Law­Break­ers is a high-speed, high-skill FPS grown in the soil of Un­re­alTour­na­ment and other arena shoot­ers.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Evan Lahti

Law­Break­ers suc­ceeds as an first-per­son shooter be­cause it em­braces and gives the fin­ger to the last five years of FPS de­sign. From a dis­tance, Boss Key’s first game looks like an­other five-on-five ‘hero shooter’, where each of the char­ac­ters bring unique guns and unique move­ment, com­bat, and ul­ti­mate abil­i­ties (that you trig­ger by hit­ting the Q key) into arena maps to con­tend for ob­jec­tives. But be­neath that ba­sic struc­ture are big, wel­come di­ver­gences from Overwatch and sim­i­lar games. One ex­am­ple: Law­Break­ers has no true sup­port char­ac­ters. The clos­est thing to a healer, the Bat­tle Medic, em­ploys ‘fire and for­get’ heal­ing, del­e­gat­ing the first-aid work to drones that au­to­mat­i­cally fly to team­mates when you hit the E key, leav­ing your hands free to lob grenades. I love the ease of this role, and the chal­lenge of main­tain­ing lines of sight with your team­mates as you’re both fly­ing: As­sign­ing a drone to an As­sas­sin as they swing like Spi­der-Man into an en­emy base, or sav­ing a team­mate who’s about to die with a sin­gle key tap from across the map.

In this way, Law­Break­ers pleas­antly by­passes the con­cept of classes as bat­tle­field jobs. There aren’t tur­rets, tele­porters tanks, per se, or other dis­trac­tions. There aren’t even con­ven­tional snipers, or guns with any kind of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, be­cause Law­Break­ers doesn’t want you los­ing sight of the im­por­tance of move­ment. Ev­ery­one is ex­pected to fly, fight, and con­trib­ute dam­age.

In place of any or­di­nary class archetypes, Law­Break­ers builds va­ri­ety through its dis­tinct styles of move­ment, and it’s here that hard­core FPS play­ers will find de­light­ful nu­ance. Take the Wraith, which slides along the ground to ac­cel­er­ate, jab­bing the air with a knife to swim for­ward in low grav­ity. They can also triple jump and wall jump, a moveset that gives the Wraith a dart­ing, alien lo­co­mo­tion that’s en­joy­able to mas­ter.

Each role has a fun mi­croskill or two to learn, adding depth and steep­en­ing the learn­ing curve in most cases. Gun­slingers tele­port in 15-foot bursts, like Tracer from Overwatch, and the first shots from ei­ther of their dual pis­tols are buffed im­me­di­ately af­ter you blink. If you fly back­wards as the Har­rier, you shoot lasers from your boots. This is the only FPS I can think of that lets me shoot be­hind my­self, nev­er­mind turns it into a way to phys­i­cally pro­pel my char­ac­ter.

I found a cou­ple of th­ese move­ment styles un­com­fort­able, and you prob­a­bly will too. I felt frag­ile and clumsy as an As­sas­sin, which uses a grap­pling hook to swing into stab­bing range. But Boss Key could’ve eas­ily strapped the same jet­pack to each char­ac­ter and called it a day. The wide range of mo­tion not only gives Law­Break­ers a clear iden­tity, but th­ese move­ment styles make char­ac­ters more iden­ti­fi­able at a dis­tance, mak­ing it eas­ier to de­cide how to en­gage the en­emy. It’s a huge as­set to the game.

The forms of move­ment have good re­la­tion­ships with Law­Break­ers’ guns—big, imag­i­na­tive en­ergy and ex­plo­sive weapons that are the chil­dren of Un­real Tour­na­ment. As Har­rier, I have to mark a tar­get with a de­buff­ing dart, then grit my teeth as I paint an en­emy with my Iron Man-like laser beam. The sim­plic­ity of the Bat­tle Medic’s grenade launcher is great: Left-click throws grenades that det­o­nate on im­pact, and right-click pops out ones that bounce be­fore ex­plod­ing. I like the mo­ment-to-mo­ment ge­om­e­try I’m asked to do to de­cide which grenade will be more ef­fec­tive.

I also ap­pre­ci­ate that the power level of ul­ti­mate abil­i­ties, which charge up on a flat timer, isn’t so high that you’re con­stantly play­ing your game around their cooldowns, like I of­ten do in Overwatch. They’re flashy stale­mate-break­ers, but carv­ing out a triple kill with Har­rier’s chest beam, or Ti­tan’s Pal­pa­tine-grade hand light­ning, feels earned.


Ev­ery­one is ex­pected to fly, fight, and con­trib­ute dam­age

Less imag­i­na­tive is Law­Break­ers’ five modes, which don’t dif­fer much from one an­other. Uplink and Over­charge are both about bring­ing a sin­gle, flag-like ob­ject back to your base and de­fend­ing it as you wait for it to fully charge, which scores a point. Turf War and Oc­cupy are cap­ture point modes, the lat­ter makes you chase a sin­gle point that changes po­si­tions like Head­quar­ters in Call of Duty.

But the lack of nov­elty doesn’t bother me be­cause th­ese modes

suc­ceed at stim­u­lat­ing ur­gency and creative move­ment, and prompt­ing you to make clever tim­ing plays with ul­ti­mate abil­i­ties. They make Law­Break­ers a more in­ter­est­ing game, one about solv­ing phys­i­cal prob­lems while you’re per­pet­u­ally in mo­tion rather than just frag­ging.

For ex­am­ple, to snatch the bat­tery away from the en­emy’s base and run it back to mine, I have to fig­ure out how to fly in at high speed—but not in a straight line, which will prob­a­bly kill me—and still leave enough jet­pack juice to make a get­away.

Dif­fer­ent roles ex­cel on dif­fer­ent maps and modes, giv­ing Law­Break­ers’ meta a nice tex­ture. Drop­ping the Bat­tle Medic’s ul­ti­mate, a bub­ble that blocks pro­jec­tiles in both di­rec­tions and heals al­lies, on a cap­ture point can seal the deal. In Bl­itzball – ba­si­cally Law­Break­ers rugby—the ro­botic Jug­ger­nauts of­ten come up clutch with their shield abil­ity, putting up a lit­eral wall to for fast-mov­ing, would-be dunkers to slam their faces into.

Given all this fo­cus on fi­nesse and skill ( Law­Break­ers goes as far as as­sign­ing you a let­ter grade af­ter each match), I don’t know why there isn’t a sep­a­rate com­pet­i­tive mode here, or why you can’t spec­ify which maps and modes you want to queue into. In the ab­sence of a server browser you can cre­ate cus­tom games, or jump into a prac­tice area solo to work on move­ment skills. At least the net­code is rock-solid, which is frankly nec­es­sary for a game that’s this la­tency-in­tol­er­ant. The set of graph­ics and other op­tions are like­wise good, eras­ing the fact that Law­Break­ers is a mul­ti­plat­form game. I’ve had ex­cel­lent, 120-plus fps on my GTX 980 Ti at 1440p, on high set­tings.

Less in Law­Break­ers’ fa­vor is how vul­ner­a­ble it is to AFK play­ers and leavers. Un­like other five-on-five games like CS:GO and Rain­bow Six Siege, Law­Break­ers doesn’t pe­nal­ize play­ers for leav­ing mid-match, an un­for­tu­nate omis­sion. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, Law­Break­ers back­fills va­cant slots some­what quickly.


In­ter­est­ing as they are, Law­Break­ers’ char­ac­ters don’t do enough to cre­ate an emo­tional at­tach­ment. The game doesn’t an­swer the ques­tion of what the Law and Break­ers are. There needs to be more ban­ter be­tween char­ac­ters, or stuff that ex­presses the spirit of th­ese sci-fi glad­i­a­tors.

Law­Break­ers could have ben­e­fit­ted from com­mit­ting more to be­ing silly or be­ing se­ri­ous. Rick and Morty’s Justin Roi­land voices the Bl­itzball in the mode of the same name, but he doesn’t have enough lines to make this cameo more than a gag. The con­tex­tual barks that your own char­ac­ters make dur­ing com­bat range from corny (“You’re the LawBreaker, and I’m the neck­breaker!”) to generic (“Your date with des­tiny is done!”) to bor­rowed catch­phrases (“Al­ways be clos­ing!”). I don’t need po­etry, but I’d set­tle for sub­stance—I want to know slightly more about th­ese jet­pack­ing weirdos and why they’re fight­ing.

It’s not all on their lev­i­tat­ing shoul­ders, though, be­cause the maps also don’t carry the the­matic weight of the game. Way back in 2015, we heard that Law­Break­ers was set in a world where the moon ex­ploded. But this cat­a­clysmic event doesn’t feel re­flected much by the el­e­gant but samey sci-fi fa­cil­i­ties you float around in. Most of them look like they’re part of the same neigh­bor­hood, co­he­sive but un­der-con­trasted.

That’s ul­ti­mately fine, be­cause the maps’ sym­met­ri­cal lay­outs are so fun to tra­verse. I like lob­bing grenades into the bro­ken-open moon sculp­ture at the cen­ter of Prom­e­nade and watch­ing them rat­tle around. I love the long leap of faith into the en­emy’s base you make from the cen­ter of Ver­tigo, which as a friend de­scribed to me, is Law­Break­ers’ equiv­a­lent of Fac­ing Worlds.

And through­out, I’m im­pressed that the fre­quent tran­si­tions you make be­tween pock­ets of low and nor­mal grav­ity aren’t dis­ori­ent­ing, but ex­cit­ing. Hit­ting low grav­ity al­most al­ways feels like an op­por­tu­nity to sling­shot your­self for­ward, or some­thing that buys you more time to line up a shot. The re­sources you’re given to man­age lift and make aerial ad­just­ments are fun to grap­ple with, but you have to man­age them wisely. The set of tools given to you form a well-de­signed mid­point that rests some­where be­tween em­pow­er­ment and help­less­ness.

Bul­let Bal­let

Mod­est aes­thetic sins aside, Law­Break­ers’ low-grav­ity dance sticks with me. Overused jar­gon like ‘ver­ti­cal­ity’ doesn’t cap­ture the mo­ments of flow you feel as you, some­how, tag a tele­port­ing, lev­i­tat­ing en­emy with back-to-back grenades in mid-air, or kick three dif­fer­ent en­e­mies in the face to block a Bl­itzball touch­down. It feels like rugby played on the moon: Bru­tal, par­a­bolic, and nim­ble.

In this mini-re­nais­sance the first-per­son shooter genre is in the midst of, Law­Break­ers as­serts it­self as a com­plex, phys­i­cal, and deep com­pet­i­tive shooter. It’s an un­com­pro­mis­ing game that doesn’t make apolo­gies for its high skill ceil­ing, but isn’t so ex­clu­sion­ary that only those with pris­tine re­flexes can en­joy it. It’s a treat to play an FPS where some of the roles de­mand more left-hand co­or­di­na­tion than they do mouse aim.

The maps’ sym­met­ri­cal lay­outs are so fun to tra­verse

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