Lawbreakers is difficult, and the skill curve can be intimidating, but if you can stick it out the experience is extremely rewarding: a game that is fun, frantic, challenging and complex, even if its content is a bit shallow.
Boss Key Productions
Developer: Boss Key Productions
Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review
My first few matches were spent really trying to learn Lawbreakers’ systems and tactics, but I couldn’t help but marvel at just how nice everything looks. Running on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, everything in Lawbreakers has a slick shine almost, and while I spent most of my time running towards or away from enemies, it was nice that things looked good while I was doing it. Aside from launch day, frame rates are rock solid at 60fps on PS4, important for a game where every second matters. Sounds in Lawbreakers are distinct and easily identifiable, not nearly as obvious as “It’s High Noon,” but unique enough to know what’s around you.
Aside from a few quickly dealt with launch day woes on PS4, the game holds up technically. Sounds are easily identifiable, the visuals are drop-dead gorgeous and the high frame rates allow for twitchy reflexes to save the day.
As a multiplayer only title, matchmaking is extremely important. I was supposedly paired with players of similarly skilled players, but at times it felt as though my foes were much more skilled than I was. The level of accuracy of the skill-based matchmaking varied from match to match, but was mostly alright.
There’s a total of 9 maps and 4 game modes: Uplink, Blitzball, Turf War, Overcharge. The game modes are definitely reminiscent of old-school game modes, but each has their own twists.
In Uplink both teams vie for power over an uplink and then download its data to their base as they defend it, creating an almost reverse neutral bomb mode. Blitzball is a more sporty game mode, in which both teams must try and grab the EURO ball and score it in the enemy’s goal to score. Turf War is a unique take on the classic three-plot domination mode in which zones are locked once captured during each scoring cycle. Overcharge is very similar to Uplink, just swap out the downloadable uplink with a rechargeable battery, with one very important exception. In Overcharge, unlike Uplink, the battery can be stolen while being charged at a base and keep it’s charge, so if the battery is at 90% or higher when stolen the enemy team will score almost immediately unless it’s recovered.
With the time I spent with the game, Uplink and Blitzball were my favorite game modes. Uplink encouraged quite a few team pushes which, when combined with crazy amounts of movement and high damage abilities, was quite chaotic and aggressive. Blitzball allowed for a bit more finesse. With the only real goal being getting the ball from the middle of the map to the enemies goal, I took Blitzball as an opportunity to choose the more adept characters out for a spin, often ignoring slower enemies entirely.
While Lawbreakers’ game modes are mostly different from each other, they’re all extremely fast-paced and objective oriented allowing for some intense back and forth matches and close calls. Even though these modes are fun, it’s a tad bit disappointing that an arena-esque shooter like this doesn’t have a traditional Deathmatch mode.
Lawbreakers’ next big pull is its class system. There are 9 classes in total with a different character in the role depending on which of the two factions you’re playing as. These classes are the Assassin, Battle Medic, Enforcer, Gunslinger, Harrier, Juggernaut, Titan, Vanguard and Wraith. The differences between characters on the “Law” and “Breakers” factions are only cosmetic , each class is feature identical regardless of faction. Some of these classes closely relate to classes from other titles but still manage to feel unique. Certain characters excel under specific circumstances while others are inaccessible to under-skilled players. I found the Wraith’s movement abilities to be perfect for Blitzball but not so great for defense objectives. I also found that the Harrier class was the easiest to use even if other character’s abilities would be better oriented for the team or the situation.
Each character has a wide array of cosmetics to modify, ranging from weapon skins to the type of shoe imprint you leave when kicking foes. To earn these cosmetics there’s a loot box system, similar to Overwatch and many other games of the time, but this never felt unfair and only rewarded cosmetics.
Where the skill curve really comes into play in Lawbreakers is its movement system. Walking speeds are relatively slow when compared to the movement abilities and map-bound movement modifiers.
Gravity in Lawbreakers isn’t entirely consistent. There are areas of extremely low and high gravity, areas that fluctuate, and areas where everything feels just about normal. It took quite a while to learn exactly how and where the gravity was affected, but once I did it was incredibly enjoyable. There’s nothing quite like jumping off a ledge to get thrown back up and over your enemies.
A slower movement speed, combined with various areas of extreme highs and lows in gravity, can make some players sitting ducks while others will zip through the sky while hardly touching the ground. Almost every character has some type of movement ability and whether it’s the Assassin’s grappling hook or the Harrier’s jet boosters the best way to use them is in conjunction with gravitational fluctuations. A great example of this is the game’s large high-gravity spheres. These large metal spheres appear on a few of the maps in Lawbreakers, and intensify the gravity in a spherical shape around them. They’re basically miniature planets. If you time it right, you can launch yourself into an orbit of one of these spheres and then slingshot away at high speeds, allowing for speedy entrances or get-aways.
Each game comes down to the player’s ability to hit their targets, zip around accurately and quickly, and how well they know the map. Without regenerative health and a limited amount of health packs and special rooms that regenerated health, staying alive was a problem. My survivability shot up once I learned where the health packs, objectives, healing rooms and gravitationally-modified areas were. While movement was the primary new skill I had to learn, there’s plenty of room for players to grow.
Despite the varied roster and moderate map count, Lawbreakers grew repetitive after a couple of hours. I’m sure that focusing on learning other characters or optimizing map routes could extend the game’s freshness, but I grew weary of playing after more than an hour or two at a time. Hopefully this is relieved with more game modes or characters in the future, but as it is now matches start to feel similar after a short time.
The Final Word
Lawbreakers is a great game, both in terms of its construction and its gameplay. Defying gravity and utilizing 9 different classes opens up a ton of fun new options for gameplay. The skill curve is intimidating and the content can feel used up after a moderate amount of time, but Lawbreakers is incredibly rewarding for those who can master its fast-paced mechanics.
MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good