Preview: LawBreakers is a fun shooter in search of a hook

LawBreakers is an upcoming high-intensity arena shooter rolling out of Boss Key Productions that focuses on a futuristic earth torn apart by the effects of widespread gravitational anomalies and the criminals abusing them for profit and power.

The attention LawBreakers has garnered so far is largley the result of having Cliff Bleszinski as its lead developer. Bleszinski is known for his work on the first two Gears of War titles as well as Unreal and Unreal Tournament, each a competitive shooter titan in its own right.

Here's a roundup of what we know so far about the game, as well as some hands-on impressions that explain why we're waiting for more before we add this one to our "most anticipated" list. 

The World Floating Away

LawBreakers' story revolves around a world torn apart after government experimentation destroyed the moon in an event called “The Shattering.” This event caused massive gravitational anomalies to rip and tear the landscape of everyone's favorite terra firma into fantastic and terrifying news shapes.

The events of LawBreakers occur several generations after the Shattering in the 22nd century where gravitational manipulation and futuristic supplements have allowed criminals and gangs of all kinds to gain superhuman abilities that they've been using to terrorize the world on a massive scale. To fight this threat a number of law enforcement agencies have developed similar technology to kick in the teeth of the so called Breakers and restore order to what's left of planet earth.

Flying high

LawBreakers is advertised as delivering extremely fast-paced combat with a fresh new take on traditional competitive game modes, a fantastic looking combination of thrusters, reverse blindfire, and grappling hooks, and of course a number of unique characters with their own skills, weapons, and personalities.

LawBreakers originally emerged as a free-to-play PC exclusive title last year, this year the game switched to a more traditional price tag model in part to create a barrier to potential hackers as well as to weed out the potential for pay-to-win models to ruin the game's balance and integrity. Earlier this week it was announced that LawBreakers was opening up applications for a closed alpha where anyone who thinks they have the chops can apply to get in on the action.

You can hear Cliffy B talk about the move away from free-to-play in our interview: 

The Competition

Unfortunately for LawBreakers, since its announcement at PAX East last year the game has largely been overshadowed by larger titles such as Overwatch and DOOM, games well into their development cycle and set to release later this year. 

The similarities between some of the titles may have prompted several gameplay and art style changes for LawBreakers, and based on what we've seen this year so far they've taken a few steps away from the more cartoony footage we've seen in the past for a more realistic sci-fi scheme.

Hands-on impressions

GameCrate's Nick Scibetta had a chance to go hands-on with LawBreakers at PAX East. Here's what he thought about the game:

"LawBreakers looked great, and I had some really fun moments while playing it (I got a triple kill and everything!), but I came away from my session with the title not really understanding where the game fits into a world that's pretty saturated with multiplayer shooters as it is. 

In the game I played there was very little of the high-flying movement you see in the game's trailers (there's likely a learning curve issue here) and the game felt a lot like a not-quite-as-good version of other class-based shooters on the market. LawBreakers doesn't have the colorful characters of Overwatch or Battleborn, and it's unlikely to appeal to diehard Counter-Strike or Battlefield players. Yeah, the game has a cool sci-fi setting and some interesting gameplay tweaks, but if that wasn't enough to save Titanfall then why should we expect LawBreakers to be any different? 

LawBreakers is fun and seems well-polished, but that's not enough these days. Multiplayer-focused games need to compete with the titans of the industry for players, and need to give players a reason to master a brand new game rather than the one they're already comfortable with. So far I haven't seen anything from LawBreakers that would satisfy these requirements."

It may be tough for a smaller studio to compete this year, but LawBreakers has all the ingredients to create a compelling competitive shooter for the PC. It also has Cliffy B, and that might be just enough to elbow larger studios like Blizzard out of the limelight. For now only time will tell which way the ball's rolling in a world where gravity is a question rather than an answer.