This weekend, the upcoming sports game Laser League launched into an open beta, and I decided to give it a try. Other than a quick little read in the GameInformer magazine, I had no clue what this game was before playing it. As it stands, I currently have around two hours into the game and I have tried every thing the game has to offer so far, and I wanted to talk about my initial impressions with the game. So, here they are.
Before getting my impressions, it's good to know what the premise of the game is. Laser League is a competitive multiplayer top-down sports game in which you play in a team of one or two others, and it is your job to eliminate the other team in the ring. The way to do this is by activating lasers that you can pass through but your opponents can't. It's up to your team to make the opponents hit your lasers while dodging their lasers. Other things to know about the game includes the ability to run into the wall and teleport to the other side of the rectangular arena and each team member can choose between six different classes that include temporary invincibility, a shield bash that sends others flying, a sword that can kill others, an ability to hack other lasers, a shock ability that leaves opponents temporarily stunned, and a sniping ability that involves dashing into opponents and killing them. Also, some abilities like reversing the flow of lasers, changing the speed of lasers, and more occasionally spawn into the game.
To win a round, a team has to kill the other team without allowing them to revive their fallen opponents. First to three rounds wins a match, in which the losers are given the ability to change their class. The first team to win two matches wins the game.
The first impression I got with this game before really even playing it was the comparisons I made with this game and Rocket League. It's not because the gameplay is the same, but for other reasons. Maybe it's both games ending with league, maybe it's the neon colors and utopian vibe, maybe it's the sports atmosphere, I don't know. The comparison between this game and Rocket League was one that kept with me throughout my time with the game, and is something I make comparisons to with a lot of my other impressions with the game. So if you see a lot of Rocket League talk, then don't be surprised.
The next biggest thing that stuck out to me with this game at first was its over-complication on a simple formula. When I started the game, I thought the classes were dumb and added complication to a game that should stick with its simplicity. Just make dudes hit your walls, that's it. To me, adding classes to Laser League is like adding classes to Rocket League. It's an unnecessary addition to make your game seem more complex when in fact the best part of the game is its simplicity; its easy-to-pick-up-hard-to-master aspect. But the more I play the game, the more I see how necessary it is to have abilities in the game. If the entire game was just dodging lasers, then all skill and strategy would be thrown out the door and what would remain is a game of who can activate the laser first and how well you can dodge lasers. The abilities shake things up makes you think about what moves you can make. For example, if I play as the sniper class, I will guard over the fallen opponent so then the living opponent can't revive him. Or if I am playing as a thief, I will try to hack lasers near the opponents or hack ones that go over the fallen opponent. The abilities are important, and building your team with different abilities can mean the difference between a win and a loss. It's not like other games where everyone can play as the same class; variety is key to winning. Fortunately, all but one of the classes to me are viable and I don't feel I need to conform and stick to one single class. The more I play the game, the more I respect the classes. Despite this, I still wish their was a mode in which everyone is given the same three abilities instead of having to choose only one. Still, the class system is something that was at first an over-complication but now is a necessity for strategy and skill.
I would say the best part about this game is the aesthetic, not to say anything else about this game is bad. The gameplay is fun and its premise is great, but I feel they nail the aesthetic they were trying to reach. The outfits, neon colors, darkly lit arenas full of holograms, even the team names and logos feel right at home in this future utopian tron-like style.
When it comes to the gameplay and the sport being played, I would say it's pretty fun. The game is similar to playing Rocket League in its simplicity and addictiveness. It's something that is really easy to grasp, but hard to master. One thing that actually makes this game better than Rocket League are the controls, which are incredibly simple. Other than the chat and emoji buttons, all of the main gameplay buttons are movement buttons, a sprint button, and an ability button. Having these simple controls makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play, which is great.
The simplicity isn't the only similarity to Rocket League though. When it comes to matchmaking, both offer games in terms of team size, with Laser League only offering a 2v2 and a 3v3 mode, with 3v3 being the default match. When it comes to the team size, I actually thought having one less member was better. 3v3 felt chaotic to me, while 2v2 felt like I could properly strategize on taking out the other team.
Unfortunately, every game has flaws, and this game is no exception. And what's even more unfortunate is that the big flaw with this game is one that affects my gameplay experience and may keep me from really getting into the game: the special moments. This flaw stems from my comparison to Rocket League, but I feel even without the comparison this would affect me anyways. What do I mean by the special moments? What I mean is that nothing I do in this game feels great. If I threw a tomahawk across the map and hit someone in Call of Duty, I would be flipping out. Whenever I get a crazy or even a normal goal in Rocket League, I feel at the very least satisfied. Whenever I do something crazy in this game, the biggest reaction I would have would be me saying "that was cool I guess." Normally, this would be something small and insignificant, but I feel that this game would strive on these great moments. One of the biggest things that makes Rocket League a blast to play and even watch are the crazy goals, and that is lost in this game. I actually had my craziest moment I probably will ever have in the game when I got a double kill with the sniper class in a 2v2 game, a one-in-a-million shot. The moment was absolutely crazy, but I didn't feel nearly as great as doing any of the tasks previously stated. This small aspect holds me back from truly loving the game, but that doesn't mean I don't have a good time with the game.
In the end, I think this is a game worth checking out. I think its premise is great and its gameplay is fun and worth checking out. Do I think this game competes with others like Rocket League and will be the next big e-sport? No, but I would love to see e-sports of this game. Still, I think this game is a fun one and has a chance at being a timeless multiplayer game like PUBG, Rocket League, CS:GO, and others. But in the end, this is a beta and only time will tell what is to come of this game.