Posted June 18, 2017 by Daniel Kizana in Feature

E3 2017: Lawbreakers Hands-On

It’s been just over a year since Blizzard reinvigorated class-based shooters with Overwatch, drawing enormous numbers of new players to the genre and immediately securing a huge portion of that expanded player base in the process. Whenever Blizzard manages to pull something like this off (see MMOs pre and post World of Warcraft), it’s soon followed by a developmental frenzy in which other companies clamber for a piece of the new pie (see Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and Hellgate: London).

Almost on queue, we have the arrival of the first serious contender to Overwatch‘s throne in Lawbreakers; the debut title from North Carolina’s Boss Key Productions (BKP), and another directorial credit for industry veteran Cliff Bleszinski. Lawbreakers boasts class-based gunplay enhanced by fast-paced, vertical mobility and numerous gameplay modes. I enjoyed a hands-on preview of the game at E3, and was impressed with the overall fluidity and clear focus on teamwork.

I queued, with several other players, into a round of BlitzBall; a mode clearly inspired by CoD‘s Uplink, which tasks players with picking up a ball from the middle of the map and ‘scoring’ in the opponent’s goal. If you’re killed carrying the ball, it is dropped and can be picked up by either team. Simple enough.

The jet packs fitted to each player’s suit really came into their own in BlitzBall, resulting in some frenetic aerial pursuits as the ball-carrier made off into the sky and the entire opposing team chased them from different angles. At times, it felt more like a game of quidditch than a first-person shooter. Only, in lieu of a silent Quaffle, the BlitzBall is quite vocal about how happy it is to be played with, and is voiced, in the style of Mr Meeseeks, by none other than Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland.

It’s hard to gauge the efficacy of team composition and coordination in such a short gameplay preview, but we went with single healer, single tank and triple DPS, which seemed fairly effective when we stuck together. That’s about as much strategy as could be gleaned from the chaos of BlitzBall, but BKP reps assured us that regular, objective-based game modes will allow for much greater focus and coordination.

Gunplay is precise and responsive, with a standard range of weapons available across the different classes, from SMGs to grenade launchers. Nothing too creative here, but each weapon offered sufficiently high skill-caps that committed players will be rewarded with greater ability. I noted that weapons didn’t carry much weight, and projectile impacts felt and sounded weak, which doesn’t cause any gameplay issues but certainly makes the fights a little less exciting.

Each of the seven classes seemed enjoyable and, more importantly, balanced. There are classes with higher mobility, such as the Assassin and their Dash ability, and these enjoyed greater success on our largely outdoor, open space map, but no one class stood out as overpowered. I played Battle Medic in both of my matches, partially to seem like a nice person and partially so I’m not expected to win any 1 on 1’s. I really enjoyed floating around on the edges of the fray, tossing long range HoT’s at my teammates and raining grenades on key bottle-necks (think Pharah meets Zenyatta meets Junkrat). That’s all the class testing I was afforded, but all seems well on that front. A few more classes would be welcome after release to prevent stagnation.

There is a Law vs Breakers theme to the game, and each playable class includes a character for each faction, which offers a little variety in a title otherwise devoid of an overarching story, at least so far. This never used to be a big deal in a multiplayer shooter, but in the post-Overwatch world, a lack of basic story context was definitely felt. Even more noticeable was the overall bland, empty character design. No subtle personality, no standout costumes or identifiable features. Just futuristic, metal jumpsuits. Very CoD, very boring.

Lawbreakers is shaping up to be an enjoyable and well executed title from a director who’s certainly earned our faith in the past. Do I think it will dethrone Overwatch? No. Do I think it’s going to be worth playing in the off-season? Absolutely. Especially since the game is launching at a reduced price ($29 in the US) because Bleszinski wanted, in his words, “none of that $60, multi-player only bullshit”. Try it for yourself during the public beta, which starts June 28th. More info on lawbreakers.nexon.net

Daniel Kizana



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