A plot-free, first-person, team-based multiplayer shooter that, at first glance, looks suspiciously like a reskinned Overwatch, LawBreakers suffers from an identity crisis. Indeed, barely a second goes by where one of its core elements doesn’t bring to mind the superior experience offered by other games, from the shooting mechanics of Quake and Unreal Tournament, to the mobility tactics of Titanfall and Tribes, to Overwatch’s own objective-based gameplay, specific character classes, and “Loot Box” reward system.
Boss Key Productions’s first game hits the ground running, placing players into five-on-five matches with no tutorialising and frustratingly inadequate explanation of how each of the complex characters function. Where Overwatch neatly categorizes its memorable characters into their classes and offers specific game modes to teach players how to use them, LawBreakers settles for counterintuitive menus as vague information dumps and, worse, videos that only take you out of the experience that you’re being taught to master.
To LawBreakers’s credit, its characters are varied in their abilities. Most memorable are Toska-9 and Maverick, Vanguards who possess a dive-bombing ability that creates a gravity-free bubble in the crowd-clearing impact zone. This ability is also neatly complemented by a primary weapon that becomes more accurate the longer it’s fired, allowing a Vanguard character to initially clear areas of enemies before then gunning down any stragglers.
Such capabilities lend themselves to both offensive and defensive play, and give rise to unique strategies. The Vanguards’ talents also stand in sharp contrast to the speedy abilities of Wraiths like Helix and Deadlock, who slide around the battlefield with pistols and explosive blades in hand, and the acrobatic wall-grappling of Assassins like Kitsune and Hellion, who are capable of fierce melee attacks. But these characters are unmemorable in their design, and regardless of how unique their abilities may be, it’s all for naught given that the game does little to help you master said abilities.
At the time of this writing, LawBreakers only offers four gameplay modes, three of which play like variations of capture the flag. Overcharge, Uplink, and Blitzball all demand that players rush to snag an item that then must be moved to various locations on the map, while the fourth mode, Turf War, barely makes any sense in practice let alone in description: Players must lock down specific portions of the map while scoring points over time before a timer then ticks down the points you’ve garnered and the whole team nets a point. There’s almost no rhyme or reason for this last mode’s unnecessarily confusing twist on the Conquest mode from the Battlefield series.
LawBreakers, also at present, only has seven playable maps on offer, none of which are noteworthy outside of certain low-gravity areas on a map that temporarily alter gameplay. Would that that were enough to recommend the game, who’s propensity for indulging counterintuitive elements feels like a willful act of self-sabotage. Open a Stash Box acquired while waiting for a match to begin and you’ll be inexplicably booted out of the lobby and back to the main menu. Similarly, leaving a game automatically opens an option to find a new game instead of taking players back to the main menu.
These minor, and patchable, annoyances would be less bothersome in a more substantial and engaging package, but the life of an unsuccessful multiplayer shooter is short and, barely a week after the game’s release, it can already be a struggle to find a populated server. And that’s enough to make one wish that there was at least some kind of single-player component to LawBreakers, because once the allure of the multiplayer fades, players will be struggling to find reasons to want to jump back into this world.