooter is wickedly fun.

V1 Interactive

In the final build, crews will be completely customizable, but in the demo I played at Take-Two Interactive’s New York City office during New York Comic Con weekend, they included scouts, snipers, and hulking bruisers that look like the big Javelins from Anthem in pre-set variations for specific crews.

You can manually activate individual crewmembers’ special abilities using the D pad directional buttons. Then each crew leader’s Gravcycle boasts unique abilities as well. Some are large and slow, others small and swift. Some have healing abilities, others a debuff or bonus assault weaponry. Between the overall crew archetypes and customizability of crew members, Disintegration will have a wide variety of builds available to players. One crew consists of elite hackers. Another feels like archaic robot knights in the post-apocalypse. There’s even a group of chaotic clowns if that’s your bag.

The whole thing is hard to wrap your head around, and as awkward as my first 30 seconds with the game were in my Gravcycle, after almost 90 minutes of multiplayer matches, I found myself wanting more. And this was just the multiplayer. I can imagine a lot of Overwatch fans trying out Disintegration and loving it, especially when it can deliver something Overwatch seemingly never will: A coherent story in a single-player campaign.

'Disintegration' raises interesting questions about transhumanism in its story.

V1 Interactive

We don’t really know why people are fighting so much in Overwatch. It just sort of happens, and we have a lot of fun doing it, so we don’t ask questions. Disintegration, however, grapples with a genuinely interesting core conceit that involves the future of transhumanism in the distant future.

The game’s set around 200 years from now, in a time where the planet is nearly destroyed by climate change, overpopulation, food shortages, and disease. A new technology called “integration” allows humans to transmit their organic brains into robotic bodies, preserving life expectancy indefinitely. But when everyone prefers their high-tech, uber-capable robot bodies to flesh and bone, it leads to the breakdown of society and all-out war.

You play as Romer, an integrated human in a robotic shell who rebels against the Rayonne, an organized group with a post-humanist agenda. The campaign is a dystopian roadtrip around the world launching this rebellion, so there’ll never be a dull moment. The obvious hope for Lehto and V1 Interactive is that the game could launch a brand-new sci-fi franchise that’ll be around for years to come. At the very least, Disintegration delivers a new video game experience that will feel unfamiliar and exciting to plenty of gamers out there.

Maybe that’s all they need to kickstart the rebellion?

Disintegration will be released sometime in 2020.