Sometimes only a few minutes are necessary to know you have something great on your hands. When I first played Super Mario Odyssey or when I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time at last year’s E3, I knew I was playing an instant classic. The first time I played Splatoon, I knew I was playing a brand new breed of shooter, or when I first played Titanfall I knew I was playing a game that was expanding the first-person shooter (FPS) genre by adding unexplored dimensions. Similarly, when I played Boss Key’s (Cliff Bleszinski’s young studio) LawBreakers at E3 today, the game proved its limitless potential. Despite its name, LawBreakers isn’t trying to break the mold or reinvent the competitive FPS genre. Instead, LawBreakers is aiming to push the genre in a new direction, and that direction is every direction.
LawBreakers‘ biggest pull is its “gravity-defying combat.” The game’s light gravity on top of its quick pace, solid mechanics, and classic arena shooter feel make for some heavy action and solid fun. It does an immense amount with the low gravity core concept. Across all classes, the game emphasizes mobility and often agility. The Titan class, one of nine different classes featuring two different characters each, can not only raise hell with a rocket launcher but use that launcher to propel themselves through the air. The assassin class has a quick dash and a grapple ability with which to swing through the air not unlike everyone’s friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. The Wraith, my favorite class that I played, could slide in and out of combat, triple jump, and run on walls to achieve gravity-defying feats. And all characters can fire forward or even behind them over-the-shoulder style to influence their trajectory in air, a design mechanic that is an absolute game changer. That added dimension means players not only have to be aware of their positioning and that of their opponents but constantly aware of the distance between them and their opponents as firing a gun mid-air will further that distance between the two for better or worse. The low gravity also means a slow drift downward for airborne players who can then utilize their abilities to touch back down or make use of the over-the-shoulder, blind fire. Its another element for players to juggle, but an incredibly fun one that highly rewards player skill.
Rather than trying to be the next hero-shooter like Overwatch, LawBreakers has the essence of classic arena shooter not unlike early Halo titles but featuring nine signature classes split between eighteen different characters. Each class provides variability: different guns, abilities, and movement systems, each catering to a different play style. Some characters tote more than one gun, and most have a unique secondary fire option as well, all offering different ranges and benefits. Each ability can be utilized on its own or in explosive, creative combos. The Wraith, for instance, features a slide move that can be used purely for its mobility value. By leaping after sliding, players can maintain the speed boost the slide offers only ending when the player is firmly grounded once more. That slide move can also be used offensively to attack other players, all the more so when followed by the character’s secondary fire, a dashing slash from a short sword, which can prove truly lethal when followed by a prompt kick. These combos again reward player skill while allowing each character to be played extremely differently and leaving players a truly immense arsenal of skills and abilities at their disposal.
In my thirty-minute demo, I got to play Blitzball, one of LawBreakers five diverse, competitive modes on one of the game’s eight different maps. Teams of five aim to gain possession of an amusingly self-aware ball in the middle of the field and run it into the adversaries’ goal while eliminating anyone who gets in the way. Each round lasts a maximum of fifteen minutes and the first to eight goals scored wins. Once a team scores, the ball resets at the center of the stage and the process begins anew. A shot clock counts down as players posses the ball and when it reaches zero the carrier dies and the ball once more returns to the center of the stage. If the carrier dies of other causes, unless a teammate recaptures the ball immediately, it will again reset to the center. While familiar, the mode works well within the game and encourages players to utilize all mobility and maneuverability to their advantage to score or fall upon the enemy team. Character selections can be altered at any time in the match and can also have an extreme impact on the game and how a team operates. The faster characters are the obvious selection for quick, offensive maneuvers and infiltration while slower, less mobile characters are frequently heartier, and ideal picks for defense. Blitzball excellently showcased the game’s appeal while highlighting some of its core concepts and I can’t wait to see what the other modes offer.
LawBreakers is a promising new title and an exceptional acquisition for Sony and Steam the likes of which might have benefited Sony’s somewhat stale press conference this year by adding a healthy dose of a brilliant, bombastic new game taking a popular genre in an enthralling new direction. What’s more, LawBreakers is an extremely self-aware title with a one-time price to match the limited content offered when the game launches on August 8th, $30 for what is no more than an online-only, competitive shooter. And that’s exactly all I want from this enticing new, gravity-defying game.