Developers: Boss Key Productions
Publisher: Nexon America
Genre: First Person Shooter
Platforms: PS4, PC
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
2016 was the year of the hero shooter. Both Battleborn and Overwatch released in the month of May. Others like Paladins came much later in the year, but it wasn’t long before these kinds of shooters were everywhere. Unfortunately for Battleborn, the sales of Overwatch skyrocketed. More than a year later, Blizzard’s hero shooter stands victorious as king of the genre. At one point I thought no other hero shooter could compare, until I found out about LawBreakers.
After taking a short break from the industry, Cliff Bleszinski chose to form his own development studio called Boss Key Productions. Gamers know “CliffyB” through his work as design director at Epic Games as the leading man behind famous franchises such as Gears of War and Unreal, LawBreakers happens to be his latest project. Some say LawBreakers is just another Overwatch clone, but couldn’t it be something more?
Violence: LawBreakers is literally a futuristic game of cops and robbers. One team is called the “Laws” while the other is known as the “Breakers.” Players cannot choose a preference for which side they want to be on, so being forced to play on the “bad” side is probable. While competing to complete objectives, players use various guns, knives, and swords to subdue their enemies.
A blood spatter effect is seen when characters take damage. Additionally, player characters explode into a splatter of blood when killed by a high damage attack.
Language/Crude Humor: A variety of swear words can be heard throughout the game, both major and minor. Characters make crude remarks when appearing on the map, making comments at other characters or bragging about their skills for example.
Profile emblems and weapon art can be unlocked that feature the poop emoji as well, but all of the customization features are purely optional.
Positive Content: One of the strongest features of LawBreakers is that players have the option to turn off the blood effects and profanity. Death animations are changed to a ragdoll animations when the blood is turned off, and characters simply don’t use their voice lines that contain profanity.
On another positive note, the female characters are not sexualized. All of the women are wearing some kind of armor or battle gear, which does not bring focus to their looks in an overly sexualized manner.
There are a few key differences from Overwatch that make LawBreakers unique. The first is the pace of the matches. All characters are built for mobility and can move around the map with the greatest of ease. Each map contains anti-gravity areas that add to the effect of traversal and make for some great omni-directional battles and gunfights. This type of gameplay takes me back to my first foray into online shooters, which was Unreal Tournament 2004. Anyone who is familiar with old school arena shooters such as Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament will get a similar experience here. Cliff and the gang were definitely not afraid to reflect their creative roots while trying something new at the same time.
A second major difference is how the character classes are done. There are eighteen characters in total, but only nine classes. Each class has a representative on each team, this is likely an effort to keep both teams balanced. It may be a smaller offering than Overwatch, but it helps in knowing what to expect from each battle. Classes like Wraith and Assassin move faster and deal less damage while Titans and Juggernauts significantly slower and deal a great amount of damage. The beauty of how all of these classes work is that they can be very effective in almost any kind of situation.
Like any typical hero shooter, LawBreakers has a few different match types. There are only four: Uplink, Overcharge, Turf War, and Blitzball. In Overcharge, teams fight over a single battery that charges over time a charge—whoever is in possession of it when it reaches a full charge gains a point. Thus, it is a sound strategy to wait until the enemy almost has a full charge before stealing it. Uplink requires players to gain possession of a satellite uplink to download valuable data. These two modes end up feeling too similar; the difference is that only one meter needs to be filled in Overcharge to win a point while each team has their own meter in Uplink.
Blitzball is all about getting a ball into the enemy’s goal, like an endzone in American football. The best part about this mode is that the ball is sentient and is voiced by Justin Roiland who does many voices in the adult cartoon Rick and Morty. Turf War is a unique take on the classic control point formula and breaks the action into rounds. Each control point is locked once an enemy takes possession. Once that happens, another round starts for everyone to fight for control once more. These two are easily my favorite modes and where I got the most enjoyment out of LawBreakers.
Character selection is class-based as seen in TF2. Some use shotguns, bazookas and machine guns, while others resort to assault rifles, SMGs, and pistols. My two favorite classes are the Wraith and Juggernaut—one is quicker and does less damage with its CoD-like ballistic knife and auto-pistol, while the other is slow, yet powerful, equipped with a high-powered shotgun. Fellow GUG staff memeber Joe Morgan, my playing partner, prefers the Titan, a slow heavy with a slow with a rocket launcher and body slam. His/her—because each class gets gender options—ultimate is essentially force lightning. He also likes the Harrier, who gets a boost pack and laser rifle in addition to a med kit. His/her ultimate is a chest laser like Iron Man’s unibeam. The Enforcer is kind of your traditional assault rifle guy with a sprint and grenade. S/he gets homing rockets as his ult and has a shock pistol as a sidearm. These classes are all deadly, and represent why I feel LawBreakers is well-balanced. Though they are polar opposites, these kinds of characters are well mixed into the roster and make for some great encounters.
The one area that I found to be lacking in this game is the presentation, because the futuristic gritty sci-fi look has been done a million times. Also, the characters are pretty forgettable. I know all of them by class and only a few by name, as they lack personality. The same can be said with their maps, as they all look fairly similar in design aside from their layout. It is indeed tough to compete with a game like Overwatch that oozes with personality, Boss Key has decided to stick to their guns rather than try to complete like many others before them. The game looks no different than titles like Black Ops 3 or Bulletstorm, though it does fall into Cliff Bleszinski’s wheelhouse.
On the bright side, Boss Key does well in adding a bit of flair to that overused theme. Plenty of customization options are available through stash drops, which are literally loot boxes with fancy curled mustaches. Most of the character skins are just color changes and the devs were unashamed to point out the source material that some took inspiration from. All weapons also have skins along with the option to add various emblems that personalize them even more. LawBreakers carries some real weight in the customization category, where I find Overwatch to be slightly more limited.
The PS4 version did have some hitching issues on the first day or two of release, but those days are far behind. Things are running fine at the moment, and have been no issues since those first few days. LawBreakers has been sadly overlooked even with a $30 pricetag, but the slick gameplay and soundtrack are what keep me coming back. After playing a few matches with some GUG peeps, I highly recommend playing grabbing a friend or two—LawBreakers is ripe for a good time and plenty of laughs. Even with a less-than-stellar presentation, players who couldn’t get into Overwatch will likely find what they were looking for.
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The Bottom Line
Lawbreakers will forever be compared to Overwatch, but its much more than a clone. Thanks to the developers' roots, the fast-paced action calls back to the arena shooters of the old days. This-class based shooter successfully break the unwritten laws of the genre.