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LawBreakers

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Nexon America
Developer: Boss Key Productions
Release Date: 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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PC Preview - 'LawBreakers'

by Brian Dumlao on June 21, 2016 @ 1:22 a.m. PDT

LawBreakers is a competitive FPS featuring team-based action from any angle. Its characters and spaces manipulate gravity to create a dynamic style of gameplay that rewards skill – not streaks.

While the class-based multiplayer shooter has never really gone away thanks to the evergreen popularity of games like Team Fortress 2, it is making a bigger play for the hearts and minds of players with the inclusion of characters. Instead of generic character templates that make everyone rather indistinguishable, we're getting quite a few multiplayer-only titles that focus on a recognizable character who's defined by more than just their class attributes. At first glance, LawBreakers seems to follow in the footsteps of games like Battleborn and Overwatch by giving each class distinct characters on both sides. Give it a few rounds, however, and you'll discover that this shooter does things differently.

During LawBreakers' first closed alpha, the available mode was Overcharge, a very interesting take on the more traditional Capture the Flag play type seen in almost all other games. Here, your team has to take the battery to a charging station and let it fill up to 100%. From there, you have to hold on to the battery for 30 more seconds, so it charges beyond capacity before you score a point. Two points win the match. Unlike other games, capture by other players or constantly changing battery possession doesn't reset anything, so you can let the enemy fully charge up the battery, swoop in to snatch it, and get the countdown timer going. It makes for some fast rounds and games, a term that's relative since the games can be quite lengthy due to the charge time.


The sole map for the mode is Grand View, a colorful map with smatterings of Asian influence. The map is small, and while it isn't completely asymmetrical, it never feels like either the Law or Breakers side has any particular advantage. The center of the map is also one more the more interesting areas, since it's encased in a big anti-gravity bubble. For story reasons, only certain sections of any map are encased in an anti-gravity area. For gameplay purposes, these areas tend to be loads of fun. The most obvious change is the ability to jump higher and further, but players who think about trajectory in terms of the speed and angle of their approach will certainly be able to get the most out of the abnormal situation. Movement is greatly affected by weapon recoil, and while you can opt to aim in the opposite of your direction for a backward jump, you can simply blind-fire backward or hope that you'll hit something on your blind side. Even though the anti-gravity spots are static, it gives the match something different over the competition.

As stated earlier, LawBreakers adds some character to these classes, and while there's no inherent difference in a class no matter which side you're on, it means that the quips and general attitude of your class differs wildly. For example, your Titan class character on the Law side, Bomchelle, sounds sassy in a pro wrestling sort of way. On the flipside, Chronos simply wants to deliver pain while looking like he came from the set of a "Mad Max" movie. There's enough personality here to make each one feel distinct outside of their abilities, but compared to the two other big games, the difference feels more subdued than pronounced.

The Enforcer is an all-around class with an assault rifle and Taser. He has a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher that can lock onto foes, but his time displacement field (to speed up allies) and EMP (to disable the enemy's special abilities) are his most useful tools. Titans are tank-like classes due to their high health and slower movement speed, and they have a lightning rifle for close attacks and rocket launcher for bigger punches. While they benefit from blindfire boosts in anti-gravity areas, they are deadlier with melee attacks, since they can increase in size and leap forward with a ground pound. Vanguards are swifter thanks to their jetpacks, which give them a big boost of speed around the battlefield and the ability to do a rocket-powered diving kick. By contrast, their main weapon falls on the heavy side, with a Gatling gun that has a bit of warm-up time before it goes full bore. The cluster grenade is fine, but the rocket punch feels like a last resort attack due to its small radius and little bit of knockback.


Finally, there's the Assassin class, the one predominantly seen in just about every match so far. This class only has a shotgun for a projectile weapon, so distance fighting is a no-go here. However, it's all about speed dashes and using its tether to pull enemies in or act as a rope to swing around. To that end, their other weapons are dual blades, which makes quick work of those you get in contact with. More often than not, you'll see this class swinging around on the outskirts of a level before dropping in to slice up foes and then swinging away again. By that same token, they're the hardest class to fight against if you aren't also an Assassin.

The gameplay feels about as fast as an arena shooter, and the mechanics (e.g., infinite ammo, no need to aim down sights) reinforce the feeling of a twitch shooter where players can withstand more than a few shots before going down. At the same time, the class-based gameplay slows down the pacing with the uneven stats between classes and the presence of reloading clips to prevent someone from peppering the area with bullets. The abilities of each class are distinct enough to make you change your play style according to who you have or the impending situation. We're already seeing Assassins working in tandem with Vanguards for some impressive heights gained from swinging, and it is only a matter of time before we'll see some ridiculous team combinations to maximize the ability to complete map objectives. This isn't even counting on the anti-gravity spots to act as enhancers or disruptors, depending on the situation. So far, the only knock in the game is the respawn time, which can feel rather lengthy when compared to other arena- and class-based shooters.

While there's no definitive release date set for LawBreakers, the plan is to put the title on Steam Early Access in 2016 with, and a good number of closed alphas have been scheduled before then. Those lucky enough to find themselves in any of those alphas will find a title that seems to have already found its identity and merely needs tweaking and content to make it a player's primary multiplayer game of choice. Look for more on the title as the year goes on.



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