LEAP is a first person, multiplayer-based shooter, where you play as a heavily equipped super soldier, trying to defeat the other team. Heard that one before have we? I’m sure you have. LEAP definitely takes a leaf out of a few playbooks: Halo, Destiny and Titanfall seem to be the main base for the stylings and gameplay elements presented.
Taking on the big keys out the gate with a new IP is a brave move, but LEAP has a go at it. We get hoverboards for traversal that feel really cool, as the basic model onwards screams Destiny and the jet bikes from the original game, a grapple that feels very much like movement in Titanfall and the shooting and level design swiped from Halo. In fact one screenshot I took could quite easily be mistaken for a section of Halo Infinite.
The game kicks off with a tutorial, a tad unnecessary for anyone familiar with FPS mechanics in the last decade or so, but I thought what the heck, I’ll bite. Entering the tutorial almost feels like the game knows that most players have tried a shooter at some point and takes the angle of berating the player for even progressing through the various objectives. I felt this was all rather funny and quite tongue in cheek; again, it has vibes of the sarcastic AI found in the Destiny series.
Would I recommend the tutorial? Not really, at least not unless you genuinely have never played a first person shooter before as everything is pretty much as expected. One thing LEAP nails is the intuitive controls, to a point. The grenades and secondary weapons are all where they should be, firing, running, jumping… all standard layout. I would like to add a caveat that the hoverboard is not assigned to a button via the vanilla controls, but thankfully the game provides an option to map it.
Shooting also, for the most part feels competent and the guns are all fine. But that’s the biggest problem with LEAP – much found here is fine, but not impressive. Using the hoverboard is great fun, swerving around on the different maps and leaping over vast chasms is super enjoyable. The grapple also benefits in some “get me outta here quick” moments when the action gets too hot. So traversal is absolutely great, but I have to pick at the graphics right now as it’s 2023 and this game is in full release.
LEAP can look great, really great. That said, 90% of my time has left me feeling like I was playing through a very early Xbox 360 title on servers from the same era. Yeah, we need to talk about lag time. A name you may have heard a long, long time ago, or even an experience felt when bandwidth was low or you took the console over to your Gran’s house. Lag in LEAP is absolutely atrocious. I run with a 1 gig connection and play at various times of the day and experience approximately zero or very little lag in general.
I realise not everyone can utilise super fast fibre, but when I am experiencing pop in of players across the maps on high speed fibre, then anyone on less will experience this ten times as bad. It is a truly awful thing to experience on a full release title of any calibre. I normally would not spend so much time focusing on lag and stuttering, however LEAP is an online only video game with no single player offline or campaign mode to be seen.
LEAP comes with various online modes that can be played, mostly focusing around capture the flag or stronghold style matches. Mostly, when lag does not interfere, these are relatively fun, fast paced and chaotic matches with a neat feature that I have never seen before in a game (please correct me if I’m wrong) being the ability to swap team mid match! Yes, you read that correctly, you can change to the opposition during the match if things aren’t going too well, taking the win on the other team.
Now I have never seen this mechanic in any FPS before, and think it is a genius addition that other shooters should take from LEAP and use in fun ways. Imagine the Red team in Halo being decimated by the Blue team only for you, the star player, to swap sides from holding the fort, to taking the dub home. I can see this being used in so many fun ways by other shooters, I hope it catches on.
Anyway, let’s talk about where you get to play in LEAP – the levels. I found the rotation of maps to be quite refreshing and with the selection provided at launch, I never got bored during a play session. From luscious and dense jungles to futuristic military installations, LEAP definitely has some cool maps to play on, giving players the chance to learn the layouts. Traversal is also thought of, with plenty of gaps throughout the map and potential jumps to take your hoverboard off and feel like a badass with.
The problem is, feeling badass in sections doesn’t create longevity. LEAP is sadly lacking from solid one-more-shot modes and a meaty progression system. Nothing in the cosmetics menu or in-game upgrades jump out either. The first person shooter landscape has been conquered for years now, and so while it is noble to make an attempt to grab some attention away from the big boys, this attempt unfortunately isn’t the one to do it.
PvE co-op, when you are able to find a team mate online, is barebones and monotonous. PvP is janky and basic. It really is a shame as LEAP has gone for a AAA look and feel, occasionally showing promise of being able to live up to that. However, in reality, it’s possible that LEAP should not be a full release title as at times it feels like playing an Alpha or Beta of a high end indie game. With boasts of 30v30 servers and mods from day one, in LEAP we find standard maps of barely 10v10, and even then LEAP struggles to keep things running.
Taking inspiration from the best in the genre is a great idea, as long as you can formulate it with a unique twist that players will come back for time and time again. Bringing an undercooked FPS to market with in-game purchases, via a new IP with no licensed cosmetics or single player campaign is a risky move, especially when there is more lag present than back in the Duke Nukem 3D/Quake LAN party days. But that’s what we have with LEAP.
One lesson that should have been learned before launch is in the title – Look Before You LEAP.
And yes I have been waiting all review to drop that joke.
LEAP is on the Xbox Store