Lawbreakers Open Beta Impressions

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Posted July 5, 2017 by Chad Waller in Video Games

Before we begin, it must be noted that I have never played Overwatch. The last class-based first-person shooter I played was Team Fortress 2, and Lawbreakers is an entirely different animal from Valve’s popular hat-based economy. The best I can compare it to is maybe the new DooM or Unreal Tournament, though neither have class systems. It’s all about the speed!

Because the thing is, those are really good games to be compared to.

My hand-eye coordination seems to die a little more every year, and the muscle memory my fingers once knew in high school has faded, but I still love arena shooters. I suck at them full stop, but I love them. There’s just something about the high-octane speed and the insanity that comes with big guns and even bigger explosions that’s hard to beat. Yeah I dig Halo in its various forms, but it doesn’t compete.

Lawbreakers competes.

How it competes is with a high emphasis on verticality.  Each map in Lawbreakers has a center fighting arena with large, zero-gravity bubbles that, combined with sprinting, flying, and swinging, means everyone is zipping through the air like gun-toting dragonflies. Being on the ground feels nice because you know how to running works, but it also makes you an easy target for bullets. If you want to succeed, you best get to flying.

Granted, extra verticality does come with a few downsides, like sometimes flying off the map like a dumbass or getting lost mid fight, but oh well. At least jetpacking off the map because you’re trying to coward power away from a giant robot with a shotgun is funny.

The game’s combat and movement have an unashamedly high skill ceiling, is what I’m getting at.

Which leads me to the classes. There are eight that I can remember, but because I don’t remember their names off the top of my head, you’ll have to settle on what I call them in game.

  • Airplane Lady: She’s flies super fast and has a Gatling gun. She’s the glass cannon with a lot of cannon to her name, and my favorite to play.
  • Soldier: The soldier class. He’s got guns and grenades, and in truth, is a bit bland. I mean, he’s fun, but there are so many more interesting people.
  • Gunslinger: There are no snipers in this game, but Lawbreakers does have the Gunslinger. He’s got a semiauto pistol in one hand and a high-damage, slow-firing pistol in the other. I’m so bad with him that it’s sort of sad.
  • Rocket Man: Guy with rocket launcher, or woman. I can’t remember. He/she is another fairly standard class that in some ways doesn’t work because of how vertical this game is. Leading rockets is hard enough without people floating through space.
  • Battle Medic: A medic whose primary weapon isn’t a healing gun but a grenade launcher. Probably the most fun I’ve had playing a medic class in…forever. This is how you do it.
  • Ninja: A lady with a sword in one hand, a hookshot on the other, and a shotgun as a backup. She swings around like Spiderman, which is pretty awesome. She’s another character that’s very hard to play as, but unlike the Gunslinger, still fun despite the high ceiling cap.
  • Rowbit: He’s the tank class. His primary is a shotgun, his secondary is a bayonet on the shotgun. What he lacks in forward movement he makes up for in vertical. The dude has hops! Also fun to play.
  • Douche Canoe: Another ninja class but with more health than he needs and an insane damage output. He’s also one of the fastest characters, if not the fastest.

I’ve given every class but Douche Canoe a try, and while I do like all of them, I certainly have my preferences. Airplane Lady, Soldier, and Rowbit are probably the easiest to just pick up and play because they feel the most like arena-shooter characters. Rowbit is a lot slower than the norm, but his high health pool makes him very forgiving.

That he’s a giant robot with a shotgun is also very inviting.

The problem with the class system isn’t the system itself but the bombardment of information that comes with it. In its current state, Lawbreakers doesn’t do a very good job of introducing you to its cast. There are tutorial videos that can be found, but they stream from Youtube and watching a four minute how-to-play video isn’t fun.

I tried to learn as I played, but that wound up being impossible. Each character has three abilities, and some of them are on high cooldowns. They aren’t something you can experiment with mid combat. That meant Youtube videos or asking in game chat between deaths. It wasn’t ideal.

Once I did learn, however, Lawbreakers became highly addictive. This game is straight up fun. The gunplay feels great, the balance is mostly on point save Douche Canoe, and even though it’s an arena shooter, I feel like the health pools are all high enough to add some wiggle room during combat. Very rarely did I ever just explode out of the blue, and if that did happen, it was because of a special ability and not just a random rocket.

The game modes currently on display are all very team focused, which is another highlight. Yeah I love your standard frag fest as much as the next guy, but objective-based gameplay is where I shine, especially since I enjoy support classes. What Lawbreakers offers then is nice twists to capturing and delivering.

I’ve only put about six or seven hours into the Lawbreakers open beta, but I’ve come away a fan. I will be picking this thing up when it’s out next month, and I’ll probably be reviewing it too. If you like arena shooters and missed out this 4th of July weekend, I’d say keep an eye on this one. If you don’t like arena shooters, then I guess go back to Overwatch or something, you filthy casual.


About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company working on their first game, The Regret of Vitrerran. He also likes to write, preferring fiction and poetry, but also the occasional book review or video game essay. You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.