Lawbreakers is the upcoming first-person shooter by Boss Key Productions. I’ve sunk a couple of hours into the latest Alpha testing weekend, and have come away with a fairly underwhelming impression, but it hasn’t been clear-cut. Essentially, the game adds its own unique flavour to the movement — a trend many games seem to be gasping towards in the past few years–, while still taking a lot of cues from other shooters. It has ‘low-gravity’ areas in the maps, which when combined with the speed of the gameplay, can contribute to moments of exhilaration; however, mostly it just comes off as a shoved in gimmick.
So far in the Alpha there is only a quick game option, which places you in a rotating lobby of Turf War and Overcharge game modes. Turf War is a simple domination mode, while Overcharge puts a twist on capture-the-flag. Basically, a battery will spawn in the centre of the map, with the goal being to collect it and place it in your team’s base to charge up. Once the base reaches 100% charge (and given a bit of time after that) your team will score a point. The first team to gain two points wins the match. So far while playing Overcharge, I haven’t experienced any close games. It’s difficult to recapture the battery from the opposition’s base and make it back to yours, especially for an online multiplayer game whereby there isn’t any communication occurring. It’s possible that with a more coordinated team making concerted pushes for the battery, the game would be more tug-of-war, but in Alpha it has been very one-sided so far.
Lobbied as a core component to the multiplayer modes is the low-gravity sections of the maps. Now I can’t generalise its location to every map, but in the one they are showing off currently, low-gravity occurs in the very centre, where the two bases connect. As you can imagine, It’s a big open area where you can jump really high and float around. I don’t know what I was expecting, or what a good alternative would be, but this implementation of low-gravity just seems like its most uninspired conception. At least in this particular map, it just comes off as a gimmick. In fact, given that the zone decreases the amount of control you have over your character’s movement, I found it actually the least enjoyable place to be. Similarly, the art-style feels bland. It’s as if they are going for a very simple style to avoid ‘clutter’ that would make a competitive game harder to follow. But in doing so, Lawbreakers appears very uninspired; the buildings are futuristically boring, and the dull colour scheme left a lot to be desired.
Lawbreakers is designed to be a competitive class based shooter. Each character has their own set of abilities to augment their playstyle. There’s the Titan, a high-health slow-shooting (but strong) character; the assassin, a quick and deadly dual blade-wielding grapple-hook-using class; the Vanguard is your jetpack flying, chaingun weilding choice, and the enforcer is the stock-standard assault rifle, sprint-buff class. Every role has their own unique movement ability, ultimate and a type of grenade, which are impossible not to compare to other hero based shooters out there. For instance, the Titan has a grenade which sucks people in like a wormhole, making them easier targets for his slow moving, slow firing rocket launcher. The Enforcer on the other hand, has a grenade which nullifies the opponent’s energy, making them unable to use their own abilities. Currently, not any one class seems absurdly overpowered, each have their strengths, uses and playstyle to perform correctly.
The most important aspect of a first person shooter to myself, is the ‘feel’. It’s a difficult concept to put into words, but it encompasses all the different components of the game and how they mesh together. Do the guns sound good? Is there reasonable kick? Is the hit detection satisfying? In Lawbreakers all of these characteristics are serviceable, but it just ‘feels’ like a lower budget free-to-play shooter. The guns aren’t especially interesting, while the bullets and rockets don’t have much impact or look very cool. The upside is that the abilities flow well, and when combined with the different movement enhancements, you can pull off some manoeuvres to turn the tide of battle and win a tricky situation. Additionally, the player can perform a ‘blind-fire’ move when you hold down a button, which (as the name suggests) fires blindly behind your back. It’s an addition that I can’t say I ever actually used in a fighter . 99% of the time you want to aim at your enemies, and the health pool of each class is high enough that blind-firing behind you will in no way be accurate enough to kill them. In the same sense as the low-gravity areas, the blind-fire just comes off as a poor attempt at separating Lawbreakers from other games in the genre.
The jury is still out on Lawbreakers. We haven’t seen the rest of the modes or maps, and we haven’t experienced any of the other abilities or weapons. As it stands, the game is good, however, sooner or later it will have to justify why we should play it, rather than all the other games coming out. Is it angling specifically for the competitive scene? Maybe, but games that launch on the presumption that they will be a big eSport rarely turn out that way. Presently, I don’t believe Lawbreakers deviates enough from the formula, or perfects anything other games of its type don’t. What is unique about it so far just appear as gimmicky design choices which are solely there to make the game different.