Lawbreakers Game Review


About The Game

Comparisons with Overwatch could be inevitable, but Lawbreakers is a law unto itself.  It is a match with one eye on the present crop of character-focused, MOBA-influenced, eSports-ready competitive shooters, but another on the run-and-gun leaders of years back.

It is clearly designed with in-game buys in your mind, but that was not likely to be pay-2-win or commerce-driven.  And while it is packed with manners, maps and plenty of customization options, it has not lost its grasp on the principles of ability, speed, and strategy.  This makes Lawbreakers a difficult game to get a handle on, and it could be that many gamers won’t bother.  Those who do will find it hugely rewarding, even if it is not quite up there with the genre all-time greats.

For many, the Cliff Bleszinski charge is going to be a red herring.  But this is not the CliffyB you understand from Gears of War, but the person who had been a co-lead design on Unreal Tournament.  There’s a good deal of UT’s DNA here in the speed and fluidity of activity, the obsession with overblown weaponry, sci-fi setting, continuous quipping and the urge to mix things up.  At its best, Lawbreakers has the identical mixture of exuberance and adrenaline that made Unreal Tournament and its sequels so fantastic.

Regrettably, it takes some time for everything to click.  In actuality, it took a great couple of hours for me, partially because Lawbreakers throws a whole lot at you with the minimum preamble. That is a problem, because not only do you need to get used to maps using an enormous anti-gravity zone in the central major stadium — say hello to air-bound skirmishes — but a roster of 18 distinct characters and nine distinct classes, each with its own weapons, special skills, movement choices, and constitution.





Game Features

Everything happens incredibly fast. Every class has some high-speed motion mechanic, whether it’s merely a superhuman sprint, a long-lived slip, a grappling hook or bizarre forward-phasing ability.  Some, such as the Battle Medics Tokki and Feng, float in the atmosphere, while others, such as the Vanguards Maverick and Toska-9, work more like humanoid jet aircraft, thrusting through channels at ludicrous speeds.  The Wraith and Assassin classes have evasive capabilities and charge moves which make them difficult to pin down until they slice-and-dice you.  At the hands of a skilled player they are deadly, and if you don’t move quickly and smart your guns will not help one little bit.

Those weapons also take getting used to. Each character has a key gun and a secondary strike, and a hearty kick or melee weapon, and no two play the same.  The Titan’s rocket launcher works pretty much as you would expect, while the Vanguard’s chaingun starts off strong but incorrect then gains in attention as you continue dispensing lead.  The Gunslinger, meanwhile, packs two pistols, a small but surprisingly brutal spray-and-pray attempt, the other a slow but powerful single-shot blaster.

What is more, every class has a unique special on a longer cooldown, the shotgun-packing Juggernauts going to a heavy armor style, the Titan getting tougher with a force-lightning energy, the Harrier gaining a remarkably destructive energy beam.  It’s worth trying all of them just to work out that suits your playstyle, then concentrating on a couple of classes until you develop adept.

And as you are doing that, you are also mastering Lawbreakers’ game modes, each giving a proven classic a slightly different spin.  Uplink, Overcharge and Blitzball, by way of instance, are all variants of Capture the Flag, but Blitzball asks you to catch and run its sentient ball through a target in your opponent’s side of this map, working against a shot-clock timer which resets if the ball spends too long.

Uplink has you shooting the uplink module and carrying it back to base to gradually upload its data, but your upload level does not reset even when the module’s captured along with the opposition scores.  Thus the losing team has a fighting chance at a comeback.  Overcharge turns things another way, with the two teams squabbling over a battery which also charges up in their home base.  However, the point is won by whichever team holds the battery at the point it reaches 100% so it is possible to steal a nearly-charged battery out of your opponent’s base and score the purpose for your group instead.  And even though it may seem odd to have a cooldown shield to prevent you catching it (or the uplink module) immediately, it really makes sense.  You are here to fight, not simply to cut and run.

Boss Key has been similarly lively with the control-point/domination-style modes.  Occupy spawns one zone on the map, which both teams race to catch.  You score points though you have more players within it, and after some time, the zone disappears and spawns elsewhere.  Turf War looks simple but points lockdown if you’re able to hold them, pushing all of the players to scrap it out over anything points stay.

Initially, this makes for a sometimes frustrating and sometimes bewildering experience in which you die an awful lot.  To make matters worse, Lawbreakers appears to suffer from a small lack of personality.  While Boss Key scores for making such a varied choice of badasses, they are still slightly generic badasses, in spite of their quips.  Sure, there are decals, stickers, weapon paint jobs and costume colors to unlock through enjoying — and you can dash out actual money for longer if you would like to — but we are still ways out of Overwatch’s distinctive, fan-friendly cast, or perhaps Battleborn’s, come to that.

The learning curve and the underwhelming personalities and scene-setting are sufficient to hold Lawbreakers back from greatness — and it cannot match Overwatch for character or the finesse and balance of the entire design.  In plenty of ways Blizzard has rewritten the rulebook on how you feed the fanbase and keep them coming back long lasting, and Boss Key has its work cut out to keep the pace.   It may not be the final thing in the art of online shooters but it’s barely short of ideas, creativity or action.  What is more, at a budget $24.99 the cost is just about perfect.

It does not have the vibrant personality of Overwatch, but provide Lawbreakers an opportunity.  Get past the steep learning curve and you will discover a team-based shooter packed with smart ideas and interesting mechanics, where great movement capacities and a nice mixture of weapons keep the activity furious and fun.

Game Trailer

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