Boss Key Productions' Lawbreakers is the brainchild of former Gears of War developer Cliff Bleszinski, and it has been in development for quite some time now. However, the game is finally gearing up for launch on August 8, on both PlayStation 4 and PC. The game was available to play on PlayStation 4 for the press and public alike at E3 this year, and Gamereactor got to sample some frantic action during our time in Los Angeles, playing a couple of rounds, trying a number of the classes on offer in the process.
The mode we played during our time with the game was Blitzball, which requires players to take a ball/bomb from the centre of the map to the enemy base, but you need to do this within a certain amount of time before the bomb explodes, killing the carrier. This is very similar to game modes we've seen before, in the sense that players have to work together to ensure the survival of the bomb carrier, but there's every chance that if you're too careful you can end up dead in the explosion, bringing in this fine balance between rushing and co-ordination.
In terms of classes, we tried several during our time with the game, but one of our favourites was the Juggernaut class, via a character called Aegis (each class has two characters, Aegis falls on the lawful side of the Law-Breakers divide). This class had an ability to raise walls out of the ground, allowing you to close off passages as you guard either yourself or your teammates from enemy fire, and the shotgun that came with the class was deadly at close range, especially in tight corridors. Another highlight was the Enforcer class, as their assault rifle was good at both long and short range. We also liked was the Titan, whose ultimate ability allowed you to fire lightning at your foes from your fingertips.
A big part of the Lawbreakers experience is the anti-gravity nature of the combat, as you will often find yourself floating high above the action, in which case you need to rain death upon your foes or find a way to get back into the action (abilities such as the slam attack make this much easier). This verticality isn't totally dissimilar to that seen in games such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare / Black Ops 3, or even certain Halo maps over the years, but here it feels more floaty and uncontrolled, which can be a bit of a pain if you want to tightly coordinate your attacks, especially since it can be hard to navigate your way around once you start your anti-gravity ascent.
The map we played on, called Mammoth, was a varied mix of locations, with a central space that played host to a number of pitched battles, with both teams battling it out for the bomb in the middle room. However, nearer to each base was a number of interweaving corridors, changing things up dramatically. Getting the upper hand in the open central area was tough, but when it came to grabbing the bomb, all you needed was some speed to get through and grab the objective. Speed, however, didn't work quite as well in the constricted spaces offered in the corridors linked to each base, and you either needed to clear a path or obliterate opponents to make sure you got the point. With so much going on, and with levels requiring characters with different specialisms at different times, there's every reason to work together and make sure the classes are balanced for maximum effect.
As we've seen when playing the alpha last year and again at E3, there's a balancing act in terms of matching up different classes. Some are undoubtedly more powerful than others right now, and in LA it felt like the more accessible Juggernauts were chosen more often than others, due to not only to their powerful weapons, but also because of their abilities. No doubt this is something the devs will keep a close eye on as the game sees release, making sure that everything stays on an even keel as the game develops and players develop an understanding of its many intricacies.
The art style is what really stood out for us, because as Bleszinski himself told us, there's a lot of cartoonish hero shooters out there, and Lawbreakers has opted for a more gritty and visceral style that's closer to real life. This means that the bright colours of something like Overwatch are abandoned in favour of more subdued alternatives, like the grey of concrete and the beige of earthy dirt. While less vivid, it offers something different, and overall it looks very polished.
When we went into Lawbreakers after having played it on PC last year, we were concerned as to how this would translate onto console via the PS4 version, but we were impressed with how the fast pace of the game works using a controller. The same core gameplay is there in terms of anti-gravity and, most importantly, speed (the game involves a lot of dashing and sprinting) isn't compromised in the shift, and we were especially impressed that there was even an FOV slider option in the game's menus too.
One thing we would've liked to see more of was an explanation in terms of game modes, as it took us a while to get to grips with the rules and intricacies of Blitzball, such as the fact that the bomb explodes if you hold onto it too long. We learned this the hard way, at first in disbelief, wondering what had killed us, before the realisation sunk in that we'd dawdled too long. We weren't at all salty about that. We got to grips with it as we played more of the mode, but for those just starting out, it'd be nice to have a little bit more intel before going into each game.
As a whole, though, Lawbreakers impressed on PlayStation 4, with fun classes offering a variety of different styles of gameplay, a new game mode that delivered tense action, and a map that encouraged a number of different approaches. Above all else, however, Lawbreakers proved itself to be a fast-paced multiplayer shooter that offered intensity that rarely slowed. With only a few weeks to go until launch, it's in good shape, and we're looking forward to seeing how things unfold when the doors open and players start waging war on its servers.
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