Lawbreakers review: The perils of multiplayer-only experiences mar an otherwise solid shooter

Overwatch it ain't

Credit: Boss Key Productions

‘Cops and Robbers’ meets Unreal

Despite what it may look like, Lawbreakers is definitely not trying to be Overwatch. However, it is also frustratingly and frequently acting like it is. Launching the game does take you to an Overwatch-style lobby screen where you can queue into games, customize your character loadouts and buy “stash drops”.

However, once you get past that crisp, clean and admittedly very-Blizzard-esque lobby and into the game itself, the differences become a bit more pronounced.

Lawbreakers Main MenuCredit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
Lawbreakers Main Menu

Well, at least until you run into the game’s cast of characters. There are 18 playable characters across nine roles, broken out into ‘Law’ and ‘Breaker’ variants.

Lawbreakers' LineupCredit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
Lawbreakers' Lineup

While the cast of Lawbreakers doesn’t quite hit the high level of charm and likeability found in Overwatch, you can’t say that Boss Key aren’t trying to evoke something similar. Details about the game’s world are peppered into the game through colorful voice lines and expressive animations.

Some of the game’s nine classes - like the Gunslinger and the Battle Medic - definitely echo the familiar Overwatch characters - like Tracer and Zenyatta - but, for the most part, the class-design in Lawbreakers explores relatively-fresh territory.

Abilities are refreshingly diverse, and weapons intricately animated and detailed. Neither side of a character’s kit is too powerful and it feels like the game has been designed in a way where fortune favors those bold enough to balance both sides of the equation.

Lawbreakers’ relentless streak to break out of the norms of the modern FPS sandbox extends even to the maps and modes in the game as well. All the usual suspects - CTF, Deathmatch, Capture Point - have been swapped out for Overcharge, Turf War, Occupy, Uplink and Blitzball (a spiritual successor to the Bombing Run mode found in the Unreal Tournament series).

Credit: Boss Key Productions

Though the relative fun of each of these encounters does varies, they do all a successful job of giving a distinct and different sense of pacing to games like Overwatch. Even after a few hours with Lawbreakers, it felt like I had only scratched the surface of what these genuinely refreshing multiplayer modes could offer.

While most of the action in Lawbreakers takes place in arena-like levels, there’s a special secret sauce in the mix in the form of the zero-gravity and low-gravity sections. This acts as more than a gimmick. In fact, it's here that the game is at its most compelling and unique. During the heat and height of combat, it can feel like you’re fighting with gravity as much as you are other players - and there’s a satisfying knack to understanding that relationship.

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Tags fpsMultiplayer GamesOverwatchCliff BlazinskiBoss Key GamesFPS GamesLawbreakers

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Fergus Halliday
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