LawBreakers defies both gravity and expectations

Give me drama

For the past couple of years, a very specific series of actions has played out at pre-E3 events in Los Angeles. As part of a large group, we’ve demoed two team shooters (I’ll refrain from naming them). After the round ended and everyone had an idea for how the games played, the companies running the presentations said “Okay, we’re going to restart it so you can play through it again.”

We did and that’s fine. Then, when the second round ended, we were told we were playing a third identical round. That goes on for two hours or so. It causes the mood in the room to change. Some people start to grumble, others get quietly sarcastic. With little exception, no one wants to do the same thing over and over.

This anecdote is important because LawBreakers was a fantastic candidate to be that game this year. It’s a team shooter where developer Boss Key was showing off two modes and two maps across two hours. In fact, it was practically a lock that it’d wear out its welcome long before the event was over.

Except, that wasn’t the case. We played round after round, each one holding everyone’s attention just as thoroughly as the match before it. Actually, the energy in the room was probably more palpable by the end than it was at the very beginning. “Give me game modes that end in drama,” Cliff Bleszinski told us. LawBreakers absolutely does this, and it’s the reason that it defied every expectation I had going into the event.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been taken by surprise. Chris had a chance to go hands-on with LawBreakers a few months back, and he reported mostly good things. His time with the game was spent on the Grandview map in the Overcharge mode (one flag Capture the Flag, essentially). Our content was slightly expanded, as we were shown a new mode and a new map.

Styled after Santa Monica’s famous Third Street Promenade, the second-revealed LawBreakers map is a take on this shopping center but placed in the game’s fictional universe. After playing Grandview for the first several matches, the gravitational differences on Promenade took some getting used to. Rear-firing through the map’s center didn’t work the exact same way, presumably because the epicenter was positioned differently.

Changing maps can only alter gameplay so much. The big shakeup happened when we tried the new mode, Turf War. Turf War is Boss Key’s take on Domination. It’s a round-based capture mode where matches usually take between 7 and 10 minutes.

The way Turf War works is that the map has three control points — A, B, and C — spread out equidistant from one another. One point will be in your base, another will be in the opponent’s base, and the third will be in the middle of the map where gravity is at its most unstable. Both sides try to quickly capture as many as they can. That’s followed by a 30-second intermission where the points are locked but players vie for control by still fighting. Then, the points open up again and everyone wrestles to secure whatever they can. The first team to lock down 13 points wins.

Bleszinski’s desire for drama is certainly realized in Turf War. A team led by Jordan and yours truly won a cobbled-together mini-tournament but every match came down to the last couple of points. (For those wondering, I skewed toward playing as the Enforcer class; Jordan usually ended up as a stealthy, stabby Assassin.) Having won those matches, I was filled with a sincere sense of pride. That’s not something that usually happens at preview events.

As we left the venue, it seems that my pleasantly surprised attitude was shared by most people there. What had all the makings of a rote, too-long demo was actually really entertaining as everyone was plenty eager to play another round. Jordan best summed up my feelings about LawBreakers in a news post earlier this month. “Don’t write it off until you’ve tried it. There’s something here.”

Brett Makedonski
While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby...