When Xbox Game Pass launched last year, the program intrigued me. It’s essentially Netflix for Xbox games, and it features over 130 titles. From indie darlings to AAA experiences, Xbox Game Pass has a lot to offer. The most enticing feature is that some games will even launch day and date on the program. Laser League from studio Roll7 is one of those games and one that’s a perfect fit for Xbox Game Pass.
Laser League is what happens when you take the visual aesthetic of Tron and mix it with a spectator sport. It’s a simple game that’s easy to pick up but difficult to master. Players are split into teams of 2 or 3 (depending on the mode) and must fight to be the last team standing. You’re thrown into an empty arena that slowly fills up with nodes that must be touched to spawn lasers on the field. If an opponent comes in contact with your colored laser, they’ll disintegrate. While dodging lasers is the key to survival, fighting the other team is integral as well.
There is a lot of depth in Laser League. Players can choose from a variety of characters, each with their own abilities. The hunter can use a blade to slash through opponents while the Snipe can shoot players from across the map with a teleporting ranged maneuver. Aside from offensive characters, you can also choose class types that change enemy lasers into friendly ones. There’s also a class that allows players to become invincible for a short time. This ability is beneficial when the arena becomes overloaded with lasers moving relentlessly around the stage.
Strategy is critical if you want to win. Regardless if your team is skilled, it’s unwise to underestimate the opponents. Nodes spawn randomly throughout the match, and it can become quite overwhelming. Fortunately, some power-ups can turn the tides in a split second. Some power-ups speed up the flow of lasers, another changes all enemy lasers into friendly ones and vice versa. There’s also a power-up that reverses laser rotations, and then there’s break; a power-up that shatters lasers in half, allowing players to walk in between enemy lasers. There is a learning curve, but after learning what each character and powerup can do, Laser League becomes an absolute blast to play.
My introduction to Laser League wasn’t positive. It was tough to find people through matchmaking at launch, and I was forced to play against AI opponents. The problem is that the AI isn’t great. My partner would die quickly, leaving me to survive on my own. When you’re trying to learn the mechanics, it’s terrible to have to rely on partners that are worse than you. Fortunately, a few days after launch, I was able to find games with ease. Whether it’s 2v2 or 3v3, there were a lot of people playing online. After a few matches, I could see precisely what Roll7 wanted to accomplish with Laser League. I found myself playing for hours and losing track of time in the process. Each match was thrilling, often exhilarating. Playing online with other people is ideal, and fortunately, there seems to be an active community at the moment.
Each stadium features its own setup, complete with different laser layouts. Matchmaking usually features randomized map selections but there was a good stretch of six matches where I played on the same map, and it was one I didn’t particularly enjoy. Laser League offers decent variety, but the gameplay is so fun, that I didn’t mind playing the same maps over and over again.
From a technical aspect, Laser League runs like a charm. Framerate drops and bugs are nonexistent. Visually, the neon and Tron aesthetic look eye-popping, and the lasers make each match look vibrant. The audio is the worst part of the game. Music doesn’t sound too great, and I would often put on my own music to generate my own soundtrack.
Laser League caters to the current state of the video game industry. We’re at a time where competitive games and eSports are taking center stage. It’s impossible to be a gamer and not be aware of televised Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Street Fighter V tournaments. Every week, eSports events take place on Twitch and Mixer. The competitive gaming scene is quickly growing, and titles like Laser League are perfect examples of games that will benefit from a wider audience. Its simplistic nature makes Laser League appealing, while the intense gameplay will keep people hooked on the screen. Being a part of Xbox Game Pass is great because so many people have the option to play it. I’d encourage every single Xbox Game Pass subscriber to download the game and give it a shot. There is so much to enjoy, and it’s the type of game that you can play for an hour at a time. It doesn’t ask for commitment. Laser League is a palette cleanser that will be played on my Xbox for months to come.