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At one time, arena shooters were the “king of the hill” in gaming. Need proof? How about titles like Doom, Unreal Tournament, Quake, and even Half Life deathmatch. Eventually, the multiplayer¬†shooter genre evolved and more complex modes were added, slowly shedding the DNA from which they came. Shooters were no longer about every man for himself or team deathmatch. Instead games started to introduce variations on objective based team modes, where players learned the intricacies of control point driven maps.

My hands on time with LawBreakers allowed me to get a glimpse at a game that is trying to pay homage to the tried and true formula of arena shooters, while also adding new variations to objective team based modes. I had the chance to play one single gameplay mode titled “overcharge” via one map, which puts an interesting spin on the capture the flag mode. Cliffy B said his inspiration for this gameplay mode came from his love of both CTF and American football. I can absolutely see the comparison, as the match quickly became a war of attrition. Players battled over the battery; a meagre few yards at a time.

For a little bit of context, the point of the “overcharge” mode is to capture the battery, take it to your base, place it onto a charging pad and let it charge to 100%. Once the battery is fully charged, you have to guard it for 20 seconds, which awards your team a single point. After the point has been awarded, the battery will then respawn back into the middle of the map. One of the main features that I enjoyed the most from this mode was the fact that the battery does not lose charge. For example, if your team charged the battery to 99%, the other team can sneak in, steal the battery and return it to their base for a quick charge to 100%. Of course, they’ll still have to wait the 20 seconds to be awarded a full point. In the few matches we played, there were some pretty clutch moments that altered the outcome of the match and really drove the gameplay.

LawBreakers_PAXEast_ZeroGBattleMy one big drawback from my time with the game is that they really put a lot of emphasis on the zero gravity fields throughout the map. The lone map that I played on only utilized the zero gravity mechanic once, which was in the center of the map under a giant dome. Coincidentally, this is where you’ll initially acquire the battery. I found this to be odd for a game who’s current tag line is “beat gravity into submission”. It was an underwhelming feature as the majority of the gameplay was centered around the team base, which is a small room with multiple entrances and exits. While in tight quarters at the base, it would’ve been interesting to see how the zero gravity effect would’ve impacted gameplay. Here you’re trying to coordinate your offense/defense, while dealing with the frenetic nature of the natural choke points. I can only imagine how zero gravity would’ve enhanced the chaos. Now, occasionally, the vanguard would pop her grenade; setting a temporary zero g field. While this made things quite unique in certain situations, I’d still like to have seen them utilize the zero gravity feature more.

Please keep in mind that the build of LawBreakers I was playing on was a pre-alpha build. I believe they confirmed that it’s the same build which they will be showing at PAX East this weekend. The game is a lightly polished work in progress, but I still found it to be certainly enjoyable. Therefore, any criticism that I may currently have with the game might only be temporary as it’s certainly subject to change by the time the game actually launches.

Recently, it was announced that BossKey would be releasing LawBreakers as an exclusive title with Steam. When I addressed this question with them, they were very adamant that this decision was based off of a few factors: how active the community is on Steam and how easy it is to take their feedback and implement them into updates. Speaking of updates, the BossKey dev team was not shy in telling me unanimously that Cliffy B consistently comes up with new ideas for the game, which is aided by the fact that he no longer has a corporate entity above him telling him what he can or can’t do. The dev team says he can come into the office ready to try out new game modes, characters, maps, or anything else he has cooked up. Obviously, this can be interpreted as him being a pain in this ass at times, which they agreed with, but it was clear to me that they enjoy working with him and it was all said in good fun.
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On my way back from the event, a person from another outlet raised the concern that LawBreakers might have only been enjoyable because of the day’s setting. After all, we were playing on a LAN with other press playfully egging each other on, and the devs from BossKey were walking behind us offering tips on how to play each of the four available characters. While I do agree that the experience certainly lent to my enjoyment, I will acknowledge that the arena FPS genre is a staple in my gaming collection. I have fond memories of getting my mother to buy our family our first PC after I played Half Life on a LAN at a local comic shop. The PC came with Quake 2 and coupled with my memories of Half Life, these games had me hooked on the genre, even to this day. With my years of gaming, I feel I can spot a stinker when I see one. Thankfully LawBreakers does not fit into this category, as I can honestly say that the game has some legs it can stand on. It’s not just a game relying on nostalgia, it’s a work in progress with a fluid path ahead, and a team that is willing to learn and adapt. I look forward to this game being released, and will definitely be fragging on day one.

  • Sounds like an awesome experience! Everything about the game has my ears perked up because I too have a history with games like Unreal Tournament. Even though i don’t have a PC, i look forward to seeing how the game progresses and hope to see it on a console one day.