Roll7’s new sci-fi sports sim is in a league of its own
PUBLISHER 505 Games Developer Roll7 Format Xbox One ETA 2018
What happens when a game of air hockey, a bullet hell title and an old copy of Tron get whizzed together in a developmental blender? Something, we imagine, that looks and plays a lot like Laser League. Coming from Roll7 – the British studio that cut its teeth on the skateboarding OlliOlli series and oddball third-person shooter Not A
Hero – this sci-fi sports sim is clearly hoping to bottle that same bolt of lightning that turned Rocket League into a surprise mega hit.
So what is Laser League? It’s a neon-lit, top-down sports simulator that pits two teams – each boasting a different garish colour – in a series of game modes where you use laser nodes to create walls of coloured death, as well as using good old tackles to take the other team out. It’s Tron with a splash of NFL Blitz, and much like that aforementioned football/racing mashup, Laser League is one of those games that takes some serious practice to master. We didn’t drop a reference to bullet hell games for fun, either – learning to dodge, ambush and zone in on the opposing team takes time, and you’ll get punished a lot in your opening matches, but once you nail the momentum and how to use walls of lasers to their full advantage, the whole game opens up.
It might be coming from a studio that made its name on games with simple and easy-to-pick-up concepts, but just like those past efforts, there’s an ocean of daunting depth beneath its slick surface. There’s a staggering 60 characters to choose from, all tied to five regional brands (Empire, Gen Hao, Silvertip, Al Shama and Beyond), and you can personalise your chosen athlete up to the futuristic gills with over 250 customisation options. But it’s when you actually step into each of the game’s arenas that things start to get really interesting.
Taking a leaf out of Overwatch’s book,
Laser League is basing its three main stadiums in real countries, because why not sprinkle in a little bit of realism into a game that’s mostly about pulsing lasers and buckets of futuristic neon light? You’ll head to the Empire Campus in the UK, the Geng Hao Megaplex in China and Silvertip Arena in the USA. There are 12 maps split across all three locations and each one offers a special mode with unique properties. Maybe you’ll take on the clockwise rotation of Carousel, the frantic movement of Ricochet or the utter chaos of Warzone. Each one has a completely unique feel that requires a twist on the usual dash, bash and fry template.
Oh, did we mention that aforementioned depth finds new fathoms when factoring in character classes as well? It’s here that you can find a set of abilities that suits your own playstyle, with six classes to choose from. There’s the Shock (perfect for shocking opponents that are swarming you), Smash (complete with a long-range dash), Blade (quick kills, up close), Ghost (short bursts of invincibility), Thief (steal nodes controlled by your opponents) and Snipe (mixing teleportation and traps).
It’s an incredibly intoxicating little curio, despite its steep early learning curve, and we’re already hooked by its punishing mixture of speed, melee combat and tactical node control. It’s clearly hoping to be the next Rocket
League, rather than the next Disc Jam, and if it manages to find a nice balance between its vastly different classes then sporting glory may be on the scoreboard.
“There’s an ocean of daunting depth beneath its slick surface”
Laser League is in Early Access on Steam before it hits Xbox One later this year