LawBreakers Preview

Lawbreakers may be proof of Cliff Bleszinski’s Midas touch.

The first day of E3 can be a real headache. The throngs of the masses reaching their arms every which way for free goodies they will inevitably throw away. The stench of overcooked food and under-showered patrons. More neon colors than an eighties-themed bar on karaoke night. Overstimulation is an understatement for this annual video game event, so what better way to get rid of a headache than playing a game from Cliff Bleszinski?

There’s a joke there, trust me.

I got a chance to check out Lawbreakers, the flagship title of Bleszinksi’s Boss Key Productions and Nexon. It’s a first-person competitive shooter with its roots firmly placed in the Quakes and Unreal Tournaments of old, which is ironic when you consider the game’s intentional aversion to staying on the ground. Lawbreakers is, at its core, about breaking the law… the law of gravity. It’s about giving Newton the middle finger as you float, zip, dash, and jump across the map while shooting, dicing, and blowing up the opposition (this is, after all, a CliffyB joint). While the comparisons to Overwatch will be inevitable (as will be every competitive shooter from this day forward), Lawbreakers has a few tricks up its sleeve to make fans of shooters both old and new.

The developers had their new mode, Turf War, available for us to check out, so I sat down with four strangers who would come to regret having me as a teammate. Turf War is all about capturing points, three in fact, and once all three are captured, the round is over. Each round is followed by a brief but bloody intermission as players can continue to kill one another for a chance to both increase capture speed and delay the enemy’s re-entry into the match. We had one of four roles available to us, from the glass-knife Assassins to the hulking, gravity bending Titans. Every class has a unique weapon as well as a unique tool to change the laws of gravity. Sorry, I mean break. This game is all about breaking.

For my attempted captures, I stuck to playing the Assassin role, the aptly named Hellion. Hellion wields dual blades and can dash quickly to close the gap on enemies. She also has an electronic grappling whip that players can use to swing around the map like some copyright-infringing Spider-Woman, so she was basically the best character ever. Mobility is the new iron sights in first-person shooters, and the developers were quick to emphasize that those who stuck to the ground made themselves easy targets.

The map we played was called the Promenade, named and designed after Santa Monica. This, the developers said, was intentional, as all of their maps are grounded (get it?) in a world similar to our own. There was a giant, broken globe in the center that served as one of the capture points, as well as the home to one giant anti-gravity bubble. Poetry was formed as players from both sides floated around this broken globe, firing rockets while entirely unaware that this gravity-defying ballet was a metaphor to, I don’t know, something grander than ourselves.

Mobility options and abilities are both tied to cooldowns, which meant that my electromagnetic web-slinging was kept to a minimum. It’s a shame that the mobility is limited in this fashion, as the ability to move quickly across the map was a breath of fresh air from Overwatch’s intentionally slowed movements. It also reminded me of the good ol’ days of Quake II, when your legs had to be just as fast as your trigger finger. Regardless, each character is a blast to move around, sometimes literally (The Vanguard class can use their afterburners to fly around the map like a deadly Rocketeer). Players can also use the Ctrl key to fire behind them, which can either propel them forward or attack a chasing enemy. Either way, very awesome.

The three matches we played were fast, furious affairs. My team lost the first two games, the first one very badly and the second one emphasizing that we were merely getting a feel for the controls. Again, this was a point that was emphasized by our team captains/the developers, as they wanted to have a sense of drama to every match. Oh, and drama there was, when, in the final stretch, neck and neck with only a single capture point need for victory, I activated Hellion’s Berserk mode in a contested zone.

Highlighting my enemies in blood red, I dashed and sliced my way through every one of them, healing myself with every cut. I was shaking by the end, mostly because I’m usually terrible at these kind of games. But my fellow strangers/teammates sighed relief and gave me that look that said, hey, we were wrong to regret having you on our team. Our team captain gave me a high five, and that was how I had the best day at E3 ever. Lawbreakers is slated for release in 2016 for PC. An alpha test for the game starts this weekend.