50 shades of generic.
LawBreakers on PS4
LawBreakers, the brand new online multiplayer shooter title from Boss Key Productions and Nexon, is in an odd position right now. In recent times, we’ve seen the resurgence of competitive shooter games, whether they’re team-based or arena-based. We’re now in a world that’s being dominated by the likes of Overwatch, Call of Duty, Titanfall, and Quake Champions. The concept of being able to switch between multiple classes and play various objectives on a map is no longer innovative or new. With that in mind, LawBreakers has its work cut out for it. By entering a market that’s quickly becoming saturated, this newcomer can edge out the competition in one of two ways: by either introducing a unique twist or hook that can’t be found anywhere else, or by simply doing the same things everyone else does, but better.
Priced at $30, LawBreakers offers a lot of solid content at launch. With nine classes (coming up to a total of 18 characters) and four different game modes, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into here if you really start to get into the gameplay. The nine classes are all distinct from each other in terms of the abilities they start out with, and how they play. The best part about LawBreakers is that while you are required to work as a team to complete your objectives, none of the classes are ever forced into playing a specific role. For instance, even if you choose a support class like the Battle Medic or Harrier, you won’t get very far simply by focusing on healing your teammates. While that is one of your unique abilities, healers are also equipped with offensive capabilities, and are generally expected to carry their own weight in a firefight as well.
This is where the game truly stands out. LawBreakers has a pretty steep learning curve, especially if you start with the PS4 version, which noticeably lacks the PC version’s training feature that lets you get ample practice time with each class and mode. LawBreakers is a very skill-based game, and your success will largely depend on your ability to think fast on your feet, and react quickly to opposing players trying to ambush you.
The high-octane, fast-paced action is compelling as well, supplemented by the tight gunplay and ease of movement. Every class is fitted with a special movement ability (teleportation, jetpacks, and more), and this leads to dynamic firefights as you zip around the map trying to gun down your equally mobile opponents. The ‘hook’ of LawBreakers comes in the form of zero-gravity fights in the center of the map. Every map features a large vacuum of space where you’ll be able to jump higher and float further while taking a slight hit to your movement speed. Team clashes become even more intense here, as your enemies could be literally everywhere – lurking beneath your feet, or floating up above you, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
My main class of choice was the Enforcer, sort of an offensive support hybrid class that could increase the movement speed and rate of fire of himself and surrounding allies, while also being able to toss out EMP grenades that would temporarily disable enemy abilities. The more interesting classes are the offensive ones, such as the Gunslinger and Assassin, neither of which have much health, but are able to deal damage in interesting ways. The Gunslinger has a teleportation ability that lets him get behind enemies easily, while the Assassin is able to hook her enemies (or environments) with a line and pull herself in before slashing them with a knife. Each class also has a special primary ability (similar to an ultimate in Overwatch) that could potentially turn the tide in a game.
At the moment, quick play matches don’t impose any sort of restriction on which class you can choose. Your entire team of five could all be Juggernauts if you wanted, and you could play the game that way. This does bring up some balancing issues, though, such as a duo of Battle Medics being able to heal each other consistently in a Blitzball or Uplink game, which seems to be the current ‘meta’ that’s plaguing most matches right now.
As unique as all these classes are, however, it’s appallingly difficult to tell them apart while you’re in a match, at least until you’ve spent sufficient time with the game. Apart from the more colorful and flamboyant skins in the game, every single character looks almost exactly the same, all decked out in the similarly dark colors, with almost the same size and stature. Appearance-wise, none of the classes seem to have distinctive features that would easily separate them from each other, making it hard to properly identify enemy classes in a fight. Of course, this is a minor gameplay problem that could be easily forgiven after you’ve sunk enough time in the game. Before too long, you’ll learn to recognize classes from their outfits and weapons. However, this is where LawBreakers really starts to come up short.
To be blunt, while LawBreakers is a mechanically sound game with decent shooting gameplay, everything else about it just feels generic and boring. The various characters are relatively well-designed, with a healthy mix of different personalities. And yet, even after spending several hours with the game and my favorite Enforcer class, I couldn’t tell you the name of the Enforcer character on the Law side. I could, however, tell you that the Breakers Enforcer is named Kintaro, but that’s only because he’s an obnoxious and loud man who loves to scream obnoxious phrases like, “You’re in Kintaro’s house now, officers!” Or, you know, just yelling out occasional expletives because this is an M-rated game and it’s ‘cool.’
Look, I get that LawBreakers wants to be the adults-only, R-rated version of team/arena shooter games. That’s why the game has a gore option in the menu, and that’s why you get to see blood, which, by the way, doesn’t even look that well-rendered or remotely horrifying, in the game when you make a kill. Violence, gore, and language is a major selling point for a lot of games, but it doesn’t mean that the characters have to be so irritating.
On the other hand, the Law Enforcer is so forgettable I couldn’t even tell you his most used catchphrase, aside from “Release the hounds,” which is what both Enforcers shout when using their primary ability. The characters of LawBreakers are either as dull as a spoon, or are just inclined towards dropping the F-bomb and other insults for no particular reason at all. For a team-based arena shooter that encourages you to play the classes that you enjoy the most, LawBreakers just falls flat on the presentation front.
Things are only made worse by the fact that the map design is so predictable. I can’t imagine that map creation and designing them to be balanced for both teams would be a very easy job, but it’s hard not to notice when most maps in the game seems to follow the same symmetrical layouts with a wide zero-gravity area splat in the middle. You would think that the introduction of zero-gravity fights would lead to more interesting map design, but the game doesn’t really offer that. Most of the zero-gravity areas don’t offer a whole lot of verticality, save for one particular Turf War map, and it feels like Boss Key really missed out on an opportunity to make full use of the free-floating shooting action they’ve got here.
Outside of the zero-gravity areas, the maps themselves feel pretty safe, and there aren’t a lot of flanking options for players who might want to adopt a sneakier combat approach. Maps for Overcharge, Blitzball, and Uplink in particular don’t really hold up well either. These modes require you to retrieve an item from the middle of the map and bring it back to either your base or the enemy base. In the case of Blitzball, bringing the ball to the enemy base is slightly trickier as you’d be running straight towards the opposing team. But for Overcharge and Uplink, rounds are usually decided by whichever team manages to retrieve the item first, and it’s a very short and straight shot back to the safety of your own zone.
The bases themselves also have very few flanking routes, and it usually leads to situations where the defending team just guns down their foes at a chokepoint. This is an issue that could be easily resolved by releasing new maps with more interesting routes to explore, but at least for now, a lot of matches in the game feel one-note, and it’s way too easy for one team to snowball the other.
LawBreakers doesn’t necessarily offer anything new or groundbreaking, the weapon and character skins that you can unlock as you level up aren’t exactly very enticing either, and at this point, it’s difficult to say whether the game will be able to keep its player base engaged in the long run. However, if you’re simply looking for something new, LawBreakers is a solid enough arena first-person shooter game to get into.
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Score: 3.5/5 – Fair