LawBreakers Review – Newtonian Combat (PS4)
It’s the most exciting moments in any competitive shooter — swiping away the win at the last second or a close back and forth as the clock counts down — these are the moments that make these games the most fun to play. LawBreakers took those moments and made them an entire game, finding that sweet spot somewhere between Call of Duty and Overwatch. Somehow managing to keep the matches fast-paced, while also making sure the high time-to-kill and strategy creates a sort of dance between players, an anti-gravity waltz full of bullets and explosions.
LawBreakers is billed on its gravity defying combat, but there’s a balance of traditional grounded fights and those that send players hurtling through the air. Each map has a central bubble that is immune to those pesky laws of gravity. Traditionally this is an embattled area, being the focal point for at least one of the goals in each mode. As the battle cavorts from side to side, players cross this central zone repeatedly. It creates a fascinating cadence of boots on the ground and high flying conflict that keeps the flow of battle from getting dull.
While it would be easy to compare LawBreakers to Overwatch on the surface, the balance of gameplay really isn’t quite the same. Sure, this is a character shooter, and each character has their own sets of weapons and abilities with which to navigate the battlefield and destroy their opponents, but that’s where the similarities start to fade. Instead of relying heavily on abilities and team composition to work through each match, LawBreakers leans on its shooting mechanics, with character abilities a second focus. The characters in LawBreakers can all hold their own in combat, and there’s never a real need to make sure your team build has specific classes that compliment one another.
This means that playing the Battle Medic can be just as deadly as choosing the Vanguard, and the Assassin stands a chance in a one-on-one bout with a Titan. This is the much more competitive aspect of LawBreakers, where each player can feel useful and competitive no matter what role they choose to play, and no one is forced into playing a character or class that doesn’t match their own play style just because the team composition demanded it. What’s more is that each of the eight classes feels very unique, while also maintaining that balance, so this isn’t quite your standard fare Call of Duty multiplayer either. As I said earlier, it’s that sweet spot between the two.
Now that’s not to say that team coordination can’t work wonders in LawBreakers. There is still a place for grouping up with friends and have solid team communication going into each match. After all, this is a team based objective game, so being the guy with the most kills at the end means nothing if your team was never able to get into whatever objectives on each mode need to be captured or completed. If there is one thing that I wish LawBreakers had, it’s character and mode tutorials so that people actually know the nuances of each of the five game types in the quickplay playlist.
Learning to Dance
The lilt of each combat encounter is such that I never felt I was dying unfairly. Often I’ve found fast-paced shooters to be frustrating because they specifically reward the skill of being first, rather than the ability to dance. Slower paced shooter games tend to have more of a rhythm and flow where you can duck out of battle, regroup, and actually utilize strategy to win without having to have been the first one to pull the trigger. It’s why I enjoy games like Destiny and Overwatch.
LawBreakers finds that same rhythm. Time to kill is high, so each fight becomes that dance. Do you retreat and give up the objective in favor of health, or do you push your luck, hoping they are too intent on the objective to notice you making a stand? It’s a game full of split second choices during battle, rather than finding yourself immediately respawning simply because you weren’t looking the right way. The small maps make sure that there is always something going on, and joining that dance with the rest of your team is quick and easy. LawBreakers finds itself with very little downtime during matches, which is a great thing.
Often the downside of yet another multiplayer shooter is the same old modes making the rounds for the thousandth time. We’ve all played deathmatch and capture the flag and zone control. LawBreakers takes these popular modes and adds some twists to make them unique feeling, keeping with that frantic style that makes entire matches feel like it could be anyone’s game. Even when my team was getting steamrolled, I often felt that there was the opportunity to come back. A sneaky steal of the battery at the last second, or swiping the blitz ball just before they score is a more common occurrence than in most other objective based games where the outcome is quickly decided in the first half of the match. As I mentioned before, I wish there were tutorials to help people learn the nuances more so that matches could end up even closer (I’ve seen far too many people playing this whole game like it’s a standard deathmatch). Those tutorials would also help to highlight what sets LawBreakers apart from other character based and arena shooters.
In terms of exciting moments and fun, varied competitive combat, LawBreakers has a great lock on what makes players want to play, both from the fast-paced competitive side and the specialized character side. While it could do with more in the way of tutorials to teach players how to play, it does an excellent job of balancing each match to feel immediate and competitive, while also keeping the cadence that makes some of the slower multiplayer games more fun to play. It’s inexpensive launch price and promise never to tread the waters of microtransactions help to sell a game that is easy to pick up and fun to play, but has enough nuance to keep players coming back for a long time.
LawBreakers PS4 review code provided by developer. Reviewed on standard PS4. For more information on scoring read our Review Policy.