by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
So some of you will remember a game called Brink. Back in 2011, before Titanfall successfully implemented parkour into a shooter, Brink promised to be the first. It was an arena shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the forces of order fought the forces of anarchy. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver on the parkour system it promised, but the reason I bring it up, is that to me, LawBreakers feels like Brink’s spiritual successor. Just as in Brink there are two factions, Law and Breakers (you see what they did there?) Law represent order and they are all blue and shiny like happy policemen, whereas Breakers represent anarchy and are all rusted and messy like… grungy policemen? Just as in Brink each faction has a set of classes, but these classes are direct mirrors of each other which creates a visually cool comparison (but does mean there are half the number of classes in the game).
There are nine classes altogether, each with a signature weapon and three abilities. The fast and deadly classes are Wraith and Assassin, the heavies are Juggernaut and Titan, the assault are Vanguard, Enforcer and Gunslinger and the support are Battle Medic and Harrier. Each class’s abilities are split into a movement ability, a general combat ability and a powerful combat ability, all which take time to recharge. Something that LawBreakers also has (that Brink promised but didn’t have) is a tonne of customization. Like most online shooters it’s a typical skin-fest but there are also outfit options. In fact in almost every round you get given a ‘Stash Drop’ which gives you skins, outfits, boot-prints and Playertags. But after a while this does start to feel like a bombardment of stuff intended to keep you distracted from the lack of playable content.
There are a number of round types in LawBreakers. You have the fairly typical capture the flag, a point capture round (like a small scale conquest from Battlefield) and Blitzball (like grifball from Halo). Also the actual Blitzball is voiced by Justin Roiland of Rick and Morty fame and sounds almost identical to Morty. There is also an uplink round where you have to capture a device and hold it in your base, plus another where you have to capture and charge a battery. After everything I’d heard about LawBreakers I thought I would struggle in matchmaking, but surprisingly I always found a round. The game does have a playerbase, but it’s obviously a small devoted one who have mastered the characters.
This meant that in some of the rounds I was matched against people who were obviously far more experienced than me, which led to some very one sided rounds. But also from what I could see, there was no noticeable ranking system. So if that’s a choice the developers made to make the limited player numbers seem less obvious, or if there is some ranking system that is used but can’t be seen, I don’t know. Either way it can make for some absurdly unbalanced rounds. Though saying this, I did also play some rounds where the sides were more evenly matched as well, just far fewer.
A lot of people called this game a crossover between Titanfall and Overwatch, but it’s far more like the latter than the former. The only Titanfall aspect to this game is the Wraith class which feels very similar to the Pilot class (ballistic knife included) but I would dare anyone to find a futuristic online shooter nowadays that doesn’t steal at least one gadget from Titanfall. It’s also important to stress that there is no parkour in this game, ‘Gravity defying combat’ was the tag-line the developers used, and all that flying around the battlefield completely negates any parkour. Also to be honest any comparison between either of those games casts LawBreakers in an unfavorable light.
For a shooter to be worth a full retail price tag anymore, it has to be distinct. This game doesn’t have a parkour system or giant mechs, it doesn’t have twenty-five characters. The main selling point is its mobility of play, but even that doesn’t feel leaps beyond playing Halo with jet-packs in zero gravity. It doesn’t have a campaign mode, or contextualize its world beyond the YouTube videos that the game tutorials link you to, and even Brink did that. Playing LawBreakers is kind of upsetting; it’s a perfectly good game that people have worked hard on, but it reflects the nature of shooters now. That “build it and they will come” attitude won’t work anymore. With so many games contesting online players, a shooter really needs to stand out and draw groundswell because without that, it can be rendered almost unplayable. Especially now shooters have all but abandoned single player campaigns and local split-screen.
LawBreakers is a fun game, lacking in content certainly and no way near worth a full price tag, but good and even innovative in its own minor way. Hopefully with time players and content will come, because otherwise like Brink, it will just become another failed shooter you half remember.
Fun, distinct classes
Not enough content/not enough players