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E3 2017 – LawBreakers Hands-On Preview – Freaky Floaty Fighting (PS4)

Cliff Bleszinski and Arjan Brussee have been very busy since the founding of their company, Boss Key Productions, in 2014. Their game with a codename of BlueStreak is now known as LawBreakers, and after several demos, the game is nearing its August 8 2017 release date. We were able to go hands-on with the fast-paced, vertically-enhanced arena shooter, and have a preview ready for you below.

Low-G Characters

If you’re familiar with the terms “character shooter” or “hero shooter,” then you’ll probably think of games such as Overwatch, Battleborn, and even Team Fortress 2. What Cliff and team hope you’ll think of when thinking about LawBreakers, however, is its unique gravity-centric gameplay. Stages in this game are designed with verticality in mind. While the same could be said of some levels in those other games, here it is a main theme, out of necessity.

A large portion of the map that we played on during our hands-on time included a low-gravity area. Jumping in here could get you clear across to the other side of the room – provided you weren’t picked off in the process, of course! Speaking with Dan Nanni, the Lead Designer for LawBreakers, he indicated that at first the game had zero-g portions of levels, but it was a little too disorienting. So, the solution was to introduce low-gravity areas instead. Even then, maneuvering while in a low or zero-g area could be problematic if the game followed conventional Newtonian physics – an object in motion tends to stay in motion, etc. What Boss Key discovered is that by allowing the player to move in these exotic environments in the way they were facing rather than the way physics says they should be moving, a more fun experience could be had for most gamers. Indeed, moving in the low-g environments was different, but never frustrating, and forced you to look not only left and right for enemies, but also above and below you.

Combat in LawBreakers felt like a classic shooter from the Quake or Unreal Tournament days, with tight controls including a small deadzone on the right analog stick. Things happen very quickly in battle, and lives are typically short-lived. We played a version of single capture-the-flag called BlitzBall. A single ball spawned at a given location in the map, and each team vied for control of it to bring it back to their base. The match lasted for around 15 minutes, which felt like a long enough time to get used to some, but not all, characters on offer.

Many Varied Classes

We saw, and played as, each of the eight classes on display on the E3 demo. From the offensive Vanguard and Enforcer to the stealthy Assassin and trusty Battle Medic, as with any good hero shooter, there is likely something for everyone’s play style. Most classes play fast and furiously-paced, though some like the Titan and medic do slow things down, one for dishing and absorbing damage, and the other for healing others. Weapons usually have alternate fire modes as well, which will provide some strategy when dealing with enemies in tight quarters. Each character also has a special set of abilities, and though our time with each class was short, it was easy to see there will be varied usage of these abilities.

LawBreakers has a lot of lore, and Boss Key Productions has crafted an interesting world filled with unique characters with their own personalities. Dan Nanni stated that since their team was small, they opted to create a multiplayer-only game first, and to perhaps visit single player at a later time. This reminds me of the path that Titanfall took, and it appears that game found success using such a model; hopefully LawBreakers follows in that game’s footsteps, while making some low-gravity trails of its own.

LawBreakers has found a legitimately different way to take on the character shooter genre. While it feels fresh now, the challenge for Boss Key Productions will be to keep the fresh ideas coming. Considering the pedigree of the team at the studio, however, the odds are looking pretty good that this will be a shooter that many won’t want to put down after it launches this coming August.