LawBreakers – Our E3 2016 Preview

Boss Key Productions
Boss Key Productions /

We want the energy drink that Boss Key Productions has clearly been addicted to while developing LawBreakers; an incredibly fast-paced multiplayer shooter.

Before I’d had the chance to play it, my awareness of LawBreakers had largely been influenced by the online discussion of it as yet another class-based multiplayer game stuck in an identity crisis, thanks to an onslaught of similar titles in existence like Battleborn, Paladins, Overwatch, and Paragon. Oh, and that it was being developed by a brand new studio led by Cliff Bleszinski, of Gears of War fame. I knew that much too.

However, I finally got a chance to check out LawBreakers at E3 this year, during an extended demo in which I played in one of two teams of four, battling against each other in a newly-announced game mode. Contrary to my assumptions going in, LawBreakers boasts a confident and distinct identity that I hadn’t expected, and I left Boss Key Productions’ booth pleasantly surprised with a game that, despite some limitations, may very well hook its addictive claws into me come launch.

Boss Key Productions /

I want to first talk about the match mode I played because it’s a fitting reflection of the kind of distinctiveness to which I’m referring. Most multiplayer games will either stick to the familiar but reliable modes of team deathmatch and the like, while others might try something new which usually just ends up feeling unbalanced or too quirky to have any lasting appeal. LawBreakers’ Turf War mode manages to cross that thin line of simultaneously feeling unique and refreshing without coming across as gimmicky or unsustainable. It’s essentially a unique riff off of domination, with three control points to capture on the map each round.

Once you’ve captured a point, your team’s score goes up by one and the capture remains locked for the duration of the round. Once all three points are captured, a 30-second intermission plays out, during which players can score kills to boost their capture speed for the next round. The match ends once either of the team gains a score of 13.

If all that sounds a little confusing, don’t worry. The mode is easy to pick up and understand after one round of play, though hard to master. The intermission sequence acts as an interesting window for more strategically-minded playstyles in between the fast-paced shootouts of the rounds themselves, giving players a chance to organize themselves into the best positions for the oncoming captures. I played this mode three times in total, and each match was nail-bitingly close; a testament Boss Key Productions’ commitment to achieving that typically elusive goal of multiplayer balance.

Boss Key Productions /

This commitment extends to the character roster too. As of now, LawBreakers’ two opposing factions are made up of 4 unique character models on either side of the law, but the four classes are completely alike no matter which team you’re on. That means that, while Axel is a hardline officer of the law and Kintaro is a snow-haired renegade on the breakers side, they both wield the exact same weapons, powers, and abilities.  This was an intentional move by Boss Key Productions to ensure that there is an underlying stability to the chaotic gameplay that unfolds on screen, even if this does somewhat limit the roster variety we’re now so used to from other titles in the genre.

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And believe me, there is chaos. Considering that LawBreakers takes place in a future earth where the moon has been shattered, and the laws of physics have been, well, broken, character movement in the game is fast, frenetic and certainly not limited by the forces of gravity. Players can soar through the air, shoot behind them as they move in the other direction, while generally traversing the environments incredibly quickly, and this is on top of all the unique class-specific abilities that can be added to the mix. That said, the learning curve in LawBreakers is satisfyingly accessible, and it wasn’t long before I found myself comfortable with the majority of classes in the game (though playing competently as the assassin is a goal I have yet to achieve).

LawBreakers is currently in closed alpha testing, but the game already feels incredibly polished and fluid. The first-person shooting controls are tight and precise, with every bullet, rocket, and sword packing a well-oiled punch. Visually, LawBreakers has a sharp, clean aesthetic to it, but still manages to exhibit a colorful quirkiness in the character and environmental designs.

Boss Key Productions /

The map I played on, Promenade, featured a giant ornamental globe in the center, that you could hide in while capturing the point it happened to be situated in. This globe was often the focal point for much of the action, and both teams would frequently battle it out both above, below and beneath it in the hope of locking in that vital extra point.

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Though LawBreakers plays like it’s been built from the ground up as a PC game (which, incidentally, it has), Bleszinski and the team haven’t ruled out bringing their title to consoles in the future. Considering the rising popularity of class-based shooters in that market, this sounds like an untapped opportunity for the game. Regardless, Boss Key Productions has clearly managed to set itself apart from the (very crowded) crowd of multiplayer shooters with LawBreakers, and anyone with a decent PC and a remote interest in the genre should give it a whirl when it releases at some point later this year.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this preview.