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Games like Doom and Quake shaped my childhood in such a profound way. The run-and-gun shooter type is a go-to for me, almost a comfort genre, and it's a genre that Boss Key Productions' Lawbreakers slid into perfectly. Unfortunately, the launch was anything but successful and the studio behind the first-person shooter faded away into memory. But as we go into a new year and I look forward to seeing what other fresh adventures we can dive into, I can't help but reflect back on how much joy Lawbreakers gave me and how sad I am that it didn't last.
What I loved
Lawbreakers was released back in August 2017 and its goal was to challenge the more traditional FPS experience by implementing a gravity-defying mechanic that was ridiculously fun. While including some of the more expected features like an objective-based competitive experience, I truly believe that Lawbreakers had something truly special; something that spoke volumes of the passion the team had and the passion of Cliff Bleszinski, Boss Key's co-founder and CEO.
The overall setup of Lawbreakers surrounded the idea of two teams of five going toe-to-toe to complete the game's objective. One team played the "Law" aspect of Lawbreakers while the other team — you guessed it — played the "Breakers" role. There were a few modes to enjoy but my favorite was Turf War. Capturing three objective points is a pretty standard formula for this genre but the anti-gravity thrown into the mix made Turf War downright thrilling. With an objective being set to clear as many points as possible until the end of the match, this entire mode was a recipe for one giant mass of delightful chaos.
The anti-gravity also made modes like Team Deathmatch uniquely fun. The entire pacing of the game was chaotic and freeform. It offered a lot of freedom to the player in a market where gameplay is more often than not restrictive. It's why I like Destiny 2's PvP so much, being able to manipulate the very air around you for an edge in combat is exhilarating and Lawbreakers nailed this formula down to perfection.
The different roles for each faction offered a variety that genuinely kept the experience fresh. Rolling up as a Juggernaut was beyond satisfying, ripping through enemy players like rage incarnate. Being able to just casually throw off players like they were gnats was manically fun. Though obviously slower-moving, I think the Juggernaut was my favorite role to play because the damage was delicious and the destruction was bar none. The Gunslinger was fun, too, and I think a subtle reason why I went back to being a Hunter main in Destiny, and they operated similarly to rogues (like the Assassin role), which is usually my go-to when getting down on some RPG action.
Another way that Lawbreakers exceeded my expectations is how dying felt. As an avid Battlefield, Medal of Honor, etc. lover, dying in a match freaking sucks. I feel like a noob, I resentfully watch the kill cam with my teeth grinding dangerously, and I just want to murder out of a place of frustration (in-game — easy there, killer). With Lawbreakers, the very environment was teeming with life and vibrance, and that luster made the act dying more bearable than many other shooters on the market. The roles were allocated evenly and fairly, making death feel less like a failure of skill and more of a strategy misfire. Was that the case? Probably not, I have the precision of a walnut, but the game did make you feel better about those regretful moments of gravity-defying death.Click here to watch embedded media
What went wrong
The game itself was met with positive critical reception, but sales did not reflect that eye in the slightest. What led to the poor sales that eventually caused the game's servers to shut down just one year later? There are a few contributing factors to bear in mind.
Firstly, Lawbreakers had a hard time finding its place among other huge releases like Overwatch and the then-dominating battle royale experience PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Despite positive reception, people were just playing other games. Lawbreakers, much like similar games around that time like Battleborn, just couldn't carve out the player niche needed to make it a competitor in a saturated shooter market.
Some have contributed the aesthetics of the game to be a reason for its demise, but games like Apex Legends prove that this isn't necessarily the case, because Respawn's battle royale shooter has a very similar style and even similar anti-gravity mechanics on a much lower scale.
Another crux was expectations and, let's be honest, pre-launch boasting. Bleszinski has even noted this in the past, having been incredibly upfront about what led to the studio's closure, and even how his own politics became a hindrance when being open about his own beliefs.
In an effort to experience similar levels of success games like Warframe and Rocket League had, Bleszinski has stated in the past prior to launch that shipping Lawbreakers was "a marathon and not a sprint," which is true but not within the market that it was released into. When going up against already dominating games in the same genre, a clear strategy to show players what Lawbreakers does differently was key. While the pre-launch trailers did hype up the gravity aspect and gave sneak peeks at a few of the different roles, it's clear in hindsight that a more aggressive push was needed.
The previous goal leading up to launch included maintaining just the right amount of concurrent players to ensure a decent matchmaking experience, hoping that the ease of access would make the game more playable — and enjoyable — for those hopping in a match. With that being a cornerstone of the strategy going into launch, the lower player count and failure to hook newcomers in thrusted everything else off the rails.
In a last-ditch effort to bring in new players and to save the studio behind Lawbreakers, Boss Key released its own take on battle royale when Fortnite was just being introduced (at the time, no one predicted Fortnite would become the massive hit it is today) from the team at Epic Games, which was Bleszinski's previous employer. Radical Heights failed to compete against the heavy hitters dominating that particular market, making two titles in a row with low concurrent players and not enough revenue to keep the doors open.
Since then, Bleszinski has left games entirely (even though I'd love to see him return, but I understand the desire not to) while Boss Key co-founder Arjan Brussee returned to his former employer at Epic Games. While there were many stories spun from the rise and fall of the studio on social media, Bleszinski launched two games under his own studio and followed his passion. That's something to be proud of. Unfortunately, that passion led him and his team into an already oversaturated market that only became more so in the following years.
While Lawbreakers couldn't make it until the end, it's a shooter that I genuinely love and I miss far more than is probably smart. I wish more people would have given it a chance and I wish that it could somehow get a second lease on life. That team did something beautiful and I will always treasure the small amount of time I had with it.
What were your thoughts on Lawbreakers and the Boss Key lifespan? Would you be interested in seeing a revival? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below and tell me what you thought of the shooter that dared to defy gravity.
I'm not Commander Shepard but Garrus is my favorite companion on the Citadel. This glorious Turian can be your best bro or the apple of your eye in the Mass Effect trilogy and to celebrate the upcoming launch of the remaster, BioWare just teased our first look at the upcoming Garrus Vakarian statue coming soon to its store. If you heard a terrifying pterodactyl-like scream, don't worry — it was just me.
In its unpainted glory, BioWare showed us our first look at the upcoming Garrus statue. Unlike the previous statue of the same character by Gaming Heads (which has been sold out for years), this particular collectible takes on a more dynamic pose with the renegade Turian ready to prove he's the best shot around. Sure, Shepard may have let him win the shoot-off when hanging out in Mass Effect 3 on the Citadel's skyline, but that doesn't take away from him being a beast when it comes down to sighting through a scope with killer precision.
While no information was given at this time other than a sassy caption with Garrus' favorite catchphrase, the construction of the piece itself looks like it will be handled by the same company that has made most of the previous statues: Gaming Heads. When this bad boy will go live to pre-order is unknown at this time, but it looks like it could be dropping soon and will likely cost between the $370-500 range (judging off of previous statues of similar builds from the same store).
Excited to see what the above statue will look like for the full reveal, fully colored? You can check out the BioWare Gear store right here and sign up for email notifications the moment it goes live. Just don't tell C-Sec.
Through the partnership of Yacht Club Games and developer Mechanical Head Studios, fans of 8-bit platformers have something to look forward to this month. Enter Cyber Shadow, an homage to the ultra-hard games of yesteryear that features all the elation and frustration that comes with titles such as the original Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls.
The game follows Shadow, a cyber assassin who must fight back against a scourge of synthetic enemies and save his clan from complete destruction. As Shadow progresses through the levels, players must square off against increasingly difficult waves of cybernetic foes and new bosses that test the player's skills while rewarding them with new abilities should they conquer the malevolent machines. But brutal combat isn't the only thing genre fans have to look forward to in this pulverizing platformer.
Cyber Shadow also features a superb soundtrack that fits the theme of the dark cyberpunk world that will undoubtedly stay with you long after you've shut off the game. On top of that, Mechanical Head Studios' art style is as vibrant as it is dystopian featuring a gorgeous color palette and an 8-bit world teeming with beautiful pixel art. But when you add all those pieces together, does the experience make for a fun trip down memory lane or a frustrating reminder of how punishing games used to be? You'll have to tune in to find out.
Join Jeff Cork, Marcus Stewart, and me as we jump into the third level of Cyber Shadow, show off some of the abilities players will gain in the first few hours, and test my speedrunning skills against one of the harder games you'll play this year.
Still curious about Cyber Shadow? Be sure to check out our review of the game, where Marcus breaks down what he enjoyed and disliked about Yacht Club Games and Mechanical Head Studios' newest title.
Increasingly, after a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is play video games. It's a trivial problem to have, to be sure, but playing something like Yakuza: Like A Dragon (a game I love, mind you), sifting through its hours of cutscenes and lengthy battles, or something like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, with its nonstop action, is simply too much for my tired brain. Not to mention I spend 40 or more hours every week talking, writing, and thinking about video games. I like video games fine enough, but sheesh! Enough is enough sometimes.
The converse of this complaint is I want something to do. I'm a millennial. My brain may be tired, but it also requires near-constant stimulation. The worst thing I can imagine is doing nothing at all – much less being alone with my thoughts. I'm also highly susceptible to professional guilt: If I'm not keeping up with video games, why is Game Informer paying me? I'm sure a lot of you ask that same question.
The Hitman trilogy has become my go-to game to solve all these problems at once. Admittedly, I wasn't all that interested in Hitman 3 when it was released, but after giving the first level a try, I changed my tune and beat the whole game in two sittings. I then bought the Hitman 1 and 2 level packs (a process, it's worth noting, that's far opaquer than it should be, leading me at first to think one purchase would get me all the levels when in actuality it required over $100 in three separate purchases) and have been working my way through those. For the last week, all I've wanted to do is play Hitman. I was up last night until two in the morning playing Hitman 2's Miami level three times in a row, finessing my run until I got it down to just a few minutes.
Hitman excels in a few key areas. First and foremost, the story is unobtrusive. I don't doubt that it's very good, and I'm sure lots of you will tell me why in the comments, which I will not read, but I just don't care about why I'm killing who I'm killing. I just want to do it with as little impediment as possible. Hitman understands this. When you load a level there's a flashy cutscene that sets the groundwork for your targets and the location, but once you're boots on the ground, the game gets out of your way. Unlike Like A Dragon, where playing means accepting reading through pages of dialogue and watching hours of cutscenes, Hitman trusts you to find your own fun within its sandboxes. If you want the story, it's there. It's good, probably, I don't know. If you want to skip all that, that's fine, too. You can get right to playing.
Playing Hitman means interacting with a complex beast. Think of it like the inner workings of a clock – all the disparate parts are moving to serve the larger machine. In this case: The hundreds of NPCs, various story missions and intel drops, target routes and behaviors, and general rules of a level all come together to create a convincing simulation of a nightclub, Spanish city, and so on. Agent 47 is not the hero of these simulations, swinging in and causing a scene (unless you really want him to, you can play your own way). He's more like a virus, moving undetected until it’s time to strike. Doing so, of course, means contending with a level's different rules, learning to simultaneously behave within them and exploit them to your will. It can be very daunting, but it's never overwhelming. That's an important distinction.
When you begin a level in Hitman, your goals are very clear. There is a target (or targets) and sometimes an additional objective you must complete before exiting the level. How you achieve these goals is up to you. The game will offer you no shortage of opportunities, but also, experiment, get weird, push at the level and see what happens. As a participant in Hitman's world, you operate at your own pace. Sure, the level goes through its various cycles, and there are some time-sensitive opportunities, but unlike a lot of games, you're not being funneled through objective after objective without a chance to stop and think. In fact, success often means taking time to stop, consider your surroundings, and act accordingly. Critical thinking and problem solving is always rewarded in Hitman.
And thus, Hitman strikes a remarkable balance between being constantly engaging yet never exhausting. The objectives are simple enough as to not require much exposition to get the player motivated, and the levels are complex-yet-accommodating enough to require the player’s attention but never bombard them with stimuli. Never mindless but never overwhelming, Hitman is more akin to a game of Sudoku than it is a game of basketball. Both require thought, execution, and problem solving, but the former gives you time to breathe, assess your surroundings, and move on your own terms.
So, after a long, hard day of work, I find myself loading up Hitman more so than anything else. It’s the perfect game to bookend my day, keeping my brain active while never asking too much of me. Video games can often be exhausting, requiring immense amounts of player patience, participation, and, most egregiously, time. I simply refuse to give some games hundreds of my hours if they won’t respect that investment in meaningful ways. But Hitman does respect that investment, giving me new reasons to play every evening and never making me feel like my time was wasted.
After dominating the realms of literature, film, and, to an extent, gaming, the Harry Potter franchise may have its wand aimed at the small screen. If reports are to be believed, Warner Bros. may be developing a live-action Harry Potter series for HBO Max.
The Hollywood Reporter first broke the news, claiming sources have informed them that HBO executives have been talking with potential show writers to discuss pitch ideas for what a Harry Potter TV series would look like. Since these are early meetings, there’s no confirmation on what the show would entail in terms of plot, cast, or its place within the fiction’s timeline.
While this sounds exciting, HBO Max and Warner Bros. have denied the existence of the show in a statement to THR: "There are no Harry Potter series in development at the studio or on the streaming platform.” As IGN points out, however, “in development” means different things to different people, and sifting through ideas may not be considered a part of active production.
If this is true, fans probably have a good wait ahead of them before anything is set in stone. Still, given the franchise’s enduring popularity (in spite of the controversy surrounding author, J.K. Rowling), it would surprise exactly zero people that Warner Bros. would be looking at a way to use the IP to bolster the appeal of its growing streaming service. Do we get more of Harry and the gang, another story set during the Fantastic Beasts era, or something new entirely? More importantly, do we get the show before or after the much-anticipated Hogwarts Legacy launches next year? Keeping an eye out for further updates sounds like it'll be an exercise in, say it with me, constant vigilance.
What do you make of this news, and what would you want in a Harry Potter TV show? Let us know in the comments!
With the year reaching an end, we're announcing the final Top Release list of 2020. As a reminder, we look at all games released during the month of December and gather the Top 20 based on revenue generated during the first two weeks after release. Because some games provide a free option for players, we also list the top 5 games with a free-to-play model, ranked by total unique players they acquired.
December is often marked by the excitement of the year-end Steam Winter Sale, with 2020 being no exception. But amidst the huge volume of discounts and exciting developer events, plenty of new releases still made noteworthy and successful debuts. On top of being one the most anticipated releases of the year, Cyberpunk 2077 quickly became one of Steam's most played games ever. Players were also excited to jump into the latest online offering from Rockstar's Red Dead series, along with getting their hands on the long awaited combat flight-sim, Project Wingman. Other successes include the debut RPG from acclaimed artist, OMOCAT, along with the Early Access graduations of Ratropolis, Founders' Fortune, and Monster Sanctuary.
While these games are all exciting in their own right, December's list also exemplifies the overwhelming variety that we saw throughout 2020. It's seen in everything from the stories, themes, and mechanics of the games themselves, to the number ways they can be played and the many options they support. This continued variety doesn't just come from thin air - it's the result of developers meeting the demands of a community of millions and millions of players, each with unique tastes. With the Steam player base reaching all time highs in 2020, we're thrilled to see that variety continue in the coming year.
We'd also like to congratulate the 12 development teams who made December's list with their first ever Steam release. Congrats and welcome to Cassel Games, Dionic, HES Games, Humble North, Moi Rai Games, https://store.steampowered.com/app/1150690/OMORI/, Out of the Blue, Proletariat, Inc., Romero Games, Sector D2, Tlön Industries, and Uncasual Games.
Here's the list of December's top releases ordered by release date (we've organized this list on a handy sale page too):
Empire of Sin
Romero Games (Ireland)
Sector D2 (Australia)
Cassel Games (Republic of Korea)
Red Dead Online
Rockstar Games (USA)
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. (Japan)
Creeper World 4
Knuckle Cracker (USA)
The Game Bakers (France)
Tlön Industries (Argentina)
Phoenix Point: Year One Edition
Snapshot Games Inc. (Bulgaria)
VR Designs (France)
DRAGON QUEST® XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age™ - Definitive Edition
Square Enix (Japan)
Call of the Sea
Out of the Blue (Spain)
Moi Rai Games (Germany)
CD PROJEKT RED (Poland)
Medal of Honor™: Above and Beyond
Respawn Entertainment (USA)
Uncasual Games (Spain)
Futa Fix Dick Dine and Dash
Cyberframe Studios (USA)
OMOCAT, LLC (USA)
And here are the Top 5 free-to-play titles from December, ranked by total unique player count:
Proletariat, Inc. (USA)
Leaf Blower Revolution - Idle Game
Humble North (Germany)
Soccer Manager 2021
Soccer Manager Ltd (UK)
Oddshot Games (Belgium)
HES Games (Turkey)
If you're curious about previous months, here are more Top Release lists: