Running around an arena while avoiding different coloured lasers sounds like a pretty basic concept for a game and it is. Laser League is an enjoyable and easy-to-learn eSport but does it have enough longevity to topple genre titans?
Laser League is played by running around an arena that wraps both horizontally and vertically. By this, I mean that if you run through the right wall then you'll end up on the left-hand side, etc. Neutral white nodes slowly emerge around the arena and upon touching one; it generates a laser wall of your team's colour that then proceeds to move across the arena. If you touch a wall of an opponent's colour then you perish. However, your partner can revive you by simply running over you. Therefore, it's each team's job to trap every opponent before they have a chance to revive their comrades. There are a couple of complexities in the form of power-ups and character classes that basically dictate which special move a character can use. The core gameplay may be simple but these added complexities open up a new layer of strategy and experimentation.
Competitive indie games that have similar gameplay often feature a charming or goofy presentation. However, Laser League takes itself seriously with its futuristic arenas complete with fake sponsors and players' photos that are oddly just pictures of real-life human faces. I personally would have preferred something with more levity but the visuals are undeniably stylish and the audio helps make the gameplay exciting, especially the sound effects that come from the DualShock 4 controller's speaker.
Laser League is best played online. There's extremely limited single player content in that all you can do is play through a tutorial and a match against CPU opponents. Also, I found playing with local players to be kind of boring. Local multiplayer games are best when everyone in the room can get into what you're playing and Laser League definitely lacks mainstream appeal. As a result, playing online is the most enjoyable way to experience Laser League. That being said, there isn't much sense of progression as there are no ranked matches and all you do is level up in order to unlock additional superficial features.
Although Laser League can be a great deal of fun online, I found the basic gameplay to get stale after a dozen or so matches. Unlike Rocket League (which many gamers consider to be the gold standard of eSport games), the gameplay here is incredibly simple and repetitive. That being said, it is fun to play once in a while but don't count on being obsessed with it to the point where you're skipping school or work to get a few more matches in. It's probably best played between other more substantial games.
Finally, I found the balancing between the different class types to be off to the extent that it felt unfair. Some players have already found ways to exploit certain special moves so that they can take you out with minimal effort while other classes don't stand a chance against them. For example, you may pick a class that stuns your opponents but upon unleashing your special ability, a player might push you into a laser wall and cancel your move in the process. It's hard not to feel disgruntled whenever things like that happen.
Laser League is like the world's most flavourful gum. When you start chewing, it tastes great but after about 15 minutes, you'll be happy to spit it out and put something more substantial in your mouth.
- + Simple and easy-to-learn gameplay
- + Playing online is quite enjoyable
- + Stylish presentation
- - Gameplay is too basic to have lasting appeal / could use better balancing
- - Playing offline isn't nearly as fun
- - Limited sense of progression