by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Laser League is touted as “the sport of the future” and nothing could be more accurate. It’s a top-down, high-octane title where you control players of a future sport where the last team standing wins. Laser patterns pop up and spin, move back and forth and rotate, and it’s up to you to either avoid the other teams or push them into your lasers. It’s very easy to see which team controls which, as the teams are color-coded. It’s a throwback to the arcade action of old, but with that online multiplayer that the modern age of gamer craves. Laser League is a title I could easily see becoming an esport, but it does not seem to be developed with that particular focus in mind. Instead, 505 and Roll7 simply focused on what was important – making a good video game. Let the competition come after that. Whether you play in 2v2 or 3v3, it’s a best-of-three, where each round consists of trying to score three points. Points are scored by all members of the opposing team being eliminated. If your teammate runs over where you expired, you’re resurrected, but you can always die again! It’ll probably happen a lot, but that’s what makes this game shine – it’s 100% skill-based.
One thing I appreciate is that Laser League has a solid tutorial that gives you the ins and outs of the game. I learned by just going in and playing with the developers, before I had access to a tutorial, so by the time the game launched I was already ready to go. But it’s there and does a sound job of teaching a new player what to do. This is also a game that features controller support and were I you, I’d use it instead of a keyboard and mouse. Sure, the controls for those are fine, but this is a game built for a controller. You can also check out all of the maps in the game via Local Match if you want to formulate strategies for each of them and figure out what patterns to expect since each map is different. There’s also the “Playbook”, which details all six classes, what modifiers each offers, and what role they have on the team. The Playbook also highlights the various powerups that spawn on the map, what their icon is, and a video showing off what it will look like. It’s very thorough and handy to have in the game.
Laser League also features an absolute slew of customization options. Right now, there’s only one bit of DLC, and it’s some character/laser customization for your character, and it’s cheap to boot (1.99). You can customize the style of uniform for all the teams, the emojis you use, the patterns that go inside of your lasers, and your character portrait. These do not affect the gameplay, and there’s no in-game cash shop to buy them with. They are all unlocked by simply playing the game! As you play matches, each character class has goals to attend to, and hitting highlights will unlock items, as well as raising your account level and completing other goals. It’s not hard at all to do, and as this is a terribly addicting game (to me certainly), these will come with time.
Gameplay could not be easier, but it’s definitely in the “easy to play, hard to master” camp. Whether you start with 2v2 or 3v3, you start by selecting your class and their modifier and do any customization you want. When a match actually starts, there are no lasers in play, but they spawn on colorless sets of lines very quickly. It’s also important to note that you can run through the sides of the screen and show up on the other side unless the “Lockdown” power-up is in play, which means the lasers of whoever activated it surround the map. The goal is to defeat the enemy team by pushing them into your lasers, killing them with the Blade class, or hoping they accidentally run into your lasers. That happens more than you might think. The beauty of this game is that there is no wrong way to play. You can play defensive team compositions that just stun and push people around so the lasers do all the work, or you can run two or three blades and just slice-and-dice the other team down before the lasers can finish them off. It’s a one-hit-and-you’re-dead game, but thankfully you can be resurrected. Each classes ability has a recharge rating, and once you’ve used it once, you have to wait to do it again (unless you have Hunter on Blade for example, which refills when you land a hit).Each map has its own laser patterns to learn, and there are six arenas, each with four maps. It’s not impossible to learn, but it’s far more fun to just go in and learn them by experiencing them blind. You don’t have to play online either – it does feature Local Mode so you can play with your friends on the couch. The only problem I’ve had with Laser League is in most of my matches I’ve wound up with an AI partner. As it so happens, I won most of those matches, but I’d rather play with actual people against others, instead of me and an AI partner against real people. Perhaps if the wait is too long, it could match you against players in other regions? That could help satiate this problem. I know it’s a long-shot, but they could also consider cross-play.
There isn’t much in the way of a serious story here, but ultimately, you’re in the future and seeking fame and glory in the Laser League. I do kind of wish you could only play as one team if you wanted, but that’s not a big deal. The graphics are bright and sharp, and each arena has a gorgeous, unique look that fits the nationality they represent. It’s all high speed, bright colors, and non-stop, pulse-pounding action. The soundtrack is fitting to the rest of the game, though this is the kind of game it would be neat to be able to modify the soundtrack in some way, but again, not a necessity. The developers really stuck to their futuristic style and I adore how it all came together. I didn’t expect to love this game quite as much as I do. So far there is no “Ranked/Competitive” Mode, but there is an in-game leaderboard to see exactly how you match up against the rest of competitors.
The Quick and the Dead – Great (4.5/5)
Laser League is absolutely stellar. I thought it was kind of hokey until I actually played it for the first time with the developers, and from that moment on, I was hooked. I don’t play as often as I’d like to, but every time I do, I remember why I fell in love in the first place. It’s constant action, the matches don’t take long, and it’s all skill and tactics based. There is zero chance of a player being able to buy better skills, and everything you unlock is cosmetic. However, at this moment, the PS4 version has fewer maps than the PC version so for now, despite wanting to play on the PS4 instead, I’ll stick to the Steam release. There’s plenty of replay value, and I definitely want to see this game blow up. I also really like that it shows a replay of the last hit of the match, even if sometimes it might look like you/the enemy didn’t really collide with a laser. It would be a fun party game, or for a night where you simply want to go online and challenge your skills to see who is the better Laser Leaguer. I’d also very much like to see a tournament mode for Laser League, to see streamers doing battle in a series of matches. It could be a lot of fun!
The controls are tight, the gameplay is solid, and all in all, I think Roll7 and 505 Games have a real winner on their hands here. There are definitely solid strategies to every map, but it’s not a requirement to go through all of that tactical mumbo-jumbo if that’s not your bag. No matter your skill level or experience, there’s fun to be had in Laser League.