E3 LawBreakers

LawBreakers Hands-On Preview

I’m going to be completely up-front about something here; the following images you’re going to see of LawBreakers are ugly. Not because LawBreakers is an ugly game, but because it’s running on a machine that’s behind spec and played by someone who hasn’t had the FPS chops that LawBreakers demands since he was about 18 years old.

If anything, that’s a common theme for my feelings about this game. LawBreakers is such a fast-paced and unique title that both myself and my computer were simply not really able to keep up. This was an epiphany forged in the crucible of zero-G combat during my LawBreakers Alpha playthrough.

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The Players

LawBreakers is an online arena FPS by Boss Key Productions, which counts CliffyB among its development team. That should set some expectations right away, and I can say that my time in-game definitely met those expectations. What we have here is a game of high speed, twitch reflex and reactionary play that rewards creativity and recklessness.

The game currently has four classes, all bringing a little something unique to the table. The Vanguard is essentially a fighter jet, with a rocket pack that lets you swoop through the field and a mini-gun. The Titan carries a giant rocket launcher and a leaping, electricity-charged ground smash. The Enforcer is your bog-standard guy with a machine gun who also has a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher for good measure, and the Assassin is a melee-minded character with a grappling hook and dash moves to dart in and out of a fight.

Each class carries a couple of extra powers along with a primary and sub-weapon, and all of them have strengths and weaknesses that speak to personal preference more than anything else. In fact, team makeup didn’t really matter, as fights were won and lost regardless of what composition was chosen. This speaks to either LawBreakers having flexible team structure, or the game being too early to build a meta around.

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The Game

As of this build, there are only two match types: Overcharge and Turf War. Overcharge sees your team capturing a battery, taking it back to base and defending it from attack as it charges, with the first team to fully charge the battery two times winning. The big wrinkle is that the battery retains its charge regardless of how often it changes hands, leading to swift scrambles and last-ditch efforts to snare the prize before the battery’s fully charged.

Turf War involves teams trying to capture three different zones on a map, with a zone capture earning one point. The first team to 13 points wins the match. The twist in this mode is the time between zones unlocking can be spent fragging each other, with kills you score earning your character a bonus to zone capture speed. It’s literally a mode where being bad at shooters makes you a liability. Needless to say, as someone who is bad at shooters I didn’t enjoy this mode terribly much.

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Though I preferred Overcharge over Turf War, both game types carry a level of craft that just falls a hair behind Overwatch. The ebb and flow of matches makes for compelling gaming. It works up your competitive streak like nobody’s business, tickling that “one more match” nerve like a master pianist. Satisfying that craving for one more try saw me slowly piece together how to play, even if my kill-death ratio was sub-par at best. The game truly gets under your skin that way.

The manic pace which matches run means that you’ll come up with plenty of opportunities to tell stories of comebacks or cut together gameplay footage in to a rock video. Both modes incite you to move fast, think faster and operate like a hyper gerbil strapped to a solid fuel rocket. Fights aren’t protracted here; they whirr by without asking if you need a breath, and the ride is so much fun you’re left waiting to start again.

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A Dance of Death

LawBreakers’ biggest gimmick, if it can be called one, is the low-gravity areas. Parts of the map have reduced gravity and usually these parts are central zones where objectives come together. Where a game like Overwatch requires quick thinking on the X and Z axes, here the Y axis comes in to play. Command of verticality is a must, and those who can adapt to having to look up and down as well as left and right will become sharks swimming in the low-gravity ocean. Those who don’t are shark food.

The movement of LawBreakers feels as direct and responsive as driving a Formula-1 car must feel. Reactions are as immediate as your sense of spatial awareness is, and every class can dance in the ballet of brutality excellently enough given practice. Even though I was aiming all about the place, it was purely my own fault and not through some lag of command. LawBreakers’ controls are nuanced and tuned to a level that feels obsessive, like there was some poor soul hunched over a keyboard glaring at code angrily to wring more performance out of it.

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Building a Sports Car

It’s incredibly easy to pass LawBreakers off as a gimmick-loaded braggart, but that’s a disservice to the care and quality of this FPS even in an alpha state. It’s a lot like saying a Ferrari is going to be awful when all you see is the framework and the engine.

LawBreakers is breakneck fun, even if it moves at speeds that my brain and my computer can hardly keep pace with. It’s a new type of FPS in the very truest sense of the phrase. About the only complaint I can raise against it is the fact that I couldn’t choose my preferred game mode in this build.

What Boss Key is building looks like an unapologetic hot rod, complete with hot pink flames painted on the side. It’s bold yet taut, and it feels like it can only get better from here. For FPS gamers with machines and reflexes far beyond my own, this one is something to look out for.

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About Chris Hughes

Chris is a literal wolf who has managed to learn how to use a computer. He enjoys cooking, roleplaying, writing, and reading those who do the same. You can find him staring at Twitter or read more of his attempt at humor at his blog, or in-game primarily on WildStar, Blade and Soul or Final Fantasy XIV.