Lawbreakers is a fast-paced first-person shooter that has a casual relationship with gravity. It may be Boss Key Production’s first game, but director Cliff Bleszinski is no stranger to shooters. Known for his work at Epic Games, he had a hand in the Unreal and Unreal Tournament games and more recently the Gears of War games, with Unreal Tournament and Gears of War both developing a cult following. As a result, it’s easy to see why Lawbreakers might be an important game. It seems to be riding the recent trend of class-based or “hero shooters” that have been gaining popularity, such as the juggernaut that is Overwatch.
Any game that is compared to Overwatch is apparently destined to invoke revelry in those who like to see such games fail. As with the fate of Battleborn before it, there doesn’t seem to be a large audience initially embracing Lawbreakers. The player numbers for the retail version on Steam haven’t hit the numbers they reached during the open beta, but that’s not surprising considering long open beta period. Developer Boss Key Productions may have needed the testers, or thought the exposure was good – but Lawbreakers has given the impression of being dead on arrival if you listen to the scuttlebutt from gamers on the internet.
Lawbreakers attempts to be unique in that it’s a class-based multiplayer shooter with gravity defying mechanics and an emphasis on speed. While not the first game to embrace speed and aerial acrobatics, it fills a niche that has lain dormant for a while. Not AAA priced, but with AAA production values, Lawbreakers turns out to be a solid shooter with interesting classes that are different enough to cater to several different play styles. It also retains a bit of an old-school feel to it – the pace and frenetic nature similar to arena shooters of yore, but with a skill floor that may turn some away.
Each of the nine classes in Lawbreakers is represented by a different character for each side. For instance, the Titan class is a different character on team Law than team Breakers, but they share the same abilities. Classes also have their own weapons and special abilities. The Battle Medic is straightforward, having the ability to heal teammates with set-and-forget drones while using their grenade launcher to deal damage – and the jet wearing Vanguard takes down foes with her Gatling gun and gets around quickly with her afterburners. Each class also has a unique way of traveling quickly, attached to a stamina-like stat, often fuel, so that dashing, flying, etc. are limited. The character classes don’t look too visually different in the middle of battle, and Lawbreakers aesthetic lacks anything to make it stand out and be truly iconic. It’s too bad if people look at Lawbreakers and think that it’s a generic hero-shooter – but its aesthetics do little to help differentiate it.
Lawbreakers has 4 game modes, with 3 of them just variations of capture the flag. In Uplink and Overcharge, the team must wait and defend the flag at their base until a point is scored, while in Blitzball you have to take the flag through the opposing team’s area and into their goal. Turf war has teams fighting to lock down 3 zones throughout the map, with more points rewarded the more zones are held. There is nothing groundbreaking in these game modes, but the inherent nature of Lawbreakers makes each of them fun.
Moving and shooting in Lawbreakers feels great, with fun weapons that feel like they pack a punch. Player skills and abilities are also varied between classes, and give the options between being a healer, an aoe damage dealer, a melee fighter, and a few more. Boss Key Studios has also stated that they plan on adding additional classes, as well as continuing to support Lawbreakers post-release in the form of new maps and other content updates.
Following another trend of modern shooters, Lawbreakers has lootboxes that are able to be bought with real world currency, or earned in-game after achieving a certain score or milestone. The items that come from these loot boxes are purely cosmetic though, and do nothing but change the appearance of your weapon, character, etc. A big annoyance with loot boxes is the inability to open them in-between matches. Opening loot boxes kicks you out of matchmaking instead of being a distraction while the next match is queuing up.
Lawbreakers won’t dethrone Overwatch, but it fills a niche for a fast-paced arena shooter that has been otherwise lacking any quality offerings. While not for everyone, Lawbreakers rewards those with quick reflexes and the ability to use all three dimensions easily. Lawbreakers is available now on Windows and PlayStation 4.