De­vel­oper Boss Key Pro­duc­tions

Pub­lisher Nexon

For­mat PC

Ori­gin US

Re­lease 2016

The mid-1980s: a young boy sits on his par­ents’ front lawn in Bos­ton play­ing with an Op­ti­mus Prime fig­ure, com­pletely un­aware of the hor­ror that’s about to fol­low. Out of nowhere, the hit her to-un­wa­ver­ing at­trac­tive force that keeps ev­ery­thing on the floor goes topsy-turvy, and the kid finds him­self grasp­ing for hand­fuls of grass as he’s pulled away from the ground, des­per­ate to keep him­self from tum­bling up into the at­mos­phere where he’ll likely freeze, suf­fo­cate or burn to death. This re­cur­ring night­mare plagued Gears Of War de­signer

Cliff Bleszin­ski’s child­hood, but his trau­matic vi­sion also helped to in­spire his new stu­dio’s first game, LawBreak­ers.

Set in 2098, so­ci­ety is 25 years into re­build­ing it­self af­ter a cat­a­clysmic event known as The Shat­ter­ing. Shady gov­ern­ment ex­per­i­ments on the lu­nar sur­face went spec­tac­u­larly awry, caus­ing the Moon to ex­plode (a setup which lends it­self, Bleszin­ski says, “to some pretty nice sky­boxes”), and in turn trig­ger­ing devastating earth­quakes on Earth. It’s a frothy spin on the dream, of course, but the re­sult is a world in which grav­ity be­haves un­pre­dictably. It’s also one where a re­source­ful pop­u­la­tion has learnt to har­ness grav­ity, con­trol­ling its strength and build­ing equip­ment that can sub­vert it on de­mand. But de­spite such an in­dus­tri­ous, can-do at­ti­tude, the Moon isn’t the only thing that has been frag­mented, and so­ci­ety has split into two fac­tions – Law and Break­ers – both locked in a war over a new breed of drugs that ef­fect su­per­hu­man pow­ers in users.

Don’t worry, we didn’t take it all in at first, ei­ther. For­tu­nately, this is sim­ply the cat­a­lyst for a smartly bal­anced five-on-five first­per­son arena shooter in which var­i­ously equipped com­bat­ants ‘beat grav­ity into sub­mis­sion’. Both the Law and Break­ers sides have ac­cess to vari­ants on the same five cat­e­gories of spe­cial­ist (though only four are ac­ces­si­ble in the al­pha build we play), all car­ry­ing two weapons and with three cooldown-lim­ited spe­cial abil­i­ties.

We play on the Law side, and the first of the classes, the En­forcer, proves the most

tra­di­tional. Car­ry­ing an elec­troshock hand­gun and a mod­er­ately pow­er­ful ri­fle with com­fort­ingly fa­mil­iar ADS when you right click, he makes for a good on-ramp as you ac­cli­ma­tise to Boss Key’s idio­syn­cratic take on the genre. His shoul­der-mounted mis­sile launcher spits out a bar­rage of hom­ing pro­jec­tiles, while an Elec­tro­mag Charge acts like an EMP which in­hibits other play­ers’ use of their abil­i­ties. The Dis­tor­tion Field mapped to the Shift key func­tions al­most like a tra­di­tional sprint, de­liv­er­ing a tem­po­rary kick of speed that also in­creases the move­ment, fir­ing and reload speeds of any friendlies in the vicin­ity.

Things get more ec­cen­tric once you ven­ture into other cat­e­gories. The As­sas­sin, for ex­am­ple, wields a pair of blades, devastating up close, and can quickly dart about the place in short bursts. Right click­ing fires an en­ergy-based grap­pling hook which can be used to pull your­self in close to en­e­mies, or swing quickly around the level. Other abil­i­ties al­low her to shunt ag­gres­sors away, de­flect in­com­ing pro­jec­tiles, and en­ter a fren­zied state in which all en­e­mies are vis­i­ble through walls and she can be healed from kills (or­di­nar­ily, all char­ac­ters can only heal by us­ing med­i­cal sta­tions).

Then there’s the Ti­tan, LawBreak­ers’ tank char­ac­ter, who can leap large dis­tances and crash down on op­po­nents, en­ter into a berserk mode and shoot elec­tric­ity from his fin­gers, and throw mines that in­crease grav­ity and slow down faster-mov­ing op­po­nents. Fi­nally, the Van­guard can fly for a time us­ing her jet­pack, crash into the ground and lower grav­ity around her in the process – send­ing com­bat­ants flail­ing through the air – and chan­nel af­ter­burner fuel into a beam of hot death that will in­cin­er­ate any­one in the way and send her fly­ing back­wards out of dan­ger.

That it’s taken three para­graphs just to lay out the ba­sics is in­dica­tive of the steep learn­ing curve that lies in wait for new play­ers. We con­tin­u­ally reach for tra­di­tional con­trol map­pings and find ourselves ac­ci­den­tally un­leash­ing an un­re­lated abil­ity, and getting a han­dle on just one char­ac­ter takes sev­eral rounds of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

“At the be­gin­ning that learn­ing curve is pretty tough,” Bleszin­ski ad­mits. “But, I mean, park­our wasn’t a thing un­til As­sas­sin’s Creed made it one. When you’re putting fea­tures in your game that you think you need be­cause other games have them, you’re not mak­ing stuff that makes you unique. You’re like, ‘Well, we have to have CTF, or a medic class…’ Why? ‘Be­cause other games have it.’ Who the fuck says that? If we have a sniper or a medic in

Getting a han­dle on just one char­ac­ter takes sev­eral rounds of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion

this game, it’s go­ing to be a very light ver­sion of it, but it’s not go­ing to be one of these games where you spawn, walk five min­utes, get shot by some­one in a ghillie suit, and then do it again. For me, that’s not fun. Maybe [we could do] a char­ac­ter that can oc­ca­sion­ally zoom across the map with one of their pow­ers and snipe. Or one who has a burst that heals their whole team and then they get back to shoot­ing – is there some­thing dif­fer­ent we can do? I think we’re mak­ing some of our own archetypes in this game.”

We put these archetypes to work in a mode called Over­charge, which sees each side try­ing to take pos­ses­sion of a bat­tery that spawns at the cen­tre of the map. The cell must be brought back to your base in or­der to charge it, and the round is won when it’s full. The de­vice re­tains its charge even when moved, which means it’s pos­si­ble to steal from the op­pos­ing team at the last minute and snatch an ex­tremely cheeky vic­tory. The first team to two charges wins.

Our first ses­sion is a tense, close-run match that sees the bat­tery move back and forth as each team’s best ef­forts to de­fend the prize come un­stuck. The charge ticks up into the 90 per cent range while the bat­tery sits in the en­emy’s base, and sev­eral con­certed at­tempts to take it back fail. At 99 per cent, we launch one last-ditch as­sault against a dug-in and con­fi­dent team, us­ing the Van­guard to quickly get across the Yakuza-owned Grand Canyon-based map, Grand­view. But this means that when we reach the base we have no boost left to power a dash out of there, and wait­ing for the cooldown timer will see our op­po­nents take the vic­tory. We ac­cept in­evitable death and de­feat as we walk to­wards the bat­tery amid the chaos of a battle that rages around us, and some­how de­plete its de­fen­sive shields and be­gin the walk out of there un­harmed. We still can’t dash, but the exit’s in sight, and sud­denly the im­pos­si­ble seems in reach. We stroll out of the base un­der the pro­tec­tion of our al­lies and use the blind-fire skill (avail­able to all char­ac­ters and ac­ti­vated with con­trol) to shoot over our shoul­der, pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional sup­pres­sion fire and pro­pel­ling us through a low-grav­ity area of the level in the cen­tre. We re­turn the bat­tery to our base and take the point, win­ning the match in the process. We feel bat­tered and out of breath, as if we’ve just sur­vived a sky dive with a failed para­chute. “That was crazy!” art di­rec­tor Tramell

Isaac of­fers af­ter watch­ing our un­likely steal. “At the end of other FPS games, it’s like, yeah, your team won, but I never feel like I ac­tu­ally

did any­thing. But re­gard­less of how many peo­ple you killed or how many times you died, in that match you were the guy that scored the last point, and that’s the thing that makes peo­ple feel spe­cial. And that point was so con­tested – it’s a mo­ment you’re go­ing to live with for a while.”

“My mantra to the de­sign staff was to make game types that end in drama,” Bleszin­ski ex­plains. “In the last few years I’ve re­ally be­come a fan of Amer­i­can foot­ball, where it just ends with these ex­cit­ing mo­ments. Over­charge is a mode that ends with a lot of last-minute up­sets and a lot of last-minute steals.”

Boss Key may have moved to a grit­tier vis­ual style to dis­tin­guish it­self from the new wave of candy-coloured shoot­ers, but

LawBreak­ers al­ready stands apart thanks to its un­con­ven­tional ideas and bold rewiring of tra­di­tional char­ac­ter classes, modes and even con­trols. The re­sult is a game that doesn’t im­me­di­ately click in the way of first­per­son shoot­ers that op­er­ate within an es­tab­lished tem­plate, and one that will likely have new play­ers floun­der­ing for a time. But that also makes it feel re­fresh­ing in a genre that so vo­ra­ciously re­cy­cles ideas.

“We’re find­ing these things, twist­ing them and mak­ing them our own,” Bleszin­ski says. “Which in my opin­ion is just good game cre­ation. It’s hard, but we can do that be­cause we’re small. One of my pro­gram­mers codes up a new char­ac­ter class over the course of a week, and then we’re in the lab test­ing him. He gets feed­back, goes right back to his desk, fixes and mod­i­fies it; I give my feed­back; next thing you know we have a char­ac­ter ready to go into our pro­duc­tion pipe­line. Be­tween my­self and ev­ery­one on the team there’s like 1,000 years of game de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence. We’ve done this be­fore. We’re still learn­ing things about mon­eti­sa­tion and the new world or­der of games as a ser­vice, but we know how to make a cool game. We’ve been do­ing it for years.”

In Over­charge, bat­ter­ies must be pow­ered up in gi­ant charg­ers like the one you see here. This bat­tery is fully charged, and in seven more sec­onds our team will take the point. If we can de­fend it

Art di­rec­tor Tramell Isaac pre­vi­ously worked on Fall­out

Ti­tan-class Chronos pre­pares to dis­charge while Van­guard­class Mav­er­ick swoops in for the kill. You can change char­ac­ters be­tween rounds, but it’s worth stick­ing with each for a while in or­der to master their var­i­ous abil­i­ties

TOP LEFT Bat­ter­ies ap­pear un­der the bell in the cen­tre of this court­yard. The grav­ity in this space is much lower than in the rest of the level, mean­ing en­coun­ters mostly take place while air­borne.

ABOVE Like the new Doom rocket launcher, the Ti­tan’s pro­jec­tiles can be det­o­nated at will in or­der to catch out en­e­mies who man­age to clear its di­rect path

LEFT While both teams are made up of the same type of spe­cial­ists, en­coun­ters are of­ten asym­met­ri­cal, as fast­mov­ing char­ac­ters clash with slower ones, and hand­held weapons vie with ranged tools. Un­der­stand­ing every char­ac­ter’s prow­ess and lim­i­ta­tions is es­sen­tial

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.