By Adele Chapline Smith
NEW YORK (CNS) — Timely topics as well as such perennial themes as the nature of humanity are highlighted in “Disintegration,” the latest from Private Division. This first-person shooter game has players take on the role of a cyborg fighting back against the very system that created him.
Though the mayhem that ensues is portrayed with restraint, this is still not a good option for kids.
In part, that’s because the backstory of “Disintegration” is overwhelmingly dystopian. Climate change, an increasing population sustained by too few resources and a global pandemic have ravaged the entire planet. Yet, using advanced technology, scientists have managed to discover a way to preserve people by integrating human minds into robotic bodies.
What was meant to be a temporary solution to give humanity time to recover, however, has instead become the norm. In fact, Rayonne, the organization in charge of the amalgamation process, now wants to make organic bodies a thing of the past.
Gamers act as the protagonist, Romer (voice of Jeff Schine). A cyborg who was once the poster boy for human-robotic merging, Romer has become disillusioned. He joins the growing resistance as war breaks out between those who want a future without robotic integration and those who support Rayonne. He becomes the leader of a group he calls the Outlaws whose aim is to “reboot humanity.”
Combat is carried out against robots or other cyborgs and uses the whole gamut of modern weaponry. Rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades are just some of the options. When enemies are killed, a black fluid resembling blood is spilled, but this effect is quite mild.
Mechanically, “Disintegration,” with its flagging graphics, leaves a lot to be desired. And its story line, while original and somewhat promising, lacks substance. Yet the character design and gameplay, by contrast, provide solid fun.
One unique feature of the game is the Gravcycle, a weaponized hover-bike that also can be used to issue commands, thus enabling its pilot to act as a battle strategist as well. There are nine varieties of this vehicle to choose from and each has a distinct style and array of available weapons.
The concept of fusing a human mind and a robotic body could provide the basis for an interesting family discussion about Christian anthropology, the dignity of the body in Catholic teaching as well as about medical and scientific ethics generally. Parents interested in starting such a conversation can turn to a number of church documents for guidance.
In 2004, for example, the International Theological Commission issued a paper titled “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God.” It affirms that the biological integrity of the human body is essential.
In his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” moreover, retired Pope Benedict XVI observed that “technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon.” But he warned that advancements in this field must be undertaken in an ethically responsible manner. “Disintegration” provides a cautionary, if fictional, tale about what can happen when they’re not.
Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.
The game contains stylized combat violence with mild blood effects and occasional coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is T — teens.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.