Available On: PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: Boss Key Productions
Genre: First Person Team-Based Arena Shooter
Release Date: August 7, 2017
Boss Key Productions has released its first game and it’s exactly what you might expect from Cliff Bleszinski, the gaming industry’s most iconic dudebro. It’s as if someone left Overwatch in a vat of Monster Energy and Axe body spray until it emerged, a shell of its former self, soullessly shouting about being “skilled AF” and declaring everything in sight “kick ass” with great gusto.
LawBreakers, from its very first impression on the Steam store page, is aggressive in a way that is neither deserved nor warranted. The description reads:
What worked in other first-person shooters will get you merc’d. Legendary game designer Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions crafted a chaotic, frenetic, multiplayer FPS for skilled gamers who tire of kiddie-bumpered, on-the-rails “combat”.
So A: You, as a player are not as skilled as you might think, B: The creator of the game is a LEGEND, C: This game can only truly be enjoyed by those skilled enough to play it, and D: Other games are for children. Even the promo video demands to know if you, the player, are “#skilledAF.” Before I even opened the game, I am already exhausted by how insecure and juvenile the game’s aesthetic is. Even the icon for the Sandbox practice mode has an icon with a face sucking on a pacifier wearing a bonnet. I guess practice is for babies. Sick burn, I guess?
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy playing the game. But good lord, every second of enjoyment is a struggle to overcome the game’s in-your-face over-caffeinated tween look and feel. It’s also difficult to overcome the game’s light player population, which creates long waits for matchmaking. Matchmaking which, a week out from launch, includes only a quick match queue that puts players in one of the game’s 5 subtly different game modes. Thankfully, you can spend your long matchmaking waits watching the game’s mode and role tutorials, done via embedded YouTube videos accessible from the game’s main menu.
It’s LawBreakers’ innovations that save it from being just another bland shooter in the crowd. First, the mobility. Each character has a different way of getting around beyond the basic running and jumping. There are rocket boots, grappling hooks, triple jumps, teleporting. Sure, those are all in Overwatch, but LawBreakers adds another layer, “zero gravity” combat. In each level, there is a zone where gravity is extremely light (Nerd Note: They call it “Zero G,” but you jump in parabolic arcs and can die from falling, so there’s at least some gravity) and the player can bounce around and use their mobility powers to zip all over that part of the level, missing every shot because this is a first person shooter and you have next to no precision when whipping around in all directions.
The “Zero G” parts of the level also utilize a feature unique to LawBreakers, a standing over-the-shoulder blind fire. When airborne, you can shoot your weapon behind you and propel yourself in the direction you’re looking with the force of your weapon. This creates situations where you might score hits or even get kills on enemies you’re using your blind fire to get away from.
There is, however, a fatal flaw in the low gravity feature of the game. In three of the five game modes, there is an item your team must grab and bring back to your base. That item is invariably on an obvious pedestal in the middle of the low gravity area. Once you get it, which happens fairly quickly, you book it out of that area and back into the normal gravity part of the level where the object is charged or uploaded or captured. This moves most of the real conflict out of the low gravity area, making it so players aren’t really incentivized to get into prolonged battles within the game’s featured low gravity areas. The only game modes that keep players in that zone are the Occupy and Turf War modes, both of which had some of my most memorable conflicts so far.
It just feels like LawBreakers is trying too hard to be other games and not hard enough to be itself. The game modes are uninspired, copy-pasted from other team vs. team shooters. The gravity aspects are under-utilized and left avoided by players not incentivized by the game to spend more time in the low gravity zones. The story seems to have been completely jettisoned from the original announcement trailer that had some world-building nonsense about the moon exploding and disrupting Earth’s gravity. The loot boxes are totally superficial in a game that moves too fast and too viciously to notice whether or not another player has a fun sticker on their gun.
In the end, all the machismo and desperate branding and demand that players be the most skilled just signal that this game wanted so desperately to be what it failed to be: A viable eSport.
Verdict: LawBreakers is a game with fun, frantic gameplay and the potential to become something better than it currently is. If you can look past the generic, trying-too-hard aesthetic, you will likely find $30 worth of enjoyment from this quirky arena FPS.
- Classic Arena Shooter Feel
- Innovative Reverse Fire Mechanic
- Mobility and Gravity Manipulation are Fun
- Obnoxious Aesthetic
- Light on Modes and Features
- Feels Unpolished
- Game World is Underdeveloped