This weekend I spent a few hours playing the Boss Key’s LawBreakers beta. The game, due out later this year, is a project from Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War fame, and as a huge Gears fan I was excited. The beta was about what I expected — a fast-paced multiplayer game that took me a few matches to get the hang of. But I was surprised by a few things too. Like how balanced it felt, even with the crazy variety of character classes you can play as. And just how fun it is to defy gravity.
The first-person shooter game revolves around this idea that you can “fly” for brief periods of time, zooming into the air to gain a height advantage on enemies. It’s fun to get pretty high up — sometimes super fast — for an aerial view of the battlefield. You can only fly for a limited amount of time, and some character classes can get into the air more than others. But it’s a smart way to dodge incoming fire or surprise an opponent who doesn’t see you hovering above them.
The variety of character classes really impressed me too. You can be a ninja dual-wielding blades, a tank with a rocket launcher, a robot with extra health who can strategically place shields, or a fast-shooting gunslinger — to name must a few. Since this is a team-based multiplayer game, you are either on the side of the law or the side of those who break the law. Every character class has two versions of the character, depending on which side you end up on.
Women are represented in these characters as much as men, and the armor design is tough no matter which gender you end up playing. I love that the Juggernaut class — a robot — has the old-school ping pong game playing on his face. And that a couple of characters wear ninja robes. You can customize your character design with different skins that you unlock with in-game credits, but I didn’t really explore this during the beta.
During my first couple of matches, I’ll admit I had no idea what I was doing, so I just switched between classes to get a feel for them. I ended up enjoying the Juggernaut class for awhile, because he has almost twice as much health as other classes and a great ability to place a shield — handy when you have to reload your weapon, since the Juggernaut is pretty slow at that. Later, I ended up preferring the Medic class, since this character can heal allies, regenerates health outside of combat (the only class who does that, I believe), and can create a crazy health bubble to fight inside when a battle is getting hectic.
The fact that most classes don’t regain health outside of combat — you have to find health in the environment and pick it up — helps keep things balanced. You can’t just hide from incoming fire for a few seconds and then re-enter a battle. You have to run for it, and find health, and it’s possible someone will catch up with you before that.
Multiplayer battles also feel hectic, which is fun. This is not a game where you hide to preserve health, pop out and shoot, and hide again. The modes I played were mostly capture-the-flag style modes, where everybody races for an objective, engages in crazy firefights, and ends up dead. Then you start over again. Respawning is quick and painless, so it’s fun to just jump right back into a fight without too much fear. Dying is part of the game.
You rack up points based on the usual things: kills vs deaths, overall damage, assists, and help with objectives. I was never the best player, but I got the hang of things and was able to help with overall damage, assists, and objectives pretty well after an hour of playing.
The worldbuilding in the game is what I’m still trying to figure out. I want to know more about the story behind the Law and the Breakers. The map designs aren’t all that inspired — fictional advertising on walls, and environments that look like slightly torn-up malls. I wasn’t sure where I was or what was happening. But it didn’t interfere with the fun of the game at all.
The gameplay is where it’s at here, and you can tell that the creators of this game had a blast with it. The character designs being all over the place is one example of that. I also love the UI — a little face either smiles when you are victorious or looks dead with X’d out eyes when you are defeated. You also have the ability to kick opponents; when you’re kicked, a bootstamp appears on your screen to show you’ve been kicked, and these are customizable. It’s a super fun feature that shows how creative and crazy the creators are, and their sense of fun translates to the game really well.
I don’t know how much of this game I’ll play. It feels like one I could get obsessed with for a couple of weeks, playing online with my partner, until it gets too competitive for me. We’ll see… but this is definitely a day one purchase for me. =)