Alpha and Beta tests have a habit of going one of two ways. It’ll either be an absolute mess that puts people off your game, or it goes a long way to proving why it exists in the first place. Lawbreakers, the new team based FPS by Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions, so far fits into the latter category. Then again, so did Battleborn …
Lawbreakers follows in the traditions of Bleszinski’s previous work, Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, in that it’s entirely action based with plenty of explosions, melee combat and all sorts of violent ways to die. Surprisingly, given we’re at a point where Call of Duty has resorted into going to space to break the mold, Boss Key have come up with some nice twists to the formula that makes it feel just new enough without walking over more of the same terrain.
First things first. The alpha test from the past weekend gave players access to two different game modes, Overcharge and Turf War. In Overcharge, the aim is to collect a battery from the middle of the map and take it back to your base to charge it. The aim is to have a fully charged battery in your base, then hold it for a few moments to gain a point for your team. The battery can retain its charge no matter how often its stolen and taken from one base to the next. Once a battery is fully charged and ‘captured’, a new battery will appear back in the middle of the map.
Turf War follows a more traditional capture the point mode, though it plays out in rounds during a game. By that I mean that once all three points have been captured by whichever team, the game goes into an intermission and locks out the capture points for a few moments. The aim here is to use that time wisely, either setting up a defensive position near a capture point until it becomes available, or pushing back the opposition from doing the same. The first to 13 points wins.
I always gravitate towards capture the flag or capture the point modes, I seem to do better defending than just playing team deathmatch, although revisiting my Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 roots with Doom earlier this year was satisfying. Lawbreakers wants to offer that same kinda of experience and so far it does a good job of it. The action comes in thick and fast, especially when both teams fight it out at the centre of each arena, where a massive shift in gravity turns your standard on foot shooter into something more akin to aerial ballet. It’s a nice touch both in adding something to the experience and changing the way a teams tactics might play out. Certain characters, too, have gravity defying tools at their disposal which can alter the course of a fight.
Speaking of characters, there’s an interesting bunch of ‘heroes and villains’ so far, though for the most part both sides appear to play out in a similar fashion. There’s four classes, each with their distinct specialities and health/speed bonuses. I found myself playing as the Titan class a fair bit, I think because I felt a little more under control compared to some of the others available. Titans are slower, sure, but their extra health and powerful rocket launcher/electric fists combo can deal a ton of damage in a small space of time. You’ll get two main weapons and a few character specific special moves, each with a cool down timer, and it’s all about using them at the right time to deal the most amount of damage. Defending an area as a Titan, I had a few sticky grenades waiting at certain hallways to cover the rear before using my special ‘Emperor Palpatine’ move as the timer ticked down during Overcharge. You’re not invincible whilst using your special, I died a few times myself, but clearing out a room becomes a butt ton easier once you’ve activated it.
Once you get used to each class I’m sure you’ll find a favourite of your own, I can see why some people go towards some over others depending on their personal play style (fast and effective or slow yet deadly), but as the Titan I had some of my best spells. At one point I had 10 straight kills without dying, something that doesn’t happen often for me in any FPS of late. During a game of Turf War, I turned on my super, charged into the middle to take out three players and allowed my team to capture point B to trigger a shutout of all three points. Very satisfying.
Visually, a lot of the art and character models are a little bland right now, though for obvious reasons. I found myself ignoring the world around me during heated exchanges of firepower, but whenever I stopped to take it all in I found myself a little … bored. It’s not that the game isn’t pretty, it has its moments (especially the weapons), but right now it doesn’t follow that same uniqueness that the gameplay attempts to provide. The world outside has splashes of neon amongst its large metal structures and floating rock formations that used to be real world locations, but not much more … at least for now. The story around the game suggests that we’ll visit a number of places where gravity has completely changed them, so hopefully we’ll see some added detail once the game reaches beta and beyond.
Right now though, it’s like they’re holding back a little to ensure the game plays as smoothly as possible, which thankfully it does. I never crashed out or found any bugs, the lag was very little in my chosen Oceania servers (or at least, I think they were, correct me if I’m wrong) and each mode played out exactly as advertised. The only issues I found were when I first picked up the game, since all the weapons and secondary functions aren’t clearly explained outside of a little sidebar video at the character select screen. I minor gripe really, half of the fun is figuring out how everything works, but hopefully the team will include a training mode at some point for those finding it difficult to get a grip on the tool set.
Lawbreakers does have a few advantages up its sleeve so far, and it will need them if it wants to go up against something as popular as Overwatch. Though access to the alpha has been limited so far, the devs have been open for the game to be discussed and shared across all corners of the internet, so players such as myself can spread the positive vibes around. Blizzard did much the same with its FPS success story, and it sounds like it will go some way to ensuring Boss Key’s new IP will find an audience.
Secondly, it has Bleszinski’s name attached to it, a man who’s known for developing top quality, balls to the wall action games. Thankfully there’s more Unreal than Gears of War in Lawbreakers DNA, no offence to those who live cover shooters, and it might just tap into that arcade shooter itch that people have been hoping to scratch for a while now. Doom came close, but there were a few things out of place that took away from the experience we were hoping for from its revival. Overwatch, on the other hand, nails it in every category except the amount of game types available. If Boss Key want to find the right balance, they’ll hopefully include a ton of options for every kind of player and stick to the fast paced action roots. Time will tell, but the outlines of a solid shooter are definitely here.
If you missed out on the alpha test, there’s plans for more opportunities in the short term before an eventual early access launch on Steam, so go visit the official website and sign up if you’re interested. I enjoyed my brief time with Lawbreakers, hopefully I’ll get the chance to dive into it a little more in the not too distant future.
Mark Isaacson is the editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson