The online shooter genre is pretty saturated and it is hard to release a title that stands out. Games like Overwatch have managed to make this process even harder by raising the standards. Matching that level of engagement combined with exceptional gameplay design isn’t something many developers can pull off.
With another major multiplayer shooter, Call of Duty: WWII, on the horizon, Boss Key decided to take up the task and release its own sci-fi multiplayer shooter to compete with the rest of the market. Lawbreakers, a gravity defying shooter, is now available on PlayStation 4 and PC with an Xbox One version coming soon.
However, does it manage to find its place in a highly saturated genre but most importantly, is it worth your time and money?
Boss Key is the studio led by Gears of War developer Cliff Bleszinski. After leaving Epic Games and Gears of War behind, he started working on Lawbreakers. It was a risk to leave such a successful IP behind to work on something new but Lawbreakers has turned out to be a game that can take Boss Key forward.
It had countless Alphas and Betas that allowed players to try out the game and provide valuable feedback. Boss Key then used that feedback to shape its game. Throughout its development cycle, Lawbreakers changed a lot. It was initially pitched as a free-to-play class based shooter but in the end released as a $30 multiplayer experience.
While it was compared to Overwatch by many before release, we consider it to be more like an Arena shooter similar to Quake. Lawbreakers bring gunplay to zero-gravity which is a very enticing concept and what’s impressive is the implementation of this concept. Gunplay in zero-gravity is a major differentiating factor for Lawbreakers. Each map or stage features a certain section where gravity doesn’t exist, meaning opportunities for creative maneuvering.
The low gravity sections are usually toward the center of the maps and manage to spice things up a bit. There is no real backstory at play here but the game explains the lack of gravity with a somewhat typical sci-fi plot.
A major event destroyed the moon, hence, messing up gravity. Criminals decided to take advantage of this and law-enforcers are tryng to stop them. The backstory is just a way to justify and explain the design choices made by the development team.
When you go through a low-gravity section you will just fly through it, you can crosshair and move in the general direction. Some characters in Lawbreakers do have jet packs as well as whips that allow them to move faster through the low-gravity section. Movement is crucial in Lawbreakers, some characters can also blind fire behind them that helps them propel forward.
The same ability can also be used to fire at enemies chasing you without having to turn around. Consider the floor to be lava here, you can fly around a while before hitting the ground. This also means that you can take hits from any and every direction.
Like I mentioned above, it is a classic arena shooter with a modern skin on top. It is fast, so fast!
Players with good reflexes and aim are going to dominate the stage. Meanwhile, those new to arena shooters are going to struggle to get to grips with Lawbreakers. Each character comes with a fuel meter and their abilities consume this fuel.
What gives Lawbreakers its own unique taste is the fact that it is unforgiving when it comes to hit boxes, aiming assist, and bullet soaking. You are in control of your aim and even the most heavily armored enemies can be brought down in a short time with concentrated fire.
In terms of classes, there are 8 different classes with 2 characters each. One character in each class belongs to the Law while the other is the Breaker. Each class goes into the match with two abilities tied to the fuel meter and a short cool down.
These abilities paint a unique color over each character and can easily trip up the enemy. For example, Vanguard can throw a handful of micro explosives that cause significant damage with little room for escape. As for the weapons, not all have a secondary weapon but all weapons in the game come with an alternative fire.
Each character is generated from your typical shooter cloth but with a twist from Boss Key Studios. No one feels overpowered, the balance of gameplay is pretty impressive in Lawbreakers. However, we will still see post-release changes and adjustments to characters.
Moreover, there’s no shortage of game modes here. The most popular and most played it seems is the Blitz Ball, a shooter football mode. You can grab the ball and score in the enemy post. Most scores, in the end, will win. There are five different game modes that slightly twist the traditional domination and capture the flag.
But Overcharge is probably the most interesting to play. There is a subbing battery with the flag which needs to be charged before you can score. This adds to the tension of an already intense battle.
Maneuvering, using abilities, firing, sliding, and keeping an eye on enemies; all of this together becomes pretty overwhelming at times in the middle of a fast paced multiplayer game. The is somewhat frustrating during the first couple of hours of play, especially on the PlayStation 4.
It is not a game that would be easy to play on a controller. The game finds it hard to accommodate all of the buttons on PS4 and hence, goes to uncomfortable places on the controller. For example, blind fire is set on the D-Pad which, in the middle of a fire fight, doesn’t work as well as it should. You have to let go of your left stick which is pretty much busy all the time.
It is clear that this game was developed with PC in mind which is where it should have stayed. However, more platforms, more money!
Another issue is the game’s pace which can be pretty overwhelming on occasion, even off-putting, especially for people with lack experience in arena shooters. A recent study shows that shooters can affect the gray matter in your brain, while, I find such studies to be BS, but if there was a game to cause mental breakdown, it would be Lawbreakers.
Jokes aside, for $30 and considering, this is the first Boss Key’s first game, we can certainly say that future is bright for Boss Key. Hopefully, more players will see the excellent gameplay design and appreciate the unique taste of Lawbreakers.
Update: After consideration, we have removed the score for the story (we gave it a 2 for story). Lawbreakers is a multiplayer game where the story isn’t a focus so scoring its story unfairly affects its overall score(Lawbreakers originally received a 7 from SegmentNext). Going forward we are looking into changing our review score format for multiplayer games.