In recent years the world has witnessed the valiant return of FPS classics in Doom and Quake Champions, signifying that arena shooters are back, and potentially better than ever. LawBreakers joins the club of fast-paced competitive multiplayer action and manages to carve out a space of its own within a genre brimming with wildly popular shooters including Titanfall, Battlefield 1, and Call of Duty. In fact, Boss Key Productions’ debut title is one of the most mesmerizing and infatuating shooters I’ve played this generation.
LawBreakers is an online multiplayer game that’s a rather immaculate marriage between conventional arena shooters like Unreal Tournament and modern character based experiences like Overwatch. LawBreakers’ inspiration from the latter is clear, albeit the experience is far bloodier and fast-paced. Players begin each match by selecting a character that suits their playstyle and continue by duking it out with the opposition in a variety of objective based game modes on maps featuring sections of zero-gravity.
Traversal is the name of the game and when you’re strafing through tight corridors or drifting across an area with zero-g, controlling your movement is crucial to being effective in combat. If you remain stagnant for too long, you’re sure to meet a swift end. Whether sprinting, teleporting, or gliding, each character is equipped with a locomotive ability that enables them to quickly move about the arena. Maintaining momentum is key to outplaying your opponents, and should a pesky enemy attempt to slaughter you from behind, you can blind fire behind yourself to bring them down. It’s a convenient mechanic as it enables you to stay on the move, and can also propel you forward when gliding through the air.
“LawBreakers’ inspiration from Overwatch is clear, albeit the experience is far bloodier and fast-paced.”
In traditional arena shooter form, your health doesn’t regenerate. If you manage to survive a Juggernaut’s shotgun blast to the face, you do have a few remedies at your disposal. Similar to Doom and Quake, health packs are scattered throughout each map, so, memorizing their locations is strategically beneficial. If your team’s lacking a healer, there are three healing stations located on each map, two of which are located close to where each team spawns, and the third residing in the central area of the arena. These recovery inducing hubs quickly regenerate health but leave you incredibly vulnerable. In my experience, I found that it’s wise to only utilize them in the most desperate of situations because more often than not, you’ll end up blasted to pieces.
Though the maps are aesthetically unmemorable, they’re designed to brilliantly support the gameplay. From pursuing capture points, infiltrating defense positions, to flanking the opposition, there are multiple routes that enable players to tackle any scenario. The zero-g firefights that occur in the central area of every map are some of the most refreshing and exhilarating FPS experiences I’ve had in years. Between swinging around a building and kicking someone in the face, to blazing across the skies firing a chain gun, every encounter leaves me yearning for more. I lose many airborne battles, but in doing so I still have an absolute blast.
Akin to Overwatch, the eight maps are designed around each of the five game modes. Blitzball is one of my favorites, as it tasks players with fighting over a talking ball (voiced by Justin Roiland of Rick and Morty) and running it into a goal to score points. Every time your team acquires the ball, a shot clock begins to countdown. If you’re still in possession of the ball when the timer hits zero, you explode; which encourages you to keep moving at all times. If you’re a fan of CTF game types, you’ll love Overcharge. In this one flag inspired mode players fight over a battery located in the middle of the map. Once acquired, teams must return it to their base and defend it while it charges. Once the battery reaches one hundred percent, players must defend it for an additional twenty seconds to score a point. If stolen by the enemy team before it reaches one hundred percent, the battery retains its charge, so, taking it back in a hurry is crucial. The constant swap between offensive and defensive situations has made for some of the most competitive and lengthy matches I’ve played.
“Regardless of the play style, every character feels perfect on every map, which is a testament to the game’s incredible design.”
In every match, ten players are divided into two teams of five, amusingly named ‘Law’ and ‘Breakers’. Players have a choice between nine classes inhabited by colorful characters; each with their own unique weapons, abilities, and personalities. There’s a substantial dichotomy among the characters catering to every play style. If you’re looking for speed, the Assassin, Wraith, and Vanguard are your best bet. If you lean toward heavy hitters, the Titan and Juggernaut are devastating at close range. Each character wields a super ability that either serves as support, like the Battle Medic’s Healing Grid or focuses on dealing damage, like the Enforcer’s Bloodhound Launcher. Regardless of the play style, every character feels perfect on every map, which is a testament to the game’s incredible design. There are certainly some balancing issues that need to be addressed, but considering the game is only a week into its full release, it’s safe to assume they’ll be adjusted over time.
When you need a breather from the competitive action, custom games exist that enable you to tweak match settings to your liking. If desired, you can disable certain classes, and even lock roles to a single player per team. As of right now, quick play sends players into matches of randomized game modes. Implementing an option to select specific game modes at will, and a ranked playlist featuring roles locked to a single player would be welcome additions to the overall experience. The progression system is based entirely on aesthetics, ranging from weapon stickers and kick decals, to varying degrees of character skins, with the highest level appropriately named, ‘Boss’. All items are collected through Stash Drops, which are earned by leveling up or can be purchased online. Having the progression based solely on customizing your appearance is perfect, as the focus remains entirely on gameplay.
I’ve managed to play LawBreakers extensively on both PS4 and PC. Being extremely fast-paced and skill based, it feels most at home on PC. Whether you’re using a mouse and keyboard or controller, the controls are precise and intuitive, especially for veteran FPS players. With the exception of some various bugs occurring during the first few days on PS4, both versions of the game have run smoothly. I’m a console gamer at heart, but having grown up playing classics like Unreal Tournament and Quake on PC, I’m confident in saying that LawBreakers fits comfortably within the same ecosystem.
All things considered, LawBreakers is downright fun. I can’t wait to get back to slide stabbing my enemies and zooming across maps at breakneck speeds. On top of the stellar gameplay, the game is bursting with personality and a keen sense of humor both of which serve the game in standing apart from its competition in addition to the inventive, gravity-defying combat. LawBreakers injects profound energy into the modern FPS genre, and I can’t wait to see how the meta develops and the game evolves over time with new game modes and characters. For a mere $30, LawBreakers is a game that every shooter fan should experience.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Inventive combat
- Outstanding map design
- Fun game modes
- Full of personality
- Minor balancing issues
- Unmemorable art style
- Lacks a ranked play option