Developer Blue Isle Studios describes LEAP as a multiplayer first-person shooter that blends numerous genres and styles. It’s got different character types, called exosuits, that come with varying abilities. There’s a classic assault class, a turret builder, a heavy weapon-wielding bruiser, and a stealth sniper. There are tactical elements to the gameplay similar to what you would find in Battlefield. But the combat lies firmly in the realm of an arcade shooter. You can also take to the skies in a hoverboard to move around the maps, which come in a few different sizes. I was very excited to preview LEAP closed beta, hoping it would be a new shooter for me to sink numerous hours into. It was not what I expected.
I was expecting something like Apex Legends, one of my favorite shooters. But the only resemblance to Apex is that you have a class ability and an ultimate ability. The gunplay in LEAP is a lot more like Halo. The movement too, for that matter. It feels like it was made to cater to controller players. As a mouse and keyboard user, I felt like my movement and ability to quickly look around was constrained.
If you like arcade shooters, then you should give LEAP a go for its different take on a well-trodden genre. However, if your taste is more suited to precision shooters like Valorant and Apex Legends, then this isn’t going to be up your alley. The main reason for this is that there is severe weapon bloom, even when you aim down sights (ADS). I hate my aim being hindered by a mechanic like bloom. Preferably, I like guns to have recoil (even if it’s random) that I can get a feel for and learn to control.
As a result of this, I spent most of my time in LEAP rocking the stealth exosuit, Wraith, because its weapon is a DMR that shoots accurately. Wraith is fun. You can go invisible to move into unexpected locations and sneak attack enemies. Your weapon is also effective at long range, so you can tactically pick off enemies trying to defend or attack a point. However, if an enemy closes with you, you’re going to have problems. One issue with Wraith is that your teammates can’t see you when you go invisible. This makes it incredibly hard to coordinate with other players. When my friend was playing Wraith, it was incredibly difficult for me to follow them.
Before I move on from shooting, I need to mention the feedback from landing hits on enemies. It’s not satisfying. There is no rewarding audio or visual feedback that lets you know your bullet hit its mark. The only feedback you get is seeing your enemy’s shield light up, if you’re in range to see it, and a number that briefly appears on your screen. The number changes color if it is a headshot. But again, there’s no satisfying sound that lets you know you’ve hit a banging shot.
Rotating in style
The hoverboard can fly anywhere and you can’t turn it with your keyboard, you need to move your mouse. It feels awkward. As I mentioned earlier, it gives me the feeling that LEAP was made for a controller. In general, I expected the hoverboard to have more weight and fluidity to it. There’s also an awkward camera movement when you pull out your hoverboard that is very disorienting. The whole process of hopping on the board could be a lot smoother.
Your other movement tool is a grappling hook. I love the grapples from Titanfall 2 and Apex Legends – they’re essentially the same thing. And the Halo grapple is highly regarded too. The one in LEAP feels sluggish. And it resulted in me getting stuck on awkward parts of the terrain more than I would have liked, even for a beta.
One feature I love in LEAP is that objective points change location after a certain amount of time to keep the battle shifting around the map. It makes a match feel dynamic and keeps the encounters fresh. It also prevents a match from getting stale when one team has the majority of the points on lockdown.
A few more steps before you leap
Overall, I think LEAP has a few clever and fun ingredients. It just feels unpolished. And that’s okay for a beta. But when it launches, it will be compared to all the other shooters out there — mostly to Halo. And it’s got a long way to go to reach that benchmark.
It’s certainly not a lost cause, though. Simple things can make a world of difference to the experience. Just adding more feedback from hits would significantly improve gameplay. Unshackling the movement for keyboard and mouse players is also something that can help it achieve the next step.