Disintegration is the debut title by V1 Interactive, a new studio helmed by Marcus Lehto. If you're not familiar with the name, you are familiar with his work, as Lehto was one of the chief creatives behind Bungie's masterpiece, Halo: Combat Evolved. In fact, the man from V1 was at the studio for years, working on both Halo and Destiny, and during our interview last week, we discussed a number of things that have influenced his new game beyond the obvious.
Those inspirations include Firefly and Blood Meridian (by Cormac McCarthy), and character is a key factor for Lehto. However, for those looking in from the outside, it will be the influence of Halo that will be most keenly felt. The futuristic setting, the visual style of the technology - even if you didn't know it was designed by the same person, you can't help but see the similarities.
"I think people might see that thumbprint," Lehto told us during our interview over Skype, "it's my artistic, aesthetic style, I think it's something that they might recognise for sure when it comes to the relationship between Halo and Disintegration. But that's basically where that similarity ends; Disintegration really is a unique title from beginning to end and I think players will recognise it as such."
So what is Disintegration? For the uninitiated, it's a sci-fi adventure set in a distant future when human brains have been transplanted into robot bodies. In this far-flung reality, players will be riding omnidirectional gravcycle, and according to Lehto, the controls took a while to work out, especially as you also have to factor in issuing orders to a small unit of troops on the ground, which move contextually to player-placed markers and can attack specific targets.
"We give the player this fluid freedom to move throughout the environment in a unique way. We outfit that Gravcycle with weapons - onboard weapons and abilities for both offensive and defensive capability. And then we had to invent completely new ways to interact with those ground units in a way that's tactical and strategic but didn't overwhelm the player."
The game is split across a solo campaign and multiplayer, which many of you will have tried last year during public testing. These two sides of the game, while ostensibly made of the same building blocks, are paced very differently.
"The multiplayer realm, the combat arena of multiplayer, is very chaotic and very hectic," Lehto explained. "It's a like a frenetic, great experience overall, especially when players comp themselves properly with the correct crews and really strategise together.
"It is important that the players recognise that in Disintegration, that the Gravcycle and its weapons onboard are great and they're effective, but they're just one part of a very important equation. The other critical aspect to it are the ground units who each have a unique ability. Those abilities, sometimes they're very effective against other ground units, sometimes they're very effective against other enemy gravcycles.
"Each crew has a different role in combat and a different theme wrapped around them as well, and that crew, if picked and used properly, can be really effective in the midst of combat."
Multiplayer is only one part of the package, however, and there's an 8-10 hour story campaign for players to battle through, too. Of course, they're similar, yet there are also a few key differences that set them apart.
"In contrast [to the more frenetic multiplayer] single-player is a slower experience overall. In the single-player game we give the player the freedom to engage in combat but then take a breather outside of that and explore a little bit within the environment. We also give them a critical feature in campaign that they do not have in multiplayer.
Lehto then explained how in the solo campaign, players can slow time. "We dilate time, allowing the player to really think through the process of where they're going to 'stage' a unit ability. And then, even more interesting, they can chain multiple unit abilities on the ground while in this dilated time-frame, allowing them to do things that they just physically can't do in multiplayer."
In multiplayer, there are different crews to choose from with set stats, but in solo, you're levelling up your units and your gravcycle as you go. This is done via upgrade chips found during play that are then added to your cycle and crew, and apparently they "play a critical factor" when things get more challenging later on in the story.
The campaign isn't particularly long (a result of the modest size of the studio) but there are plans to "continue to re-engage with the single-player environments and the story area" post-launch, and while "there are some things cooking", Lehto didn't share specifics. The studio is, however, "actively" working on post-launch content to keep the community engaged, including new multiplayer maps, modes, and crews. There's also talks going on about how they might improve the game to take advantage of the added power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X when they land later this year.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves because Disintegration isn't even out yet. As Lehto told us at the end of our interview, V1 Interactive's debut is heading to PC, PS4, and Xbox One on June 16.