Lawbreakers’ Low-Gravity Mayhem Makes Shooters Exciting Again
LOS ANGELES — I played a ton of great shooters at this year’s E3, but even at a show filled with the latest Gears of War, Battlefield and Titanfall games, none of them struck me quite like Boss Key Productions’ Lawbreakers. Designed by Gears of War and Unreal Tournament creator Cliff Bleszinski, Lawbreakers is the first shooter I’ve played in a while that feels genuinely different, giving players unconventional combat moves and showing extremely little regard for the concept of gravity.
The multiplayer-centric Lawbreakers can best be described as a “hero shooter” along the lines of Overwatch and Battleborn, in that it packs a roster of distinct character types with unique abilities. The Enforcer is your basic Call of Duty-type soldier, while the Vanguard zips around the map in a jetpack, raining down fire with a heavy machine gun. The Assassin can dash, swing and sneak up on enemies with her blades, and the Titan is a big bruiser that does damage with a rocket launcher.
But while Lawbreakers’ character classes borrow from traditional shooters, the experience of actually playing it is anything but conventional. The game is set after a cataclysmic event in which the Moon has been destroyed, which means that not all sections of each arena obey the laws of gravity.
I was sold on Lawbreakers’ gravity-irreverent gameplay the second I started playing a match of Turf War, which is a high-speed twist on the standard capture-the-point modes found in most shooters. My group and I duked it out at some sort of futuristic Santa Monica mall, where tight corridors gave way to a massive open area in the center that allowed players to float around freely. This area served as the key choke point throughout my matches — leading to delightfully chaotic encounters in which both teams soared through the skies while doing their best to shoot one another in the head.
Lawbreakers’ low-gravity zones are interesting on their own, but they become something truly special when utilized in tandem with each character’s special abilities. As the Assassin, I gleefully used my grappling hook (I really like grappling hooks) and air-dashes to zip through the arena before getting the jump on my enemy with my blades. As the Titan, I used my massive fists to knock the enemy back. All characters with an automatic weapon can blindfire behind them, which is a brilliant mechanic that I found useful when trying to run away from an enemy-infested zone.
As with Overwatch, each character has a special “ultimate” ability that can dramatically sway the battle in your favor. The Enforcer, for example, can shoot damaging rockets that lock on to his opponents, while the airborne Vanguard can launch a devastating ground pound that further messes with the gravitational pull of anyone that gets hit. Combined with the game’s floaty arenas, this mix of special moves made Lawbreakers feel like a deadly playground where I could do things I simply couldn’t get away with in other shooters.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a narrative reason why all these characters are trying to kill each other. You play as either the Law — those looking to uphold order in a world where gravity’s been turned upside down — or the Breakers, who want to take advantage of the Earth’s chaotic state for their own game.
While Lawbreakers takes place in the wake of a world-shattering event, developer Boss Key Productions put a great deal of effort into making each map not feel like a typical bombed-out dystopia. This is a world that’s been rebuilt from the ashes, meaning you’ll see thriving city areas set on top of a destroyed of Earth rather than a set of dull, brown wastelands. The game has a darkly humorous tone that’s decidedly more mature than the current crop of cartoony hero shooters — characters were quick to drop f-bombs, and plenty of blood floated through the air in the game’s low-gravity battlefields.
Lawbreakers is made by a team that’s worked on some of the most influential shooters in the genre, and it shows. With its irreverent characters and even more irreverent sense of gravity, the game takes what’s cool about hero-based team shooters and manages to do something truly unique. Lawbreakers is currently slated to launch sometime this year on Steam — if you want to play it sooner, there’s an Alpha test running from June 18 to June 19 that you can sign up for here.