Critics and fans throw around the term “tactical shooter” to represent any kind of game that somehow mandates that you think about how you shoot. Disintegration is one of the few that literally blends core real-time tactics mechanics and first-person shooting. It isn’t a unique mix, though the balance of the two styles feels different from what we’ve seen over the years. The strategy is rich and demanding, even when the AI can’t quite live up to its responsibilities. The shooting evokes all the good things about turret sequences–mainly the feeling that you’re a really big gun and that there’s always more stuff to shoot–without the restrictive boredom that comes from being on-rails. The strength of those parts, and the ways you constantly switch between them, build up an intense field-commander fantasy.
In the single-player campaign, you control Romer Shoal, the gravcycle-flying commander of a robot special forces squad. As “pilot,” you are their scout, artillery, healer, and whatever else your team needs you to be. And yet, while it sounds like you’re holding all the cards, your team can defeat enemies quicker as a group than you can alone, so you need them to do most of the trigger-pulling. So your most important role is shot-caller: You tell them where to go and who to shoot. If you’re careless, they get overwhelmed and everyone dies. If you don’t anticipate and react to the enemy’s maneuvers, they get overwhelmed and everyone dies. If you… I think you catch my drift.
So, as Romer, you are constantly in motion. As the team leader, you have a lot of responsibilities, and you need to switch hats often–pointing out new cover, shooting healing beacons, calling on each of your two-to-four bots on the ground to use their special abilities. Monitoring the skills, which include armor-weakening concussion grenades and fields that slow enemies down, is especially important. With a small team that’s often fighting off much larger numbers, timing and syncing these skills is an essential means of getting the upper hand. Across the board, though, you constantly need to be present, focused on the task at hand, while maintaining a wider awareness of the battlefield. Managing all these tasks and keeping your proverbial finger on the pulse of the battle gets the adrenaline pumping. It can get overwhelming at times, but it’s ultimately rewarding, as you come out of each victory knowing that it was your orders that won the day.