Creating something new and original within the shooter genre is quite the tall order these days. A saturated gaming space that’s best ideas and innovations that seem to have come and gone. To the point that every new release receives an immediate comparison to a popular game that came before it. But instead of diving into the pitfall of dissecting similarities and bringing issue with what we find, I propose a different method. Stripping down our criticisms and asking the most basic of questions, “Is it fun”? Enter Cliff Bleszinski’s newest title through his Boss Key Productions, Lawbreakers.
Over this past weekend I got the chance to take part in the first closed beta for Lawbreakers. Even after already hearing the rumblings of it being an Overwatch competitor I almost immediately ushered away those sentiments. Aside from the obvious class based nature and the fact a few of the characters seemed to have their DNA lifted directly from Overwatch, that’s where the comparison ended in my eyes. If I must compare it to something I’d say that the game is a mix between Unreal Tournament, Titanfall 2 and even Call of Duty. That said, all that remains is, is it fun?
Fortunately Lawbreakers contains gameplay elements that set itself apart enough from other shooters to provide an enjoyable and sometimes addicting experience. One area to take note of is the gravity defying center that inhabits all the maps. Where boots on the ground is a lost notion and players are tasked with using their character abilities to traverse said area. Combat is performed while gliding through the air and death can come from all angles. Mastering your movements while in this zone will go a long way while engaged because death can come quick. Luckily the remainder of the map is business as usual if defying gravity isn’t your strong suit yet. Fast paced gameplay throughout arena type areas accompanied by side hallways and corridors. Although don’t let the fact that there’s gravity in these spaces allow you to rest on your laurels. Utilizing your movement abilities in and out of combat is just as much a necessity here as it is in the low gravity areas.
Alongside the emphasis on movement and defying gravity, Boss Key took a different approach to some familiar game modes. Only two were available for play in the beta, Overcharge and Turf War. Each one a variant of modes any shooter fan has played before in the last 20 years. Although the small tweaks and additions provided fun and sometimes tense gameplay. Overcharge, which I found to be the most fun of the two is basically Capture the Flag with a few new gameplay element. Instead of flags at each teams base, each side is fighting for a single battery that spawns in the middle of the map at the start of the game. Once either team has picked up and successfully carried the battery to their respective base instead of scoring a point it begins to charge. From here on out the fight is over defending or the opposing team capturing the battery and taking it to their base. Where the battery continues to charge from where it left off at the enemy teams base. Whichever base the battery is in when it reaches 100% receives a point. This opens the door for some great late game moments that offer some tense pushes and defends.
Turf War has its own little change but didn’t find the experience as enjoyable as Overcharge. The mode plays like Domination, basically capturing three points on the map. The catch is the points aren’t always open to capture, they are locked for a set amount of time after each point is captured by either team. During this time both sides are engaged in firefights jockeying for position for when the points become unlocked. I considered this the lesser of the two modes. The small tweak wasn’t enough to set it apart from Domination, as well as more often than not the end result of the game was a one sided affair.
From what I played in the beta I can answer the question, yes it is fun. Moving through the environments whether you’re grounded or not set alongside satisfying gunplay is a fast paced treat for the most part. Although even that Lawbreakers is still in beta I feel it needs to be said. There are definitely some balancing issues among the characters that should be addressed. Too often I felt like some abilities were either overpowered or underpowered. As well as a few characters and their corresponding weapons. But that is what betas are for and Boss Key has plenty time to fine tune. Now after completing the beta I am left with one more question. A new shooter catching on and having the legs to carry it months into years after release is a tall order. I will be keeping an eye out for just that as Lawbreakers completes more betas and into the retail release. For now I remain optimistic with what Boss Key has in store.