With the game tied at 6 a piece and seconds left, this match-up is on a knife edge. Played at the lightning speed of a stallion bolting out of the gates, Blitzball requires among many things: skill, determination, teamwork and unbridled force to prevail. With the score tied and little under a minute remaining on the clock, the ball is reset at the centre of the map. Both sides begin to shadow its position, waiting for the shield surrounding it to drop. Players hang high above its location looking to wipe out an opponent that will heighten the chances of victory, myself included. Being the first to grab the ball doesn’t guarantee glory, but it sure as hell gives you a chance.
Following what feels like an eternity, the action begins. With a quick short burst, I make a play for the ball, knocking a player away with a swift kick of my jet powered boots, I scoop it up into my grasp. Shooting up from under the cover of shelter with ball in hand I aim for the direction of the enemies goal. Driving forward with pace using first a pocket of gravity and then my jet boots, I have the goal firmly in sight. Suddenly, a force field is shoved up directly in front of me. With the red shield now in place and enemies closing in fast I can’t afford to hang about, so I quickly switch direction and fly around the back of the goal where the very same enemy who had blockaded my path before now waits. Seeing this, I use another burst of speed and drive my boots directly into the player’s midriff, sending them flying back into a wall and thrusting me straight into the goal. Queue personal delirium. Lawbreakers fast driven, quick thinking gameplay lends itself well to plenty of scenarios just like this, its very concept thrives on it.
Lawbreakers: PS4 [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Boss Key Productions
Release Date: 8 August 2017
Price: £24.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Originally announced as a free-to-play PC only title, Gears of War veteran Cliff Bleszinski and new studio Boss Key Production’s first game Lawbreakers, is now available on PS4 alongside PC, having shed its free-to-play skin. A first-person shooter with a twist, Lawbreakers uses pockets of zero-gravity to ramp up the action as players from opposing teams weightlessly soar through the sky to wrestle over strongholds and take key objectives to win each match. Far from being a Call of Duty clone, Bleszinski’s debut title carries real weight with it, an exciting arena shooter with a difference where player skill takes precedence over anything else.
A no-nonsense multiplayer only experience, Lawbreakers was developed with keeping all players on an even playing field firmly in mind. Featuring a ranking system that offers no unbalanced unlocks or upgraded player abilities as you level up, the only microtransactions you’ll find here are purely cosmetic based with skins for both character and weapon, cool stickers to slap on your weapon to make you look like a double hard bastard in battle and an array of boot stamps that flash up on your enemies TV screen at the very moment you kick the life out of them. With no balance altering upgrades to unlock and abuse, Lawbreakers is all about the skill or #skilledAF as is evidenced with its social marketing.
Due to the very nature of the game, Lawbreakers will, of course, draw many comparisons with fellow shooters Call of Duty, Counter Stike and Blizzard’s Overwatch but Boss Key’s debut title has enough about it with its unique premise to ensure it differentiates from those before it. Unable to aim down the sight of any given weapon, players will need to rely firmly on their ability to produce precise shots to earn a kill. Factor in the situated pockets of low gravity found around each map that can be used to elevate the player to great heights and you’ve got something truly exciting. Interestingly, specific classes are also capable of creating pockets of zero gravity all by themselves through the activation of a special ability, which adds a whole new dimension to Lawbreakers exhilarating gameplay.
Each match is a 5v5 affair where the opposing sides Law and Breakers tussle for bragging rights. With 9 classes to choose from and 2 characters per class, the wealth of varying styles on offer will have players switching about in the early goings to find the most effective class. Each class comes with 3 abilities, 2 of which require a cool down period or meter that must be allowed to refill after depletion before activating again. Most of these abilities allow the player to traverse each map in fast ways, be it with the speed of jet powered boots that whisk you off to the sky or with short dashes that will leave your enemy dazed and confused. Then there are the abilities that have you launch explosive grenades at enemies or throw up a shield to protect any friendly hiding under its blanket from outside attack. The third and final ability can be a real game changer though and once activated can devastate opponents with ease as the Assassin launches itself into a manic attack and the Harrier takes to the sky to shoot out a laser that incinerates opponents to dust.
A healthy balance and variation of classes leaves the player with plenty to ponder pre-game. More so, the various modes that make up Lawbreakers dictate which of the 9 classes you might opt for before each match begins, with a mixture of retrieve and protect modes reliant on speed to steal the objective and return it to your base safely before the opponent reaches it first and conquer style modes that might see you opt for a heavier in stature class to stand firm over objectives. Learning each game mode, how each class plays, their strengths and weaknesses takes some doing, with no way to practice the intricacies of the game outside of multiplayer, at least not on PS4. The absence of a sandbox mode or tutorial videos on PS4 means newcomers will enter Lawbreakers blindly, though a form of tutorial will arrive soon via an update, discovering how the game works here revolves entirely around jumping into a game and learning the hard way. Adapting to each map layout or the power at your fingertips, Lawbreakers will either make or break you in a way that can feel very unfair as you proceed to fly off the map or get repeatedly kicked to death while you come to terms with each class, map layouts, modes and gameplay.
Once you have a grasp on the game’s mechanics there’s Blitzball, Turf War, Occupy, Uplink and Overcharge to enjoy. Lawbreakers mode variants are a blend of conquest and capture the flag with the fast and frenzied football style mash up Blitzball making up the 5. For those who enjoy capturing or squabbling over key locations, Turf War and Occupy will undoubtedly scratch that itch. Occupy sees players fight over a single objective that changes location based on a timer with the first team to score 200 points declared the victor, while Turf War plays exactly as it sounds with players attempting to lock down A, B or C in a single round, with the objectives resetting after all 3 are taken each round. Overcharge and Uplink require speed and resistance to prevail with a battery or uplink placed at the centre of the map prior to the start of the game, it’s a race to the centre as opposing teams gun it out in a bid to retrieve either item and return it to their home base where they must then protect it until its finished its process.
Though Lawbreakers modes sound similar in essence, each plays out a completely different way, with close encounters making for some intense and compelling fights that will have you on the edge of your seat. Much of the excitement Lawbreakers offers stems from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, it’s a recurring theme that ensures the vast majority of the action will be a close fought event and no match ever decided without contest.
Unsurprisingly, of all the modes I found Blitzball to be the most addictive based on its sport-like theme. The objective in any game of Blitzball is to score 8 points by grabbing the ball and blasting your way through a storm of bullets to the enemies goal. Compelling and energy sapping, Blitzball is a fast-paced sports game with a difference as players rely on the help of teammates to clear a path to the goal to net a point for your team. Upon death of the player in possession, the small Sentinal ball is dropped and begins to moan or complain of its predicament, which makes for some rather comedic moments. Also interestingly, when the shot clock runs out, the player in possession of the ball at that unfortunate time, explodes, making the ball something to crave after but also long to get rid of.
The design of Blitzball makes it an intriguing prospect to play but it, like Lawbreakers other 4 modes are made all the better by its level design. Each map in Lawbreakers is symmetrically designed to be as balanced as possible, which works well in each particular game mode on offer. Each map also works considerably well with Lawbreakers style of gameplay, consisting of tight winding or plain corridors outside of the player base and open spaces in the centre of the map to duke it out with pockets of zero-gravity to spice up the action. Funneling players through tightly congested corridors to chase down a ball or battery that leads out into wide open combative spaces not only mixes up the action, it makes the outcome of each match an unpredictable delight. Visually, Lawbreakers is as good to play as it is to look at with maps boasting a futuristic theme which tie in nicely with the range of classes available.
Lawbreakers is one of the easiest recommendations of 2017 so far. Despite its few shortcomings, Lawbreakers is a unique and exciting shooter that makes its mark in a genre with the use of zero gravity and varied class interplay to drive home the thick of its action. A lack of tutorial on the PS4 will see players fighting against trial, error and continuous death as they seek to master each class and the core mechanics, but with time and patience and a touch of skill, Lawbreakers prevails with an exciting blend of thrilling game modes, rocking soundtrack and smart level design that will attract most fans of the genre.