Some people like to make life difficult for themselves. You know the sort – they’ll inexplicably take on an extra project at work they really hate, or offer to do a sponsored swimathon when they can’t swim and are made of alka-seltzer. That kind of thing.
If that sort of person were a game, it’d be Lawbreakers. Because short of releasing it on a special sort of disc that gives you the runs, the devs really couldn’t have made the launch much trickier for themselves.
The first issue is, it’s attempting to cram itself into a niche that’s full to bursting, with most of that being down to one hugely dominant game – Overwatch. As with that title, Lawbreakers is what they now call a ‘hero shooter’ you see.
This roughly translates to online PvP only with teams of distinct characters, some backstory to each if you dig for it, but really who cares: it’s kill or be killed while playing objectives (capture zones, score goals, pull down your opponent’s trousers and so on, though regrettably not that last one as I made it up).
Not only is it aiming for this already thoroughly occupied berth, it’s doing so with an art style and roster of characters that aren’t as stand-out as the incumbent champ’s line-up. Sure, they’re all nice enough, but you’re not going to find trendy hipsters sporting spin-off merchandise like they do for D-Va or Mei.
What else could go wrong? Well despite there being an open beta last week there’s a fair chance you haven’t even heard of Lawbreakers. It’s got a good pedigree – the head of the studio that made it is ex-Gears of War boss Cliff Richard (Bleszinski) – but as a digital-only release you won’t have seen promos in stores, and there’s not been a particularly big marketing push online either.
There’s also the fact the PS4 version is a bit bare bones. The tutorials that the PC version has are entirely missing (though apparently coming later), so the only way to learn a new class is to drop into a private match on your lonesome and run about shooting walls. Hardly exciting.
Worst of all though, the PS4 version launched with a day 1 bug that led to occasional brief but crippling framerate stutters mid-game. To their credit, the developers patched it within 24 hours (so quickly, I had to rewrite a chunk of this review!).
That’s undeniably good service, but even so as launches go it’s clearly a disaster on par with turning up at a fancy dress party in a prawn costume only to discover it’s actually your gran’s wake. And also: she choked to death on a prawn.
And yet…despite the honking great mess-ups, the slightly more generic and less lovable characters and the missing bits, I really enjoyed Lawbreakers. It’s fast-flowing (with some characters, VERY fast), good fun, a refreshing change from the all-conquering Overwatch as it plays more like Titanfall 2 PVP if anything, and – this is a real winner – it’s cheap.
Coming in at 25 ‘knicker’ for the full game and season pass (covering all the DLC for the foreseeable future, so new maps, classes and modes), it’s a genuine bargain for a polished full game. There’s variation enough in the classes to make it feel like its own thing, even if comparisons to Overwatch (there’s that name again) are inevitable.
So while it would be easy to put the boot in, I’m instead wearing the flipper of generosity. On PC I’d say pick this up right now if hero shooters are your bag, as this is a really solid hero shooter.
For PS4? Well now the stutter bug is patched it’s definitely recommended. The only slight worry I’d have is how many people skipped the game because of it who won’t go back to it. Fingers crossed not many.
It may have not had the easiest start, but there’s a cracking game in there with a small but solid (and crucially, seemingly growing) fanbase, and enough of its own ideas to stand out. You just need to be willing to persevere a little at first to get to the good shizz.
SCORE: 789 out of 987