I'll be honest: despite enthusiastically rampaging my way through several Call of Duty campaigns, I normally have absolutely no idea what's going on. Aside from a vague sense of the main plot points and characters, the intricacies of specific missions and military terms are often lost on me. And that's perfectly fine, as the levels themselves are such a romp that I don't really mind.
The same can be said for Disintegration, the debut game from V1 Interactive which releases next week. Founded by Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto, it's easy to see how the studio ended up making what feels like an old-school shooter with a novel twist. Disintegration is a shooter with real-time strategy elements, a hybrid that allows the player to jump between playstyles at will. It's a core gameplay experience so convincing that the campaign's narrative - which does tend to bounce around and has its fair share of MacGuffins - takes a back seat to the action.
Still, here's a general overview of the setting: you play as Romer Shoal, a famous Gravcycle pilot who "integrated" in order to survive a future Earth ravaged by climate change, overpopulation and disease. Integration involves the removal of your brain from your natural body into a robot. Intended to be a temporary survival measure, a nasty group called the Rayonne decided integration would actually be the future of humanity, and began forcefully integrating humans and killing any who opposed. And thus Romer finds himself fighting alongside a bunch of other outlaws in order to bring down the evil empire. The Rayonne don't quite yell "delete, delete", but it's close.
Disintegration doesn't delve particularly deep into the philosophical questions raised by this dystopian setting, but the important thing is you get to mash through waves upon waves of robots with some very satisfying tools at your disposal. You're essentially sat in a weaponised podracer floating above the action, while conducting a violent orchestra down below. You command a group of up to four units, with the ability to direct them towards specific areas, prioritise an enemy or utilise special abilities, including stun grenades and time-slowing bubbles which provide some very cool slow-motion explosions. And, of course, you have the option to swoop down into the mix with some shotguns if you so choose.
Yet Disintegration's combat has more to it than simply blasting your way out of trouble - it's about managing the situation to prevent your team being overwhelmed, and learning which threats to prioritise. Once enemies are staggered with a concussion grenade, for instance, they become weakened - so directing your team towards them at that point will clear them out quickly. I also discovered it was far harder to heal my Gravcycle than my units, and certain enemies (particularly aerial) would deliberately seek me out instead of my team on the ground. This meant I had to deal with them quickly, and my chosen responses were: gun down that enemy as fast as possible, or "strategically reposition" myself behind cover and direct my units towards the problem. Both worked.
The campaign introduces new enemies, challenges and unique battle scenarios along the way to mix things up, although even towards the end when most enemies had been introduced, I still found myself enthralled - to the point where I even went back to replay missions on higher difficulties. There's always something else you can finesse: once you've got your aim right, you can think about how to deploy special abilities to maximum effect. Once you've learned how to respond to certain enemy types, you work on exploiting the mobility of the Gravcycle to quickly manoeuvre through the battlefield.
By the time you've reached the end of the campaign, you're able to flit between FPS and RTS strategies with fluidity, and maximise the benefits of both depending on the situation. It's about controlled chaos, and at a time when the world already feels like it's heading towards the future imagined by Disintegration, sometimes you just need to smash up a few robots - with style.