It can be easy to assume LawBreakers to be yet another attempt to break into the hero shooter genre, or to dismiss it as an Overwatch-inspired competitor. Actually, I'd be surprised - and a bit disappointed - if someone were to directly compare this to Overwatch. It's really a different kind of shooter, and it's a lot of fun even in closed beta.
Developed by Boss Key Productions, whose CEO is Cliff Bleszinski of Unreal and Gears of War fame, LawBreakers is a class-based shooter that marries fast-paced combat to objective-based modes. And it works, thanks to the objectives and maps encouraging speed and frequent bouts of combat as well. There are three modes - Overcharge (grab a battery and charge it at your base; stealing a partially-charged one keeps the charge percentage), Turf War (capture point-style mode, but centers on achieving a number of captures rather than holding a point) and Blitzball (grab a ball and deliver it to the goal). The maps aren't massive, but offer enough space to use and enjoy the movement-enhancing abilities, and the zero-gravity section in the middle of each map adds to the liberating sense of movement and offers aerial duels.
It's not as fast-paced as a game like Quake - the standard walking speed is actually pretty slow - but the increased mobility offered by abilities is very palpable and enjoyable nonetheless. As an Enforcer, my favourite experience comes from using the speed-boosting Distortion Field ability while retreating to effectively fly backwards while continuing to fire with the assault rifle. I'm not very good with the Assassin class, but using the tether to latch onto the environment and propel myself around feels really satisfying. Using these abilities consumes fuel, but it regenerates fast enough that they're a staple of the gameplay and combat experience.
The classes are a bit lighter than their appearance might suggest, but both them and their weapons carry more weight than their counterparts in Overwatch or Paladins. Include the sense of speed and throw in the optional gore and the combat ends up feeling good enough to stand on its own in a deathmatch environment. It's almost a shame that there isn't such a mode, actually, but the present modes manage to be objective-centered while still offering a large and continuous serving of combat delights.
Okay, so I've used the word "ability" a few times now. There's definitely elements of hero shooters here, with three abilities that include an ultimate as well as the presence of named characters on both the Law and Breakers factions. But class-based shooter is still the more appropriate term because it's the class types that define their respective kits and playstyles. Sure, the Law faction may have a guy called Axel while the Breaker side has white-haired Kintaro, but they're both Enforcers, which means both have the same assault rifle and pistol as well as the same abilities. And unlike hero shooters, there aren't hard counters here, the weapons are more standard or familiar fare, and the closest thing to a support is the Battle Medic class that carries a grenade launcher as a primary weapon; if you don't have a medic, you can heal via pickups or healing stations.
Also, I'd like to point out that the ults here aren't the kind that can frequently or easily take out half a team. They seem more suitable in duels than in wiping teams, and given the fairly brief amount of time before they become available, it makes sense. Still, I've not noticed the use of ultimates much, and the only time I see them killing someone is when I'm the one unleashing it (edit: noticing them more now). It can be considered a tad disappointing that these abilities, although definitely powerful, dont evoke the same sensation that ultimates in MOBAs or hero shooters do, but the strong upside to this is the lack of abrupt and heavy disruptions to the flow of combat, and deaths caused by them so far don't possess a feeling of unfairness.
Where LawBreakers is similar to Overwatch and Paladins is that levelling up offers no weapon unlocks, but instead provides stash boxes that perform a similar function to loot boxes and chests: delivering random cosmetic items. There're profile portraits, skins for classes and their weapons and even a kick decal - you can perform a kick by pressing f and can potentially kill someone with it, which is less weird than using control to fire over your back. I haven't become too interested in the cosmetics yet, perhaps due to the lack of individualism the class-based template presents, but that'll likely change once I put in more hours.
The closed beta currently has some annoyances like FPS drops and characters and taking a while to appear in the customization and class selection screens. There're also not many maps currently, but these should be fixed come the full release.
LawBreakers will launch on Steam sometime this year, and according to the FAQ it'll offer new maps, modes and classes for free while having an initial price that's lower than $60 (RM259.20). Combined with the presence of Korean servers (not as good as ones located in Singapore, but still), I'm hoping that it'll catch on at least decently in the Asia region. After all, it's really great fun.