LASER LEAGUE The cutting edge of the future sport genre
Well, it’s all come down to this. In the sweltering heat of Doha, Qatar, we are up against the Falcons. We’re teetering on the edge of complacency, as an earlier round ended when both of the Cobras attempted to make a break for the borders and got taken out in one fell swoop as the laser nodes outlining the map’s edges reactivated. The match point is tense but we get cocky; it ends with our last man standing sent flying into one of the vaporising laser walls. But with two all, it’s still everything to play for. This is Laser League, an intense contact-basedfuture-sport drenched in neon and, as you might have guessed from the name, fond of a liberal helping of lasers. It’s a game where defeat nor victory is ever a certainty, unless you’ve put in the practice to grasp every nuance of its balanced abilities and arenas.
You can choose from a mix of offensive and support abilities, each triggered when your ability metre is full by pressing u. The sword is the most accessible ability, and one that can kill other players directly, allowing you to cut through matches. (But only with pin-sharp precision and timing.) The smash ability, sending foes flying across the map and more often than not into a deadly laser node, and will also become a fond team favourite. Snipe’s teleportation-based attack will take more time to get to grips with, but also proves delightfully lethal. I personally found the sword ability the most expedient, but playing with the rest of the OPM team shows that there is something for everyone and definitely makes me appreciate the variety on offer – enforcing the need for teamwork.
BE A SPORT
You spend matches chasing the opposition, all the while equal parts activating and avoiding laser nodes yourself. It’s fast, frenetic fun and keeps you on your toes with constantly changing maps. Power ups materialise at regular intervals and can be used to turn the tide in your favour though careless use can also give the other team an unwitting advantage. For instance, ever the keen bean, I duck and weave for every white-outlined hexagon that shows up. However, more often than not my team will be dominating the map only for my over enthusiasm to bite us as I hoover up something that switches all of our activated lasers to the opposition’s colours. Ouch.
Every match demands your full attention as a victory in reach can quickly turn to defeat if you don’t exercise proper map awareness. This makes for some enjoyably tense face-offs, though you still have to take
“FAST, FRENETIC FUN: KEEPS YOU ON YOUR TOES WITH CONSTANTLY CHANGING MAPS.”
care – there’s no point rushing to revive a downed teammate only to charge headlong into your own doom. Luckily there’s no upper limit on how many times you can resurrect your fallen comrades.
The 20 maps on offer now are split into four core categories: Control maps revolve around seizing key laser nodes in order to pile pressure on the opposition, battle maps aim to populate the stage with many lasers and make for hectic encounters, the key to victory in rotation maps is controlling their centre, and then finally there are the flowing maps, which grant specifically more stun and lockdown power ups. Even as I struggle to matchmake online with non-AI partners (though by the time this is in your hands there should be more players online), there is plenty to get stuck into thanks to this variety. After all, on the off chance I do get paired with another player, I want to be sure I’m bringing my A-game.
Laser League presents a compelling competitive vision. What’s here is a strong offering, whether you’re playing against mates on your sofa or with AI that are out to give you a run for your money (at least they don’t complain when they carry you to victory). While matches are unpredictable, each loss or victory feels fair due to the strength found in its simple core set-up. The rules are easy to pick up but what’s built on those foundations continues to surprise and impress us many matches on.
This fantastic future sport is easy to learn but difficult to put down, and the very agreeable price point makes this a title that you won’t want to leave on the bench. Rocket League has a rival. Jess Kinghorn
You’ll be constantly moving, either avoiding or activating nodes and attacks.
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Below The match ends when all members of a team are down.
Right Matches are either over in an instant or become incredibly tense undertakings.
Above left Victory is sweeter if opponents bow out in a particularly funny way.