I believe I can fly…
There’s an art to riding that terrifying line between falling and flying, but the falling is inevitable. LawBreakers’ gun duels play out like thrilling high wire dances: You try to stay afloat and in control long enough to win each fight, then land and regroup to fight again. Even if the maps and game modes I was dueling in weren’t always as exciting as the fights themselves, there’s nothing quite like drop kicking an enemy with a pair of laser boots mid-air, then using that momentum to fly halfway across the arena.
I’ve played LawBreakers for about 10 hours now, and my time with it is filled with moments like that. It’s an exhilarating 5v5 hero-based FPS where a lot of the excitement comes directly from the movement itself, rather than just killstreaks or point captures. Those moments are there too, but chaining jumps and boosts together to soar through a low gravity area can be just as rewarding as getting a double kill.
Each of LawBreakers’ nine roles let’s you explore its levels in a different way and at a different speed. The Assassin can swing like Spider-Man with a ridiculously fun grappling hook; the Wraith can slide on the floor for a speed boost and then triple jump through the air; and the Juggernaut can barely get off the ground, but makes up for it with a whole lot of health and chunky shotgun.
There’s no limit to how many of the same role you can have on a team, and you can swap between them at any time during a match. There’s overlap in the jobs they can get done, but I love that they are varied enough that I could pick roles based on the map or mode I’m in, or even what’s going on during that match. In the Uplink and Overcharge modes, for example, I would start with the Wraith to quickly grab the objective in the center of the map and bring it back to our base, then swap to the slower Juggernaut to defend it, trading mobility for stopping power.
Style High Club
The teams are split into Law versus Breakers — basically cops against robbers — but the roles are functionally identical for either team. What changes is their look, depending on which side you’re on. For example, the Law Harrier is a bubbly woman with a mohawk named Sunshine who has pink laser heart on her chest, while the Breaker Harrier is a slick man with an afro called Baron whose laser comes from an X instead.
LawBreakers is an attractive game, but it lacks any sort of interesting or distinct voice.
Aside from their cosmetic differences, the characters themselves have one thing in common: They are shallow. Sunshine is probably one of the most distinct personalities in the 18 person roster, and even she feels distinctly bland. It felt like LawBreakers went through the motions of what’s expected from a hero-based shooter without actually fleshing any of those characters out in a meaningful way. Each of them seem to have bits of personality (like Sunshine’s heart) bolted onto an otherwise generic-looking ‘future soldier’.
That isn’t to say LawBreakers looks bad. It’s an attractive game, but it lacks any sort of interesting or distinct voice. The maps have a similar problem, as it sort of feels like every level in LawBreakers started with the same metallic-future skin set before a theme was plastered onto it without much thought as to why, whether it be cherry trees or some snow on the ground.
That lack of personality hasn’t been too distracting so far — LawBreakers is here to let you shoot dudes in spectacular fashion, not chat about backstory or lore. But the character designs being so visually similar has caused problems. It’s wasn’t always easy to determine which character I was floating towards before they started firing at me, especially considering the same role will look different depending on the team I’m on or the skin they have equipped. That clarity is really important since I spent so much time moving very quickly in low gravity.
Those low gravity areas are the defining feature of LawBreakers, and are part of what makes its firefights so spectacular. Swimming through the air using jetpacks, grappling hooks, or even my own gun as a paddle was fun and challenging. I particularly loved the characters with multiple jumps, which I could use to both manage my height and juke my opponents. Fighting in low gravity has a skill cap I’m nowhere near reaching, and trying to master those mechanics could easily be what keeps me coming back to LawBreakers.
The success of those gravity-defying areas relies on the maps they are in, and the map design doesn’t always stay fresh. LawBreakers launched with eight maps, six of which are similar enough that they start to blur together. Each one has a curved, indoor flanking path with regular gravity, wrapped around an open open area with a large low gravity bubble. They aren’t bad maps and the specific corridors and rooms on each are unique, but they also don’t do anything to explore what else I could be doing in LawBreakers, leaving me wanting more.
The two levels that don’t follow this formula, Vertigo and Redfall, are undoubtedly my favorite and least favorite maps, respectively. Vertigo is a straight map with a raised low gravity bubble in the center and tons of open airspace. The whole structure you are fighting on is floating in the sky, which let’s mobile characters like Assassin, Vanguard, and Herrier truly stretch their wings. If I managed my momentum well, I could boost or swing under the entire map, popping up behind the enemy spawn. It’s a map that lets what is so enjoyable about LawBreakers shine brightly.
The Overcharge mode feels like an objectively worse version of the Uplink mode.
Redfall, on the other hand, is a stark reminder of where LawBreakers can fall flat. It’s a map with no low gravity areas whatsoever, which is a downright baffling choice given how great those areas are on the seven other levels. It’s not that LawBreakers isn’t fun outside of low gravity — it’s still a fast paced shooter with some very fun dueling moments. But so many of its characters and abilities become less useful or just less interesting without those bubbles to fight in.
LawBreakers’ five game modes are similarly enjoyable but inconsistent. They all provide interesting twists on common game modes like Capture the Flag or King of the Hill, but aren’t all equally as successful at it. Unlike other shooters, all of the modes in LawBreakers are score-based with a shared, contested objective and teams competing until one side reaches a certain score limit.
Uplink is by far my favorite mode, which has both teams fighting over a single Uplink item you can pick up like a flag. Plugging it into your base begins charging a meter for your team, but the opposing side can steal it, run it back to their base, and charge their meter instead. The first team to fully charge their meter three times wins. It provides a tense back and forth of attacking and defending that feels like capture the flag without having to split your team between offense and defense.
In contrast, the Overcharge mode feels like an objectively worse version of Uplink, where both teams share the meter being filled. That means matches play out identically, but with the added possibility of some truly awful-feeling upsets. It wasn’t uncommon for me to see one team get the objective right away, charge it up to 80% or more, then have it stolen at the last minute. I guess you could say there’s a strategy to that timing, but it was always infuriating when it happened to me and felt cheap when I did it myself.
The big question I still have is whether my patience will wear thin with LawBreakers’ grab bag matchmaking queue.
The Blitzball mode is also promising in concept but less than thrilling in practice: Each team fights over a ball they have to bring to a goal on their opponent’s side. It unfortunately requires more coordination than any team I’ve been queued with could manage, quickly devolving into a smattering of irrelevant fights while clued-in players would just pick up the ball and make a mad, reckless dash for the goal. The mode is nearly saved by Rick and Morty Creator Justin Roiland’s ridiculous voiceover as the game ball itself, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that Blitzball has almost always been a near-shutout for one side or the other.
The erratic nature of Lawbreakers’ modes and maps wouldn’t be as noticeable if there weren’t only one matchmaking queue. Unless I was making a custom game, the only way to play LawBreakers was by hitting the “Quick Match” button and hoping the slot machine didn’t stop on “Overcharge/Redfall”. LawBreakers will eventually get ranked play with its own queue, and when that happens I could see Overcharge happily live on in casual matchmaking. But there’s no indication of when ranked might come and its presence is already sorely missed.
So far, I am enjoying LawBreakers quite a bit. Even if some of its game modes don’t quite hit home, it’s managed to make simply moving around feel great. I look forward to playing more and learning how to fall with style in the most deadly way I can. The big question I still have is whether my patience will wear thin with LawBreakers’ grab bag matchmaking queue. It hasn’t yet, and until it does I’ll still be rocket-boosting around with glee most of the time.