It’s not often I have no idea what I’m doing in a game. Especially if I’m playing a first-person shooter. My first round of LawBreakers I figured out how to shoot (obviously), but other than that I was at a complete loss on what the hell was going on. I ran toward the objective marked on my screen, fired a few pot-shots at enemies across the map, then to my shock I started floating in the air. Turns out I had wandered into one of the ‘Zero-G’ pockets dotted around each map that allows LawBreakers to use the tagline ‘Gravity Defying Combat’. In that situation, I was riddled with bullets as I struggled to get my feet back on the ground to find cover, but from that moment on, I knew I’d found something special. The game, not the Zero-G zone.
A few hours later I had the hang of it, but they were a really tough few hours. Mainly because the nine character-roles available all play extremely differently to one another in terms of mobility and firepower, and without a tutorial for each character (and no way to just mess around and find a play-style that is right for you), you’re in for a hard time. Even when you do eventually figure out how to best use someone, it’s not like the other players are just standing around. They’re zipping around the map, capturing objectives and trying to shoot you in the face.
LawBreakers is an objective based shooter similar to Overwatch. Teams of five battle it out in a variety of game modes using character abilities to secure victory. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike Overwatch, where a balanced team composed of different roles is the only way to win, LawBreakers needs fast reflexes and tactical use of mobility powers to get the job done. Sure, the different abilities of each of the roles are certainly useful, but ultimately chalking up a win is going to boil down to smart use of the resources available to you and staying on the move.
Teams are split into two groups, Law versus Breakers. The roles play identical to one another, but with different characters dependant on which team you’re playing for. Each member has two minor abilities to use (one of which will be a movement power of some sort), and an ‘ultimate’ ability on a timed cool down. The Gunslinger for example has twin pistols as primary and secondary weapons, a teleport that can be used three times before it needs to regain a charge, a throwing knife that can be used to highlight enemies in a small area and an ultimate ability that continuously spews high-powered bullets until it runs out. Compare this to say, the Vanguard class, who has a mini-gun primary weapon, an Iron-man style hand blast as a secondary, a cluster of grenades to throw as an ability, mobility in the form of a jet-pack and an ultimate that propels her high into the air before crashing down like a human missile, and you’ll see how wildly different they are to play. One wants to stick to the side-lines, picking off targets in one-vs-one duels, where the other wants to see groups of enemies clustered together to open fire upon. Both are agile, and both get the job done in the wild aerial battles LawBreakers has made its unique selling point, but in different ways that are a huge amount of fun to perfect.
It sounds like a gimmick, I know, but the zero-g zones are absolutely fantastic, and are a testament to how important mobility and momentum is within LawBreakers. Entering one of these bubbles won’t stop your movement and cause you to float wildly into the air or anything, and are as easy to navigate as any other area; pushing forward in the direction your reticle is facing will basically float you in that direction, but movement abilities really are key here. Even if your movement power isn’t as obvious as a jet-pack, each character has the ability to fire behind them with a tap of down on the D-pad. Often this will give you a minor boost (as well as hitting anybody directly behind you of course) but if your character is wielding say a rocket launcher, you’re in for a huge amount of forward propulsion. The aerial battles between teams in the zero-g are a huge amount of fun, require skill and lightning-quick reflexes (if you want to avoid becoming a floating corpse) and really set Lawbreakers apart from the other shooters out there.
Couple of minor flaws though. The characters for the most part, are completely devoid of any personality and just feel like generic templates. They all say different stuff and have their own look in general, but it’s hard to really give a crap about them at all. There is no story or history or anything to invest you to them, and it all just really boils down to what weapons and abilities you prefer over anything else. The maps are the same. Sure, the zero-g bubbles are insanely fun, but the arenas all look very similar and follow the generic pattern of main route, couple of flanks, and team base. It’s not game-ruining or anything, but a little more variety in regard to the layout would have been nice. Also the modes are fun enough, but are all just variations on either capture the flag or king of the hill. Again, nothing game-breaking, but nothing to get really excited about. Visually though it all looks great. Not flaws to see here. Colourful and vibrant character models, easy to see projectiles and abilities. Nothing to complain about at all in this department.
Overall, I’d be really disappointed if this game didn’t get the love and respect it deserves. It’s fast-paced FPS action reminiscent of old-skool shooters like quake or unreal tournament. The characters seem balanced enough and although the learning curve is pretty goddamn steep, it’s a game that will reward practice and mastery of its different roles. There are loot crates that offer nothing more than ascetic upgrades (which can be bought with micro transactions of you have money to waste), a host of unique movement mechanics and weapons that are fun to use. It would just be too easy for the world to overlook this absolute gem of a game for titles with better publicity and marketing strategies. I don’t think I’ve seen any real attempt at marketing for the game, and in this day and age, word of mouth just isn’t enough. The price tag is almost dreamlike at a very reasonable twenty-five quid, so definitely give this high-flyer a look.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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