There is no denying that Blizzard’s Overwatch has left a tremendous impact on the gaming industry, especially the FPS culture. Thanks to the game’s success, we’re seeing developers shifting towards more experimental and unique ways of designing competitive shooters. Hero shooters, a character focused FPS sub genre with light MOBA elements, aren’t particularly new, but they’re finally getting the wide-spread audience they deserve. This is a genre brimming with potential, and many of the recent Overwatch inspired releases like Paladins, Dirty Bomb and now LawBreakers are proof that fresh ideas are far from exhausted.
Cliff Bleszinski’s return from retirement has given birth to a fantastic new hero shooter. While LawBreakers doesn’t make the most thrilling first impression, it’s the kind of game that gets increasingly better with time. Aside from a handful of core ideas, LawBreakers has very little in common with Overwatch. It is its own game with its own niche gameplay. Gamers willing to dig into the nitty-gritty of what LawBreakers has to offer will discover a complex shooter that masterfully blends the old with the new. Classic, arena-style FPS games from the 90’s are an obvious influence, but those old-school mechanics are presented in a more contemporary package.
"Cliff Bleszinski’s return from retirement has given birth to a fantastic new hero shooter. While LawBreakers doesn’t make the most thrilling first impression, it’s the kind of game that gets increasingly better with time."
LawBreakers is fast and punishing. Expect to die often early on, and if you’re somewhat new to competitive shooters, expect some confusion due to a complete lack of tutorials and mode descriptions. But this is what makes LawBreakers appealing. The game doesn’t spell everything out. Its rules are left for the player to discover, and it’s this lack of handholding that makes LawBreakers a worthy commitment.
It took me a good twenty matches before I fully grasped how the game functions beyond the basic shooter principles. The key to a successful match lies in balancing teamwork with offensive dueling. Dueling is one of LawBreaker’s most exciting gameplay elements, and it’s another feature that’s discovered through prolonged play. Dueling begins when you lock iron sights with an enemy and engage in a wild cat and mouse chase by zigzagging across the environment. Thanks to the anti-gravitational fields scattered across each map, you can perform incredible acrobatics once you grasp how each individual hero controls.
"LawBreakers will make you feel like a participant in a modern version of Schwarzenegger's Running Man."
The dueling may seem intimidating to new players if they’re thrown into a pro match because they’ll have little chance escaping advanced acrobatics and chase tactics. It’s a good thing then that LawBreakers is structured fairly. None of the characters have exploitable disadvantages or unfair advantages, and this gives newer players a greater chance of survival when dueling with pros.
This kind of balancing also means that teamwork can be harder to achieve when everyone ignores the objective and just focuses on their K/D ratio. During these matches, LawBreakers will make you feel like a participant in a modern version of Schwarzenegger's Running Man. This can be fun in its own chaotic way, but actually winning matches becomes problematic. Fortunately, these types of players phase out quickly because they discover that LawBreakers emphasises teamwork above all else.
Despite its $29.99 price tag, LawBreakers delivers a robust package. There aren’t as many heroes and maps compared to other hero shooters, but what is there is tweaked to perfection and an absolute joy to play. There are four major modes of play, each randomly selected via the quick-play menu: Blitzball, Uplink, Turf War and Overcharge. Blitzball revolves around scoring goals by carrying a giant sphere to your enemy’s territory. Uplink has you defending data from enemies while it’s downloading to your team’s base. In Turf War, there are three zones scattered across each map, and your team has to be the first to lock the majority of zones while aiming for the high score. And lastly, Overcharge revolves around stealing a battery and taking it back to your base for a charge.
"When you combine the gladiator-like combat mentality with the elegance and precision of anti-gravity gymnastics, you have a title that offers a genuinely refreshing multiplayer experience!"
All modes are unquestionably fun, but Blitzball is, in my opinion, the most standout offering. This mode encourages players to experiment with lightning fast, uninterrupted map traversal. Once the ball is seized, you have to make a flawless run for the goal while pursued by the opposing team from every angle. Map memorization is paramount here, and successfully finishing off a chase with a score is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in a multiplayer game in years.
LawBreakers may be a hero shooter on the surface, but the game’s roots have Quake Arena style action at their core. This means that all characters are designed with offensive abilities in mind, and even the support characters carry as much punch as their battle-centric teammates. This emphasis on offensive play in combination with the anti-gravity element creates unpredictable and chaotic combat scenarios unique to LawBreakers. Similarly to Titanfall, there is a reliance on building momentum, but since every hero behaves differently, the momentum is achieved differently depending on how the character’s boost impacts movement. When you combine the gladiator-like combat mentality with the elegance and precision of anti-gravity gymnastics, you have a title that offers a genuinely refreshing multiplayer experience!
"LawBreakers, much like the recently released Hellblade, is a superb mid-tier release that offers a ton of value for a modest price."
My major gripe, but also the only significant downside, would have to be the overall art direction. Characters look like early concept designs that didn't go through enough revision cycles. I appreciate the realism LawBreakers aims for, and the diversity is applaudable, but I wish the default designs were a little more creative. Some of the unlockable skins are fantastic, but visually, LawBreakers will have a hard time amassing a similar following to Overwatch. It also doesn’t help that the maps lack personality and aesthetic diversity. LawBreakers isn’t ugly by any means, but it lacks the artistic spark that this genre is usually known for.
Conclusion: LawBreakers has exceeded my expectations. I approached the final release with great hesitation because the laggy beta left a bad taste in my mouth, but I have to commend the devs for fixing nearly every issue for the final code. LawBreakers, much like the recently released Hellblade, is a superb mid-tier release that offers a ton of value for a modest price. It won’t replace the top dogs of the genre anytime soon, but it doesn’t need to. LawBreakers offers enough originality and polish to stand on its own, and I’m excited to see how much further Bleszinski’s team is willing to go with this excellent new IP!
Reviewed on: Playstation 4