Take a look at the best pick up and play multiplayer games on PlayStation 4 and you’ll notice that everything from Towerfall to Divekick has one major thing in common: simplicity. These are all games that fall under the idea of being easy to grasp, yet difficult to master due to a layer of complexity that is easy to miss at first. The latest game to join that exclusive table is Team Reptile’s Lethal League, a one-hit fighting game that arms players with baseball bats.
The goal in Lethal League is one that would normally get a player ejected from an MLB game, as each player attempts to hit a baseball at the other participants. There’s only two ways to interact with the ball, as players can use square to swing away, and use circle to bunt the ball into the air. The latter is great for slowing down the bouncing ball, and can be used to redirect where it’s heading.
Considering just how simple the basics are, it’s pretty incredible how much depth there is to the gameplay. When I first began playing, I’d normally just hit the ball right at my opponent. This wasn’t a great opening tactic as it always gave them a good chance to gain control. Eventually I learned through watching the computer play, and I started to pick up some advanced strategies. I started hitting the ball against my own wall in order to increase momentum, and then would fire it at my opponent. That mechanic of speeding up the ball is the key to the game, and things can get so fast (check out the video embedded above) that the ball starts ripping through the space-time continuum.
It’s these little strategies that make Lethal League so great. Since there’s only so many ways that the ball’s angle can be adjusted by the player (either up, down or straight), competitive matches quickly become games of anticipation. There’s a thrill of successfully predicting the other player’s moves, and conversely, it sometimes can feel that another player knows your own moves better than you do. Very similarly to Divekick, the simplicity of Lethal League allows competitors to focus on mind games that end up becoming incredibly intense.
Up to four players can participate in Lethal League, but it guarantees a good time no matter how many controllers are hooked up (unless that number is zero, of course). In fact, I actually found myself gravitating to one-on-one matches. This makes the screen a little less cluttered, and as a fighting game fan, I love being able to prove my superiority in a situation that provides zero excuses.
Getting four players together is still very entertaining, just in a slightly different way. The chaotic nature of Lethal League makes these matches into crazy affairs where players are getting knocked out in mere seconds, and it can be difficult to keep up with the action. It definitely provides some good laughs, and it becomes a prime opportunity for some trash talk.
If you were to list out Lethal League‘s features on a fact sheet, it wouldn’t look awfully impressive. There’s only six characters, a handful of mode variants, and a rather basic arcade mode to complement the multiplayer. Thankfully, numbers aren’t everything as every character adds something unique to the game (and I’d rather have a balanced cast of six characters than 20 unbalanced ones).
Each of the game’s characters plays similarly (you’re still pressing the same buttons after all), but there’s enough differences in the details to make them really interesting to play as. For example, the game’s mascot character, Raptor, has a wall jump, and is short enough that he can duck under a lot of the ball’s movements. Another character is a skateboard riding robot that can move around the screen quickly, and can even ride up the walls. Mastering each of the character’s quirks, and their special move (which is activated by hitting the attack button twice), will take quite some time.
Online play is where players will likely spend most of their time, and Lethal League offers up ranked and private matches. The game played smooth most of the time, but I did run into some connection issues while playing against a friend. We had to exit out of the room a few times, and then afterwards the game was fine, but it was an inconvenience. Since then, the game has been patched (with netcode being one of the improvements), and I’ve had several matches without any issue.
Ultimately, the only disappointment is in the lack of modes. There are three main variants: free-for-all, team battle, and a soccer-style mode that has players trying to hit the ball into goals. These are all fun, but I feel like additional ideas could’ve helped add some variety to the gameplay. On the bright side, there are some variants to play with (such as upping the ball’s default speed or using a beach ball). I even ended up using my imagination to create some house rules, such as forcing players to stay at their spawned position, and trying to play that way. Like any good multiplayer game, you’ll get as much out of Lethal League as you put into it.
Lethal League joins the ranks of Rocket League as one of the PlayStation 4’s best multiplayer games. Underneath the simple control scheme lies a highly competitive game with a tremendous amount of depth. It’s a bit disappointing that there’s not a bit more to the package, but there’s enough mutators that players can make their own mode variants in order to entertain themselves. Overall, it’s a frantic game that’ll have you cursing and laughing at friends every time it’s launched.
Review code for Lethal League provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.