Just as LawBreakers wastes zero time in communicating its intentions and goals to the player, I’m not going to waste your time with this review. LawBreakers is the best twitch shooter, bar none, that I’ve played in the past five years. The title harkens back to the days of Unreal Tournament, when alternative fire modes and fast movement speed were crucial to interesting FPS design. After the literal slowdown brought forth by games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, LawBreakers is a refreshing change of pace. However, what’s more interesting is how Boss Key marries reflexive combat scenarios and fluid avenues of movement to create locomotive gunplay, which – as I stated in a previous video essay – is the idea that movement and marksmanship can serve two masters.
The Harrier, a class whose laser boots serve as both a mode of transportation and as a weapon, is the total embodiment of this idea. With proper fuel management, Harriers can ski around the map in a Tribes-like fashion; with the ability to pull backwards on the analog stick at any moment to kick their feet forward to damage oncoming enemies. It’s an absolute blast launching the Assassin across a map, using her futuristic grappling hook to swing around tight corners and her arc blades to slice through waves of opponents, in ways that often feel exploitative. Seriously, at times LawBreakers feels more like a first person Spider-Man game than a first person shooter – and I love it for that.
Continuing with the super hero similes, the Enforcer is quite reminiscent of a certain D.C. Comics speedster, utilizing his distortion field to boost both his base movement speed and his weapon’s rate of fire. The Enforcer became a much more interesting role to play after my realization that I could combine his speed and LawBreakers’ backwards blindfire mechanic to propel myself through an anti-gravity zone. Using these tricks while engaged in combat makes for an energetic and downright fun battlefield; and while some classes in the game trade excessive mobility for a more balanced playstyle, every character in LawBreakers capitalizes on the game’s locomotive elements in some way. This, in turn, transforms nearly every map into a playground of sorts, filled with various hallways, rooms, and secret paths to explore.
Vertigo, a map based in the skies of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, certainly stands out among its counterparts. The map’s aesthetic and overall layout has been conducive to several special gameplay moments during my time with Boss Key’s new game. Promenade, Grandview, & Mammoth are also strong selections, each equipped with an anti-gravitational zone that serves as a pathway across the middle of the map. Redfalls, which finds its home somewhere in the Grand Canyon, is the only map in LawBreakers that doesn’t feature a zero gravity zone in a prominent location. Instead, Redfalls relies on a smaller, more symmetrical design to create pockets and bottlenecks within the environment for players to vie for control over; and it serves as a great palette cleanser when shuffled into the rotation of the matchmaking playlist.
Unfortunately, the game’s matchmaking infrastructure seems somewhat slow in its current state; often making players wait several minutes in between each match. I’d imagine that this is to accommodate those in the lobby who want to analyze their stats, equip new skins and stickers, and so forth; but honestly, it feels counterintuitive to a game that’s so obsessed with speed. Sure, it’s a minor grievance, but it’s one that annoyed me several times, especially when coupled with LawBreakers’ sluggish menu. Luckily, the rest of the game is incredible and I have no problem looking past its somewhat minor flaws.
At its worst, LawBreakers is a competent first person shooter with a few back and front end UI annoyances that should be addressed. However, at its best, LawBreakers sets itself apart from the competition effortlessly by way of its interesting classes, fluid movement, and innovative anti-gravitational map design; the latter of which makes other futuristic shooters seem amateur in hindsight. While I’m not sure it’s a game that was designed with the casual player in mind, LawBreakers, like last year’s Overwatch and DOOM, is a fresh take that injects life back into the veins of a genre that’s grown somewhat stale over the years; and it’s a video game that absolutely deserves your attention.
Oh, and those skins? They’re SO good!