The competition is looking pretty tough
Before LawBreakers was even released, the unavoidable comparisons to the likes of Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Quake already began rolling in like ominous storm clouds. During a time when there is a rather impressive and diverse collection of arena shooters with such massive dedicated fanbases, new entries will have two options if they want to survive and capture a meaningful portion of the market. Create something that feels completely fresh and new, or simply do what the competition is doing but do it better. Sadly, LawBreakers fails to accomplish either.
LawBreakers garnered quite a bit of attention thanks to having Cliff Bleszinski as its director but the involvement of the former design director at Epic Games also brings an added level of pressure that LawBreakers doesn’t quite live up to. Where Quake and Overwatch are packed with personality, LawBreakers falls extremely flat. While the vast majority of LawBreakers’ competitors, including CS:GO and Call of Duty, offer maps that feel unique and different from one another, each of the maps in LawBreakers come across as small expansions of the very same location.
Despite flaunting the useful differences between classes, LawBreakers struggles to make the different classes immediately recognizable within the game. This ultimately chips away at the idea of considering character matchups in the midst of combat. These are all key areas where the competition stacks up and the execution is exemplary. If LawBreakers was looking to tap into the massive player base for arena shooters by improving upon an existing formula, it fell short of its intended goal.
But what if that was never the plan? After all, LawBreakers was promoted with a specific vision for the low gravity shooter. This was never promised to be a game with a ton of personality or even originality. It was promised to be a fast-paced shooter that removed the training wheels and forced players to improve their own technical skills rather than find characters that compensated for a lack thereof. In this sense, LawBreakers lives up to its promise. You certainly can’t rely on a character’s abilities to carry you if you don’t take the time to figure out how to simply get better at the game.
That focus on testing skill rather than aiming for accessibility is apparent. Where LawBreakers stumbles, however, is that it doesn’t make enough effort to keep players invested in wanting to climb its skill ladder in the first place. This is a shooter that poses heightened challenge as its hook but doesn’t really give you a reason to bite.
If you’re playing LawBreakers on PS4 you will envy all your friends on PC since they have the option to enter a sandbox mode that allows them to play with each character’s different abilities. You, however, only have the option to hop into a live match and deal with the fast paced fray while also trying to figure out what exactly it is your character does. For a game that highlights the focus on skill, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t provide players with more ways to actually build that skill. That makes for one heck of a frustrating experience at times.
To be clear, LawBreakers is certainly a good enough time considering its $29.99 price tag. The low gravity zones are fun to utilize and provide an added layer of gameplay that becomes key to your strategy. These zones and various drop-off points mean you will have to take your character’s entire kit into consideration if you hope to hold your own and help usher your team into the arms of victory. There is no part of this game that caters to a spray and pray mentality and it successfully demands that you are more than just a player who can expose cheap advantages presented by one particular character’s kit.
LawBreakers succeeds in every way imaginable when it comes to its mission to be a shooter built around tried and true skill. The issue is that harder doesn’t equate to newer or better or even being more fun. A steep learning curve can be fun to tackle but there has to be a reason to tackle it. LawBreakers comes with enough potential to live up to its price point but whether or not it can stand next to today’s most popular arena shooters is a different question entirely.
LawBreakers seems to be appealing to a far more niche crowd—a player that wants to take on the challenge purely for the sake of the challenge. It doesn’t attempt to win newcomers over with a complex story or eye catching map design. It isn’t concerned with accessibility or providing training wheels to novices. Even its loot crate system, which is very similar to the one seen in Overwatch, fails to shine as an added incentive to keep playing the game.
Since these are characters that don’t have a deep personality of their own, the new character and weapon skins are cool novelties at best. With LawBreakers placing less focus on the character and more focus on the individual players, it may have benefited from a more customizable system that allowed players to select their favorite pieces of gear separately.
LawBreakers is a solid game with a variety of game modes that demand each match is played differently than the last. Characters’ kits are fun to explore and experiment with, and different classes have the chance to shine during different game modes. LawBreakers is a good game with a very attractive price tag. But this is not a question about value. It’s about relativity. There is simply nothing LawBreakers does significantly better or truly unique when compared to the competition. LawBreakers’ greatest misstep, however, is in the simple fact that it doesn’t accomplish the one thing that every single one of its competitors managed to do—be a game rooted in its very own strong sense of identity.