In a recent earnings call, Nexon, the publisher of the failed first-person-shooter, Lawbreakers, has blamed the games ill fate on the success of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. In the meeting, Uemura, the Chief Financial Officer claimed that:
“Despite having very high expecations for its launch … The timing of the launch turned out to be unfortunate, specifically the blockbuster PC online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds came out right about the same time, making the market environment very tough for first-person shooters in general and for LawBreakers”
My issue with this statement is… That it’s wrong.
Lawbreakers is Cliff Bleszinski’s child. It was meant to be an exciting return for the guy who brought me some of my favourite games of the last-gen (Gears of War), and played a pivotal role in the early development of first-person-shooters (Unreal Tournament). Its failure is almost difficult to pin down, I mean it isn’t an offensively bad game. However, it doesn’t possess any, what I like to call, ‘sauce’. Even the unique flavour it attempted to burst into the FPS scene with was just, boring. Anyway, I think the best way to discuss Lawbreakers’ multi-faceted failure, and why the ‘finger pointing’ at PUBG is truly wrong, is in a more structured approach.
For starters, besides CliffyB’s lineage, there was really nothing that drew players to Lawbreakers. The design is bland, dry and besides photos of characters hitting each other mid-air, even the photos don’t look like anything special. From the outset, the game always seemed like a free-to-play shooter, which coincidently, it became. Aside from its aesthetic, the game was trying to place itself as a class-based shooter, however, every character felt like it was too close to so many other class-based titles out there. The Heavy, the Assassin, the Medium-guy and so on; they are different within the game, but if you’re looking to choose between multiple shooters, Lawbreakers is a long way from sucking you in.
Whilst its outward image didn’t do Lawbreakers any favours, ultimately, the gameplay was lacking. It feels like a game that would have been a blowout success five years ago, but in a genre that is constantly trying to find new and innovative mechanics, Lawbreakers‘ answer is boring. The low-grav areas on maps just felt like a last-minute gimmick, which is even more damning because it was at the forefront of the game’s marketing. Similarly, in my Alpha Impressions article, I mentioned that the ‘feel’ was off. The core components of an FPS, the hit-detection, the sound, and the kick, were serviceable, but unremarkable. In terms of shooting, Lawbreakers misses the feel that you find in Call of Duty and Battlefield, whilst also struggling to make the gameplay anywhere near as fun and accessible as Overwatch. Even the tutorials were just Youtube videos… If you’re making me exit the game to learn how to play the game, you’ve done something wrong.
Whilst Uemura’s direct comparison to PUBG is false, competition still played a role in Lawbreakers’ flop. However, the reason isn’t that Lawbreakers struggled to ‘break-out’ in a busy period, it’s because compared to every other popular title on the market, Lawbreakers was the worst. By the time the game released, Overwatch had already been out for over a year and clearly cemented a resoundingly dedicated player-base. Despite being starkly different games, Overwatch quenches the thirst for character/class driven action, and does so in a far more interesting way. Enter PUBG, a game which, although rough around the edges, provides the best experience of Battle Royal any multiplayer shooter has done. So how on earth, given the uninspired level of mediocrity in Lawbreakers, did it ever have a chance of success?
Even in a world where PUBG doesn’t exist, I can’t see Lawbreakers carving out a name for itself compared to any other popular multiplayer shooter.