LawBreakers is a class based first-person shooter developed by Boss Key Productions and published by Nexon, and they recently had a closed alpha weekend where we got to get our hands on an invite to see what this game was all about. Only one mode and four characters were available, which is a bit surprising considering that the rumored release date is sometime this summer. I would have expected a little bit more, but it is still in Alpha and there could be a lot of change coming down the pipeline for this promising title.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room first: is this another class based arcade shooter attempting to cash in on Overwatch’s success? Well probably, yes. There are still enough unique elements in LawBreakers that make this title stand out on its own and certainly merits looking at.
Yes, there are different heroes/classes that have cool down abilities, and you can switch between them mid-match in order to counter the comp and situation of the enemy team. Even some of the heroes are reminiscent of Overwatch’s heroes (specifically Soldier 76, Pharah, and Genji) but that is where the similarities stop.
So what is different and new here? For starters the aesthetic is completely different. Instead of the cartoon animation, reminiscent of Pixar, style of Overwatch, the LawBreaker’s developers have gone for something that will look brilliant on the computers of the upper crust of the PC master race. Lots of high resolution textures, shiny character models, and quality lighting effects give the game a feel uniquely all its own. I am reluctant to use the term “gritty” to describe the look of LawBreakers, but it is certainly in that direction.
The one map that was available for play reminded me more of an arena that was set aside for some forgotten round of the Hunger Games rather than the backdrop a real world location that we have become accustomed to in our first person shooters as of late. All in all, between the way that the game handled and the setting, it reminded me more of an updated version of Unreal Tournament and other 90s shooters than anything else.
The gameplay is probably the most unique part of LawBreakers and the part that I look forward to seeing the highlight reels from. The hook here is that the arena plays fast and loose with the rules of gravity. Portions of the map have no gravity while heroes themselves have the ability to manipulate the environment in their own way.
This makes for a series of highly entertaining battles that allow players to fly around the map hunting, avoiding, closing in on, and destroying their enemies. The pacing was initially very difficult to get used to and much rage ensued as I was picked apart by the enemy team. In the Alpha there was no tutorial or any kind of practice range to get your bearings in this topsy-turvy arena. Instead you had to learn what you were doing in the crucible of battle. Before too long, though, I was exploiting the mechanics of the game and actually contributing to the team.
As stated earlier, there was only one game type and four classes available. The game type was a ‘capture-the-flag’ type of game called Overcharge where two teams attempted to secure a battery in the middle of the map before taking it back to their base to let it charge. The team that had possession of the battery when it reached one hundred percent would score a point. First team to two points won the round.
As game modes go it was pretty standard, but thanks to the map design it felt like neither team truly had an advantage once they secured the battery or were attempting to take it away from the opponent. And boy, you know what is going on with the battery. The narrator chimes in to keep you apprised of the situation to the point of annoyance, especially when the battery was being picked up and dropped by a chain of people trying to pick it up like it was a greased football on a muddy field, only to be struck down by the enemy team.
“The battery has been secured by the enemy team. The battery has been dropped. The battery has been secured by the friendly team. The battery has been dropped. The battery has been secured by the enemy team. The battery is charging.”
It is enough to easily get on your nerves.
Speaking of getting on your nerves, the heroes themselves taunt you all of the time. While this itself is not really all that new, the stuff they say (“I’m glad you weren’t on my team!” or “That was embarrassing!”) are so well timed in their delivery and have the conviction of realistic voice acting that you cannot help but get a little tilted every time you hear it.
The four heroes have abilities that allow them to manipulate the environment to better suit their strengths and give them the edge against their opponents. The balance in some of these classes could use a little work, but their abilities is what makes the game play especially entertaining.
For instance, the Titan has a grenade or landmine that he can throw which acts as a black hole, forcing any enemy who steps near it to be stuck in place. This allows the Titan to use a ground pound type ability that smashes anything in the vicinity without fear of missing, or allows him to hit more mobile targets with his rocket launcher.
The Assassin uses a Just Cause-like grappling hook that allows her to jump around the arena and get close before cutting up their opponent like sushi and the Enforcer throws a grenade that silences all of the abilities of his opponents, if he can land it. For the Enforcer that is almost a required skill shot that he has to land because compared to the other classes he is essentially a sitting duck. His grenade is the only method he has for leveling the playing field against the other more mobile and tanky classes.
The Vanguard can fly around the map like nimble fighter and disable gravity in certain areas, allowing them to fly around their prey like a shark. A shark with a minigun on its fins.
All of these abilities and ultimates working together make for an extremely adrenaline pumping kind of game play that is either exhilarating to come out victorious on or rage inducing to lose to.
Oddly absent is any kind of healer. This makes the fights extremely lethal and the player with the best reflexes will be the last one standing. In fact, the only way to regain health aside from dying is to stand in the green healing booths that are scattered throughout the map. These are very obviously located and heal you slowly. As a tank, I had to stand in one for twenty or more seconds before I was healed to full.
This is a problem because not only are you weak, but each one is fairly obvious to see so it makes you an extremely easy target for any enemy team member who might be looking to finish you off. More than once did I come across an enemy teammate or two standing in the healing booths just for me to score an easy double kill against them with a couple of well-placed rockets. It is easy to see why the developers are reluctant to increase the healing rate, because then a fighter could just stand in the healing booth and never die. Still, it feels like the fights and the game could benefit from some kind of additional healing mechanic.
All in all, LawBreakers is an interesting title that looks as though it could defiantly be a joy to play among those who have lightning fast reflexes and are nostalgic for a shooter with the aesthetic and setting of old 90’s shooters. The gameplay is unique, but can be frustrating due to the high learning curve, and no holds barred method of aggression that is present. I am looking forward to checking out additional gameplay types and classes as they become available.
LawBreakers is slated for release later this year.Related: Alpha, Boss Key Productions, LawBreakers, Nexon, Preview, Shooter