On the weekend, many of us played the Lawbreakers beta. I hadn’t really invested much time into looking at Lawbreakers until recently. That is, until I downloaded the obscenely massive 19GB beta. The thing about Lawbreakers, in my opinion, is that it has all the hallmarks of a great MP / hero rush system… But is Cliff Blezinski’s push-back against Overwatch (because that is exactly what this is) too little, too late?
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
As harsh as it may seem, the shadow of Overwatch will forever loom over Lawbreakers. Just as it looms over Paladins or any other hero based rush shooter. In other words, it will be difficult for many gamers to forget the voice in their head that goes “Cliffy B just copied Overwatch”… He’s probably a little annoyed at himself for not thinking up the formula first.
Although, unlike Paladins, I think Lawbreakers has the biggest shot at achieving a seat next to Overwatch. As opposed to underneath it. Sure it has its flaws, the same as any other game. Yet, thanks to Unreal Engine 4, Blezinski’s influence and Epic Games’ long time experience handling online multiplayer shooters – Lawbreakers has a defined identity. Its themes are not weak, uninspired and washed out. Rather, from the initial load screen, to the main menu to combat itself, Lawbreakers resonates effort and creativity.
“When people see something, they immediately want to put it in a bucket with something else” – Cliff Blezinski
We’d expect nothing less from Cliffy B and his newly formed studio, Boss Key Productions. Creating heroes that are likeable without a campaign in-game is tricky, but a must for these types of games. Players will need to want to play as them. I feel the heroes on display in the Lawbreakers Beta are each as unique as the next and have in turn, fulfilled that necessity. But have they or will they get the attention they deserve?
What I mean is Lawbreakers has suffered from a terrible marketing campaign. Heck, I only knew about it from related videos on YouTube. This is the number one thing that is going to hurt Lawbreakers badly. It may be that the Lawbreakers characters are solid and likeable. But that won’t count for squat on release day without proper marketing. When you compare this to Blizzard’s marketing campaign for Overwatch, the contrast is starkly obvious.
Lawbreakers Is Missing A Hype Train To Carry It Through The Charts
Everybody knew what Overwatch was going to be and who its characters were all about. Small cinematics released to YouTube soon did the rounds on social media because they were just that good. BlizzCon let people play the game well in advance of it arriving… Among a great many other things, Blizzard implemented a relentless marketing plan to make sure everyone knew about Overwatch.
This is what puzzles me. Epic games may not have the CG animator clout that Blizzard boasts. But the two companies were both formed in 1991… Blizzard has a lot of financial clout and just seeing the quality of the recent Warcraft movie stands as testament to that. Epic’s parent company is Tencent and that’s a big deal. So this should put Epic on a similar playing field when handling a marketing campaign for an upcoming game… So where’s the hype at? After all, Lawbreakers officially releases August 8th. Which means Epic Games will have to do some magical stuff to get Boss Key Productions’ fledgling work recognised on a scale large enough to do it justice.
Boots On The Ground Gamers Need Not Apply
Another big question mark for Lawbreakers is the choice of gameplay implemented into every match. The zero gravity shifting on and off from room to room is frankly a bold move. It will fling your character about unpredictably. As solid as the Lawbreakers mechanics are, this is liable to frustrate players. It eliminates any smart thinking with use of cover and has a tendency to break matches down into, well… madness.
Anybody seasoned enough at shooters will instantly recall Quake Arena’s Corkscrew mod and the crazy jump pad action in the Unreal Tournament games. So Lawbreakers could find its audience in those people. However the looming voice of Overwatch fans also makes this anti gravity mechanic feel like it was just shoe horned in. After all, without it, this game is basically Overwatch in different skins and with more swearing.
Cliffy B Insists Lawbreakers Is Different
Of course, similarities have been mentioned to Blezinski in many an interview. In one such interview with Eurogamer, he was asked what he thinks about all these comparisons to Overwatch. “When people see something, they immediately want to put it in a bucket with something else”, he stated. A fair statement yet hardly a solid defence.
In defence of differences found in Lawbreakers, he goes on to say “… if I come around the corner in Overwatch and I have the wrong character, and someone else has the right character, in that ‘rock-paper-scissors’ match, I’m dead… Also, in Overwatch, if I enter a room with four, five, six people from the other team, I don’t stand a chance of really taking them all out. If you’re really good at this game with any of the different roles and classes, you can take out an entire team.” A statement that is indeed up for debate.
Lawbreakers Should Never Be Judged On Similarities To Another Game… That’s Dumb
It’s important to remember that Lawbreakers is just another game. It being similar to another, more popular game doesn’t really mean anything at all. Who knows, after a few updates and what not, it may be even better than Overwatch. So if you’re one of those people saying “nah it’s just an Overwatch clone”, put that silly voice to bed. Try the beta and, who knows, you may really really like it. If you enjoy Overwatch or, like me, played loads of Quake on the school computers when you were a kid, you probably will. The maps are brilliantly designed, the characters are easy to learn… and Lawbreakers even has Morty’s voice in it. Yes, Rick & Morty Morty. Just wait ‘till you hear it.