We are in the midst of a revolution in regards to first person shooters. Born due to necessity thanks to the continued dominance of the Call of Duty juggernaut, companies have stopped trying to copy the beast and instead looked further back to the glory days of Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. The Arena Shooter mentality is back with a vengeance, and I couldn’t be happier about it. In games like LawBreakers and Overwatch, speed is king, weapons are weird, and skill ceilings are climbing. PAX East had several shooters showing inspiration from the classics, and I tried to make time with all of them.
LawBreakers is the arena shooter from Cliff Bleszinski and his team at Boss Key Productions. The major focus of the game is on movement, so each map features gravity anomalies that allow players to get vertical even if their chosen hero doesn’t have a jetpack. Every character does have some variety of dash or juke, and mastering those abilities in addition to learning the game’s weapons seems like a complicated task.
I played a round of “Battery,” which is a combination of Halo‘s Assault and CTF where you must grab a neutral bomb and then defend it in your own base to charge it up. The team scores once it reaches full charge, but not before a brief window where the opposing team can steal the objective and claim it at their base. There haven’t been many games out there recently that have come up with new gametypes in the shooter space, so I welcome LawBreakers‘ ingenuity and look forward to its full priced release on PC this summer.
Mirage: Arcane Warfare is the next game from Torn Banner Studios, makers of Chivalry and its goofy Deadliest Warrior expansion. It is another melee focused deathmatch game but set in a fantasy setting, featuring magical spells and abilities for each class. It is currently being planned only for a PC release and is in a very early stage of development. The game is also currently lacking its planned controller support, but Torn Banner president Steve Piggott made it clear that they wanted the same feature set from Chivalry to make its way into Mirage as quickly as possible. He also seemed open to item crossovers between the two games, which could open the door to some interesting Steam Workshop items in the future.
I played a round, switched between characters, and left feeling that there was a lot less magic than I had initially expected when seeing the teaser trailer. You still have to rely on getting in close, blocking and parrying opposing strikes if you want to help carry your team to victory. Despite this, I had more fun with the giant spiked balls I could produce from thin air and hurl at foes. For fans of Chivalry‘s unique style, there is going to be a lot to like in this game, as the developers have not strayed far from their past successes.
While at the show, I spent a bit of time looking into some games I’d played before to see how they’ve progressed. Orcs Must Die! Unchained is the free to play multiplayer tower defense game from Robot Entertainment that has been around in various forms of beta for several years now. I was a fan of the original games, which focused more on tower defense and combat and less on MOBA-inspired mechanics. Therefore, I was pleased to join in on a match of Survival, a newer mode that plays similarly to the older games while still retaining the enjoyable upgrades to the formula that Unchained brings to the table.
One thing to note is, like the best multiplayer games out there, Unchained is a complex beast, and I arrived at PAX once again unprepared for the opposition I faced. It wasn’t quite the stomp I experienced last year when playing a round of PvP, but it still showed that my trap laying skills were rusty. After firing off a few ultimates and slashing my way through bigger foes, my team did end up emerging victorious, and I was happy just to have contributed. For what is there, the game still seems polished, and I came away from my time with it this year wanting to reinstall the game and try it out again in my spare time.
Finally, I went over to Tripwire’s setup to check out Killing Floor 2 running on a PlayStation 4. Coming later this year, the zombie arena game runs as you’d expect it to, and I found no noticeable difference between the version on the show floor and the version currently being sold on Steam. I could just as easily spawn as Mr. Foster, grab a shotgun from the technologically advanced gun rack, and attempt to shoot my way out of a crowd of Specimens before being eaten alive and trying again.
I asked Tripwire’s Mike Schmitt about some of the features of the PC experience that might not make it over to the console release. Specifically, I was wondering what Killing Floor‘s character customization would look like on console removed from the item drop ecosystem on Steam. Mike stated that they were working with Sony on a solution to this issue and that they were planning on adding in as many of the items from the PC version as possible.
This roundup of PAX’s shooter lineup would probably be incomplete without a brief mention of DOOM. Bethesda had multiplayer games running throughout the show, and there wasn’t that much here that players haven’t already seen in the various betas that have been running over the past few months. The game is more Halo than traditional DOOM, but it works for what it is, and additions like the life draining Syphon Grenades and the demon transformations make it worth at least a look. Just don’t expect it to become your go-to multiplayer experience months down the line.
Combined with my impressions of Overwatch, that covers most of the shooters on the show floor at PAX this year. I was hoping to get some time in with Umbrella Corps over at Capcom’s booth and Gears of War 4, but three days isn’t a lot of time, and those games will have to wait for E3. Shooters are in a much better place than they were just a few years ago, and I’m excited for the arena shooter revolution to swing into high gear when games like LawBreakers release to the public.
The above games were previewed at PAX East 2015. Screenshots for these games were provided by the developers and publishers, and may not be reflective of the demos that were provided.