Laser League is a futuristic sport available for download from the PlayStation Store for PS4. Laser League is developed by Roll7 that previously released skateboarding indie OlliOlli on PS Vita in January 2014 to much critical acclaim and winning GameSpot’s Game of the Month Award for January 2014 which resulted in a sequel releasing in March 2015 that quickly sold 1 million and was even better critically received than its prequel with a third-person shooter Not A Hero also releasing in 2015 on PC before being ported to home consoles in February and May 2016. Can Laser League produce a modernised update of futuristic sports from retro gaming eras such as BattleSport, Dead Ball Zone and SpeedBall?
Laser League’s premise depicts a full contact futuristic sport in which teams sprint and strategically move to be the first to reach a neutral node as touching the node results in the node being converted to that team’s colour. Both teams have to convert as many laser nodes as possible to their team’s colours to progress towards winning the point, while simultaneously having to avoid the opponent’s lasers as a team member running into the opposition’s laser will take that team member out of the round until one of their team has revived the player. A point is only scored when all opposing team members have made contact with your team’s lasers and are all out of the round at the same time in a battle to be the first team to win 3 points in order to win a round before attempting to win a second round to win the match.
A single gameplay camera angle is excellently positioned from up above with a slight tilt, although it would have been even more immersive if there were camera angles from either side and end of the pitch followed by a perspective that was closer to the action as well as a first-person and third-person perspective following your player when playing in single player or online multiplayer. A replay shows all of the action that lead to your team or the opposition scoring a point in slow motion followed by the team celebrating to emphasise the importance of each point towards winning a round and a match.
The ideal area to begin learning the core gameplay mechanics is an extremely well paced tutorial that is short, sweet and straight to the point, so much so that players will know exactly how to play within 10 minutes. Tutorial provides a complete overview of the basic gameplay mechanics, how to activate lasers, avoiding opponent’s lasers, activating power-ups, using class abilities and reviving teammates; culminating in playing a full round to put all of your newfound knowledge of how to play Laser League into practical use in a 2 vs. 2 match with an A.I. controlled partner and against an A.I. controlled team. Meanwhile, the playbook teaches the player a few more intricate details about classes and power-ups.
Local match mode allows a single player to compete versus up to 4 A.I. controlled opponents with up to 3 A.I. controlled teammates in fully customisable matches. However, there are no tournaments or career mode gameplay elements in any mode in single player or multiplayer which is a real missed opportunity as a traditional points and goal difference table spanning over a certain quantity of matches during a season would have given Laser League a bigger picture to keep on playing towards an ultimate aim in the form of winning cup tournaments and championship seasons.
Power-ups are situated on the field during matches in which any of the 15 power-ups are capable of changing the flow of a point, round and match on a dime including switch that reverts the opposition’s lasers to the opposite team and vice versa resulting in a team that is controlling the round suddenly needing to gain ground to get back in contention for the point. Elsewhere, divide opens gaps in lasers for both teams to be able to manoeuvre in-between the opposing team’s lasers which can really help when your team is on the ropes during a period of dominance with almost every laser belonging to the opposition and nowhere to move; charge fully recharges the ability meter of the team that reaches it first; speed-up increases the speed of lasers; and more besides.
Character design is defined by character classes, alongside their unique roles and abilities that each class possesses. For instance, the shock class is the support team member that can be utilised in a defensive capacity to shield other team members or to counter offensive classes in the opposing team in which the shock class has a stun attack ability that knocks down and stuns opponents in the nearby vicinity that is improved by a choice of two modifiers including extending the period of effectiveness for the shock ability or a longer stun period to daze opponents. In contrast, the smash class has an assault role that means the player can sprint faster to beat the opposition to laser nodes, therefore applying intense pressure to the opposing team by progressing towards winning the point, but also by physically knocking over opponents with a non-lethal tackle that lifts them off the ground and launches them across the pitch, potentially into one of your team’s laser nodes; complimented by an armour modifier that when having hit an opponent provides a momentary period of invulnerability or dazing opponents to keep them on the ground for longer. Character customisation allows the player to choose a kit design from a total of 150, although only two will be available at first with the further 148 being unlockable, while there are 64 emojis with 4 available to begin; 61 laser colours and patterns to select with one available at the start and 70 character portraits to represent your character’s look within the kit, alongside being able to rotate a character model that reflects the most recently chosen customisation options.
Environment design is rather varied as there are four stadiums including Empire Campus set in London, England, Geng Hao Megaplex in China, Silvertip Arena in Detroit, USA and Al Shama Stadium set in Doha, Qatar that each have their own respective aesthetic and atmosphere with four or five unique maps that feature lasers angled in varying directions, widths and lengths to provide a different type of challenge on every map and stadium.
Despite there being single player and local multiplayer matches; players can only earn XP during online multiplayer matches. XP is earned by participating in an online multiplayer match, more XP for winning but some XP for losing and mastery of skills such as performing your character classes’ ability on the opposition and activating laser nodes. Customisation items are periodically unlocked when having earned a particular quantity of XP, although the player does not need to level up in order to unlock a customisation item which is a positive design choice as it takes 12,400 XP just to progress from level 1 onto level 2.
OlliOlli made its debut on Vita and its sequel also released on Vita, so it is disappointing not to see a Vita port for Laser League, although remote play provides some consolation. Laser League’s remote play performance is excellent as the graphics, audio and general performance is all on par with the quality of the PS4 version. The controls did not need to be optimised as abilities are mapped to R and L with further abilities naturally moving to the top right and left of the rear touch pad; therefore resulting in a comfortable and exciting remote play experience.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller as the control scheme is easy to master; consisting of pressing R1, L1, R2 or L2 to perform your chosen character classes’ abilities; pressing X, O, square or triangle to display emojis in reaction to what has occurred during a round; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to use quick chat; changing the direction of the left or right analogue sticks to move your character; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs when your character’s ability has charged and when your character runs into the opposing team’s laser, while the light bar produces a bright shade of white during gameplay, although it reflects the colour of the stadium’s home team when selecting a stadium continuing onto the menus; however there is no touch pad implementation which could have provided an alternative to movement, performing abilities, emojis or quick chat.
Graphically, Laser League depicts a futuristic sport in style with an abundance of neon colours pitch-side and throughout the stadiums as the audience is genuinely enthusiastic, while character design, abilities and lasers all look amazing, alongside a consistent frame-rate that blends very well with the intensity of the high paced futuristic sport.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, online multiplayer menus, local match menus, character customisation menus, statistics menus, online leaderboards, tutorials, playbook menus, extra content menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on your character as the foreground provides a futuristic esque HUD with symbols representing each mode, customisation element and option.
Sound effects include atmospheric stadiums as fans roar with excitement and passion for their favourite team in the build-up to matches and to celebrate when a point has been scored, while music provides a rhythm to the pacing of gameplay through dance beats that are appropriately mixed instead of being overbearing as they can be in the soundtrack of some futuristic games. However, the audio could have been elevated further by the inclusion of a commentary team providing match introductions, tale of the tape, play-by-play calls on the action taking place on the pitch and stats for each team and individual players which is something that will hopefully be considered during post-launch support. The DualShock 4 speaker effectively produces the majority of sound effects such as when your character’s ability has recharged for further use, when your character hits an opposing team’s laser and when your character has been revived by a teammate.
The trophy list includes 24 trophies with 4 bronze trophies, 12 silver trophies, 7 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Making Waves bronze trophy for levelling up for the first time and the Coach Palmer’s Pride bronze trophy for completing the tutorial. Harder trophies include the Decorated Champion gold trophy for reaching prestige rank 01 and the First Class gold trophy for reaching mastery rank 5 as any class. The vast majority of the trophy list is online multiplayer focused including the Major Leaguer gold trophy for winning 50 online multiplayer matches and the Lamplighter silver trophy for activating 5,000 laser nodes. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, medium and hard with the major differences being the hard A.I. having an impressive awareness of the positioning of neutral laser nodes in harmony with strategic movement in utilising sprinting through the edge of the pitch to appear on the opposite side of the pitch or using specific angles to reach a distant laser node a fraction of a second before the opposition that was situated closer to the laser node in a consistent air of total efficiency. However, no matter what A.I. difficulty you choose; harder maps always remain that much more complex to navigate due to their greater quantity of lasers potentially being utilised by the opposing team to reduce the capability of where your team can manoeuvre.
Local same screen multiplayer allows for up to 4 players to participate with 2 players per team with A.I. controlled teammates and opponents filling the empty spots on each team; therefore producing the chance of a 1vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, 4 vs. 4 or any variation of uneven teams and 4 players being more co-operative focused on the same team vs. A.I. controlled opponents.
Online multiplayer allows for up to 6 players to participate via a 2 vs. 2 match or 3 vs. 3 match with A.I. controlled teammates and opponents filling out the remaining players. Online multiplayer has consistent performance and matchmaking is efficient enough to find a match usually within a minute. At launch, there is no sign of Laser League becoming an eSport when it seems to be entirely designed for global eSports competitions via tournament cups and championship seasons.
Online leaderboards focus on the highest quantity of XP gained by each player with rankings covering every character class with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; class level; name (PSN ID); and their total XP, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with global players, friends, top 10 players and bottom 10 players within any given leaderboard.
Laser League’s replayability stems from a variety of areas including character classes and their unique roles and abilities within the team, character customisation, 3 A.I. difficulty levels, a multitude of stadiums and maps, XP intertwined with gaining ground on the global online leaderboards and unpredictable results in competitive local multiplayer and online multiplayer that will keep players returning for quite some time. However, cup tournaments, championship seasons through a career mode and eSports would significantly improve the replay value beyond what it already is.
- Title: Laser League
- Developer: Roll7
- Publisher: 505 Games
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Local Multiplayer)/2-6 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 1.8GB (Version 1.01)