Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski is the man who brought us chainsaw bayonets in Gears of War. Now he’s back with a multiplayer-only fragfest called Lawbreakers.
Coming soon from publisher Nexon, Bleszinski’s PC game is a fast-moving sci-fi first-person shooter with factions: the Law and the Breakers (anti-heroes). The title features a bunch of different characters who have a lot of abilities, and they all offset each other in some way.
I was able to play the game in a long hands-on session with Bleszinski and his crew at Boss Key Productions. The shooter is going to be one of many at the Electronic Entertainment Expo game trade show this week in Los Angeles. But it’s a memorable offering with Bleszinski’s indelible personality stamped all over it. It is a game of skill, and I was reasonably good at it, even though I was playing it for the first time. Some of my colleagues in the press, however, were far superior. It’s a highly mobile combat experience where you have to use a combination of your abilities, weapons, gravity, and terrain to gain an advantage.
“There are threats from every angle, with full 360-degree vertical violence,” said Bleszinski during a press presentation. “You have to watch your six and always look up.”
We played on a couple of different maps that reimagined the future after a catastrophic event. The world is recovering, but it looks very different from how it once did. One map was called Grand View, set in the Grand Canyon. Another was Promenade, a reimagining of Los Angeles.
Each map is symmetrical. Each faction starts out at opposite ends. Each sector has multiple levels, including a central area in Grand Canyon where players could gather in the middle and defy gravity. You can use the zero gravity zone to jump to a superhuman height and then rain death on your enemies. The locations on the map have gravitational anomalies, but some of the characters can create these weird effects on their own.
The multiplayer combat modes aren’t just centered on team deathmatch. One of the modes we played was Overcharge. In this one, your team has to move out on the map and grab a battery. You take the battery back to your base and charge it. If you can protect it for 20 seconds once it is charged, you win the game. This “capture the flag” mode forced a lot of intense firefights around the battery carriers and the home bases. If your team scores two battery charges, then you win. This mode creates matches where the result comes down to the last second.
Bleszinski also showed off the game’s new domination mode, known as Turf War. “This domination is more like speed chess,” he said.
In Turf War, each side has a zone. These zones unlock after a short time, and then you can claim them. If you hold a zone for a while, your team gains it. Then, you can either stay and protect it or go after the enemy’s zone. I had one really good run with Bomchelle where I was able to electrify several other players in the central zone, and keep it out of enemy hands.
The game has a lot of nice touches. If you hold down the CTRL key, you can fire behind your character and take out someone chasing you.
Each character is unique. Hellion has gems embedded in her face. One character, Vanguard, can use afterburners to speed quickly and take out players who are slower. Starfall has the ability to create a zero-gravity area.
I spent a lot of time playing the tank characters, such as Bomchelle or Chronos, who can wreak havoc with rockets. You could use the E key to drop a neutron mine or use the Q key to initiate berserk mode. Bomchelle was very powerful, but she was very slow moving.
Each battle we played was very exciting, with the skills evenly matched among the different players. When it came down to a few seconds of gameplay, we were often shouting at each other to get the winning point.
I noticed one of the funniest touches was I leveled up my ability for the berserk mode. When I pressed the right key, my hands appeared before me, and I could zap other players with an electrical charge. Bleszinski said it was an homage to Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films.
Overall, Lawbreakers has enough unique touches — through characters or abilities or modes — that will feel fresh to first-person shooter fans. I’m very excited about this game.