Let’s (Law)Break It Down! Beta Impressions
‘The Hero Shooter’. The new fad on the proverbial gaming playground. And like all fads, there’s inevitably a time where it must fade away, and I think we can already see the hero shooter genre becoming quite stale already. Within these last couple of years, we’ve seen dozens of high and low profile developers attempt to carve a hole in the market, as happened and is STILL happening with MOBA’s.
From a business standpoint this absolutely makes sense, the highly lucrative market for games like this has been proven by the likes of Blizzard (Overwatch) and Valve (Team Fortress 2) to be absurdly profitable in the right hands, but you need a seriously strong USP to really attract attention from jaded gamers in an already stagnant market.
What is LawBreakers?
And so we have LawBreakers, a 5 v 5, hero based, team shooter coming to PC and PS4 from Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key productions, who is also the lead director on the title. The game has the elements you’d expect if you know the genre well, a ‘diverse’ set of characters all with unique play-styles, abilities, weapons, speeds, which you select based on your preference and play-style to form a team of 5, to face another team of 5 who do the exact same. However, LawBreaker’s does have those all important twists to make it ‘The shooter YOU should be playing this summer!’ as some generic comment would tell you via the trailer.
The game has an intrinsic focus on the manipulation of gravity, with different areas of maps having varying amounts of it, or certain abilities on certain heroes even creating ‘gravity pockets’. This gravity mechanic feeds directly into the game’s next focus and keystone, movement. Every character has a very unique movement set, with some having the ability to jump 3 stories, some being able to ‘blink’, and some being able to straight up fly like Iron Man.
You can really tell the work that has been put into ensuring that the movement, momentum, and the marriage of the two in varying gravity, is one of harmony, and is extremely impressive. Performing a normal leap just as you pass into a gravity pocket which then throws you across a gap is very fun, and I can only imagine what the pros manage to theory craft due to the freedom the movement system encourages.
So, I like the movement. I like the music too. But what do I actually think overall? After all, Mirrors Edge Catalyst had brilliant movement and music and that was…yeah. Anyway! Cliffy has quite the gaming pedigree, especially in the shooter vein, being the lead on projects such as Gears of War and Unreal Tournament in years past. I really feel what he tried to create with this game is one with the feeling of a game such as old school Quake or Unreal, but with a modern coat of paint, and a coat of marketable characters and skins.
This isn’t Titanfall or Infinite Warfare, I’d compare it much more to an arena shooter with how certain weapons work and the emphasis on movement. For example, the ‘Titan’s Rocket Launcher’ which as you’d expect has a slow travel time and encourages prediction over pure aim, much like Quake’s RL. Similarly, the ‘Enforcer’s Assault Rifle’ encourages holding and tracking a target as they move, over reactive aim. But here’s the kicker. How does a game that features multiple classes, each with 3 abilities, their own individual movement systems, all of which combine with gravity in a way that no multiplayer shooter has before, (breath) which ALSO has multiple game modes EACH with unique and complex twists on them, combined with insanely fast game play hold up? To me…not well. Not well at all.
An Identity Crisis
Now, don’t get me wrong. I really believe that a lot of hard work has been put into this game, and even if it may be riding the hero shooter wave, I can’t deny that it’s doing it in it’s own way. All this game’s individual mechanics are polished, the game runs incredibly well on my so so PC, and I can see this being a fun time for a certain kind of gamer. However, I really feel this game is suffering from an identity crisis, in more ways than one. The first real problem I have, is the characters themselves.
While even the most poorly received hero shooters, such as Battleborn, had a cute/bad-ass/diverse and lovable cast of characters, I really can’t say the same for LawBreakers. While there’s some interesting elements to some of their designs, such as Cronos, Aegis, Nash and Faust, the rest of the cast are extremely bland to me. When compared to Overwatch, a game which is built on it’s characterization and has played a huge part in it’s success, this game really doesn’t manage to make you say ‘Oh she’s awesome! Aw, she’s cute!, Damn that guy’s edgy but I LOVE it’ once, and it’s really to its detriment. It doesn’t really have an identity, or even a theme, or a figure-head, like a Tracer or a TF2 Heavy to be THE face of the title, and that ultimately equates to the style of the game just lacking overall.
However, I think it’s main identity problem is that of it’s gameplay. As I mentioned before, I think that all the individual mechanics of this game are very well refined, however when combined to make the full package, it’s like an extremely sweet cake that just leaves you a feeling a bit sick. It’s as if Cliffy B was just let loose in a candy store, allowed to pick whatever he wanted from the colourful shelves of shooter mechanics from years past, and I really don’t think it clicks.
‘Less is More’ is used a lot, but I feel like it’s especially applicable here. LawBreaker’s feels like it’s trying to be too many games at once. You’ve got some Titanfall in there with the movement, Overwatch is an obvious comparison, Quake/Unreal are in there due to the use of health pickups, ultimates like everything has these days, ABSURDLY fast paced action, and it’s just too much! It makes me throw up colourful rainbows onto my monitor and because it’s just TOO sweet, and then get very angry because I walked vaguely near a firefight and was instagibbed within a nanosecond.
Now, I don’t deny that given enough time and practice, you could begin to navigate your way around the game, learn it’s ‘rhythm’ as it were, and really get in the groove for some entertaining 5 v 5 action. If you’re the kind of player who’s dedicated to that? I’d certainly check it out, there’s no denying the skill cap is high also, if you’re a competitive player. But to me, this game would have succeeded more if it had a cleaner focus. If the game focused on it’s gravity and movement mechanics (the best part) and scrapped the arbitrary health packs, abilities, ultimates, etc, I think it could have been a really brilliant and unique experience. It just needed a little better direction, character, and a real knowledge of what it wanted to be.