Livelock is a top-down science fiction shooter where players choose one of three cybernetic warriors and fight to rid the world of war.
|Publisher: Arc Games
Type: Top Down Shooter
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Pros: +Great graphics. +More explosions than a Michael Bay movie. +Gameplay feels fast-paced and fluid. +Each chassis has a variety of skills available for loadouts.
Cons: -The story is underdeveloped. -Focus on score cheapens deaths. -The primary input device seems to change at random. -PS4 version is unoptimized.
Livelock is a cooperative shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world, where players cooperate to "break the cycle of infinite war between machines." In the future the remnants of mankind have merged with AI as cybernetic warriors. Choose one of three archetypes, such as Hex, and outmaneuver enemies while unleashing vivid attacks. Use multiple weapons with varied attacks: Oathkeeper sends out a pulsing pink laser while Hellfire unleashes explosive missiles on multiple targets. Band together with allies and explore gamma radiated Earth, restoring order by blowing up every hostile in your way.
Livelock Key Features:
- 3 Person Co-op - band together as a trio and wander Earth's wastelands, mowing down any enemies in your path.
- Sci-Fi Aesthetic - enter a devastated world and fight to restore peace across the globe.
- Multiple Platforms - play on either PC, Xbox One, or PS4.
- Chaotic Firefights - combat is both an intense and colorful firefight, brimming with chaos.
- Multiple weapons - equip yourself with one of various weapons, unleashing distinct attacks such as a barrage of missiles.
Livelock Featured Video
By, Matt Chelen
An endless cycle of war. An AI that wants nothing more than to protect the human race. Three humans that have had their consciousnesses transferred into robotic “chassis.” Enter Livelock, a top-down shooter with arcade-like systems, the debut title from Tuque Games.
Choose Your Character
Livelock offers players a choice of three characters, that each reside in different chassis that fill different roles in combat: Vanguard is the tank chassis; Hex is the ranged DPS chassis; and Catalyst is the ranged support chassis. As the game is primarily a top-down shooter most weapons are ranged, but Vanguard has a choice between using gauntlets or a hammer as a primary weapon, making Vanguard a melee/ranged hybrid. Multiple chassis can be created on a single account, so there is no need to worry about not liking the chassis you choose.
Each chassis can be customized in terms of both appearance and loadout. Although you start with nothing but your primary weapon, as you progress through the game, your chassis will earn experience and level up. As it levels, it will earn new weapons, skills, and skill modifiers. Weapons that you have unlocked can be upgraded a maximum of five times by using Carbon, a resource that you can obtain from chests, the corpses of deactivated robots in the environment, and bosses.
Each loadout consists of three weapon slots, each of which has two weapons that can be used in that slot, and three skill slots. Two of your skill slots can be used by any of a pool of five skills, whereas the last one is an “ultimate skill” that cannot be switched out.
Cosmetics, called “Firmware,” can be obtained at random from chests and bosses. Firmware is poorly explained by the UI and is not explained at all during the part of the game where you learn how to play. There are three Firmware slots: head, color scheme, and cape. You start with Firmware unlock 0 for each slot and all that shows in the UI is the symbol for that slot and the number 0. When you get your first unlock for any of the slots you will see a plus symbol next to the 0. If you decide to change to the new unlock, the number will increase from 0 to the number that corresponds with that unlock. If you don’t know better, you might think that this is a number corresponding to a stat, such as defense, and that you have to have the Firmware with the highest number for each slot equipped at all times.
Another issue that I took with Firmware is that the color scheme Firmware does not affect your chassis’s weapons. While I ultimately managed to find a look I was happy with, making use of a blue color scheme that complemented the orange that my weapons were stuck with, those that want to use certain color scheme may find themselves disappointed—Vanguard’s weapons will always be orange and Hex’s guns will always glow purple.
Smash ‘Em To Bits
Once you’ve chosen your chassis you set out on your quest to save humanity. Primarily, saving humanity is done by shooting, or smashing, your way through hundreds of enemies. Some levels have you wander through linear environments, completing various objectives on your way to the other side. Others have you defend a specific node. Others still have you complete various objectives while fighting a boss multiple times over the course of the level. Some levels even introduce neat environmental aspects.
As you play through each level, enemies will drop blue orbs that increase your score multiplier. If you don’t collect orbs within an ever-decreasing amount of time, your score multiplier will start to decrease. As the game is influenced by the arcade games of yesteryear your score is a fairly important aspect of gameplay and you will want to continuously pick up more orbs in order to keep a large number of points rolling in.
In general, Livelock’s gameplay is fun. Combat is flashy and fluid. Sparks go flying and the screen is often drowned in blinding explosions, fire, and other effects. Much of the environment is destructible and it’s quite entertaining to watch your massive robotic chassis cause such destruction as kicking cars around and breaking them in half or busting through walls. The physics also provide particularly cool moments, such as when parts of robots you’ve destroyed fly up at the camera.
Gameplay becomes even more fun when you start unlocking skill modifiers. Some of the skill modifiers—such as one that causes an attack that breaks the ground in a linear manner, damaging and stunning anyone in its path, to break the ground in three directions—look cool and are fun to use.
I played as Vanguard and melee became more and more difficult as I progressed through the game, but it was never monotonous or uninteresting. Eventually, well-timed use of well-aimed abilities became important for survival, as well as efficient dodging and weapon-switching, and surviving a particularly intense encounter feels great.
However, there were times when the game felt difficult for the sake of being difficult. When you die, you get dropped back into the fight via another drop pod carrying a new clone of your chassis. The only real penalty is that your score multiplier drops significantly. The problem with this system is that death never really feels like a setback. Sure, death kills your chances at that high score, but it doesn’t really impede on your ability to finish a level unless you also lose an objective to enemies.
Being dropped back into the level after dying can be quite fun, as you can choose where you drop within a specific range of the spot you died in and the drop pod deals damage to enemies around you. Few feelings have been as satisfying for me as the feeling of using your drop pod to kill a particularly difficult enemy that just killed you a moment before.
A Mixed Bag Mechanically
Livelock’s enemy mechanics are a mixed bag. While the game starts with fairly standard sets of generic melee and ranged enemies, and bigger, stronger versions of the same enemies, enemy variety improves significantly as you move into the later arcs of the story. One of my favorite levels was also the one that frustrated me the most. On this level, there is a combination of fairly weak melee enemies that drop an orb on death that explodes, dealing damage and slowing you, and these larger enemies that spawn over half a dozen mite-like enemies that will jump off of them, charge at you, and explode. A single group of the latter’s spawns can kill your chassis instantly. If you stay at a distance they’re fairly easy to pick off. However, playing as the close-ranged Vanguard, I often found myself between a rock and a hard place while attempting to keep them off of my ally.
The level I am describing is a stark contrast to the game’s boss fights, which were wholly uninteresting. They were more monotonous than anything. Each one has a fairly predictable pattern of no more than four moves and even the final boss fight was significantly less difficult than many of the game’s standard encounters with waves of enemies.
As an example, there is one boss that can teleport around the map. The fight can start out fairly confusing as he teleports around, sends projectiles that deal massive amounts of damage in all directions, and tries to hit you with melee attacks. There are even waves of adds at various stages of the fight. By the end of the fight, however, you’ve figured out that you simply have to dodge as soon as he shows up behind you, attack him, wait for him to teleport away, and repeat. Should he use his projectile AoE, the ranged chassis simply have to move out of the way slightly while Vanguard can avoid all damage by activating his shield and letting the projectiles bounce off of it. By the last half of the fight or so, he has foregone the use of any other attacks and he becomes incredibly predictable and easy to take down. This could be forgiven if it were the first boss—during which I sat right in front of it and hit it in the face with my hammer until it died—but later bosses need more depth. As Vanguard, I was even able to spend the majority of the final boss fight simply punching the boss in the face, only dodging the occasional AoE as my co-op partner and I chipped away at the boss’s massive amount of health.
Not A Story Worth Telling
Livelock’s story is arguably its worst facet. It feels as if someone outlined a sprawling sci-fi epic and then tried to build a short story based on the outline. The pacing is inconsistent. Every single NPC is weak, their motivations lacking. Unimportant parts of the story are dragged out, whereas important parts are given far too little attention. Some elements of the story are simply uninteresting and make little sense, such as the introduction of a character that would fall under the “wise old man” archetype. The story’s one big twist was far too predictable, hinted at too much, and I found the logic behind it to be lacking, if not trite. It’s almost as if the writer(s) wanted the game to have some deep, meaningful story with a profound message and they failed on all fronts, leaving the entire journey feeling underdeveloped. The ending was almost insulting.
Ultimately, though, the game’s largest fault in regards to its story is that it never convinces you that the characters are worth caring about. There is far too little information divulged about any one character outside of audio logs that you have to find scattered throughout the game’s levels—and even then, you only learn about the main three characters. The dialogue between characters is almost always restricted to what is absolutely necessary and what is there is fairly bland. The main characters all follow some sort of stereotype, while all other characters follow a near-robotic obedience to their personal goals and motivations for those goals. Every single character is left feeling hollow, the best cases being some kind of stereotype.
The Little Issues Add Up
Livelock has a number of other issues. While there is thankfully nothing game-breaking, there are quite a few smaller issues that can add up. Perhaps the most prominent issue is that of loot despawn times in co-op. While in single-player, you will likely not have any issues with loot, as you will search the chest or corpse you are standing over and any loot that spills out of it will immediately be vacuumed into your possession. While in co-op, however, loot is instanced, but it despawns in a matter of ten to fifteen seconds. If your entire group isn’t standing on or near the chest or corpse that is being searched, those that aren’t present run the very real risk of losing their loot. I can’t count the number of times I was sprinting back towards a chest or corpse that my co-op partner had searched, only to watch the loot despawn when I was within inches of reaching it. It is incredibly frustrating and I can’t fathom why the despawn timer is so short.
While the physics provided no shortage of fun they also provided some immersion-breaking moments. Several times over the course of the game’s campaign, a car would fall from the sky piece by piece.
I am also not fond of the game’s interface. Once in-game and destroying robots, the HUD is serviceable. The menu interface, however, felt awkward. It has a very dated look to it and mostly feels distinctly gamepad-oriented. The one exception is the lobby menu, which feels poorly laid out. Whereas the other menus could be easily used with a gamepad, I always felt that I needed to switch to using a mouse in order to use the lobby menu.
It’s unfortunate that I felt the need to use the mouse at all, as the real-time switch between a gamepad and a keyboard and mouse is finicky at best, and it heavily favors the keyboard and mouse. Playing as Vanguard felt significantly more comfortable on a gamepad due to the melee aspect, whereas playing as Catalyst or Hex is significantly more comfortable on a keyboard and mouse due to only having guns available to them, but the game would constantly switch back to mouse controls every chance it got. When I died, I would have to press A to reactivate gamepad controls or I would be forced to drop using the mouse—even if I hadn’t touched the mouse or keyboard since the last time I was in the lobby. Even worse, however, is the fact that it would consistently switch the ability buttons on the interface to show the keyboard controls, instead of the gamepad controls, even if I was actively using the gamepad when it switched. Worse still are the numerous times that I was forced to use the mouse to control the menus because the game decided that it was going to stop accepting inputs from the gamepad’s joysticks—but only while using the menus.
The PS4 Version
Up until now, this review has been largely about the PC version of Livelock, but, as it was originally intended to be the only version of the game that would be delayed, I felt it prudent to try out the PS4 version and provide a small synopsis of my experience. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best experience. The PS4 version’s graphical quality appears to be somewhat lower than the highest settings on the PC version. Additionally, the physics update noticeably slower on PS4. Despite this, the PS4 version regularly dropped below 30 frames per second when in intense, or even semi-intense, firefights. The framerate appears to be capped at 60 frames per second but it is wildly inconsistent throughout play. To make matters worse, there is noticeable screen tearing. On the bright side, using a gamepad to control the menus on PS4 is significantly more comfortable.
Final Verdict - Good
There are many small issues with Livelock—and some significantly larger issues like the story—but, at the end of the day, when I ask myself if I had fun playing it the answer is undeniably “yes.” It’s enjoyable from start to finish, but it’s when you’re nearing the end of the game and Vanguard drops his Reinhardt-esque ultimate and stuns a group of enemies, and then Hex nukes them with his Hammer of Dawn-esque ultimate, that the game really comes into its own. Being able to use a full loadout of abilities in cooperation with other members of your team in a top-down shooter setting makes the game hectic, but insanely fun. Despite the arcade-like leaderboards and focus on scores, Livelock’s story makes it feel as if it doesn’t have much replayability unless you want to try again on a higher difficulty or level each of the game’s chassis and, clocking at a mere five hours for my first playthrough, it may seem short for its $19.99 price tag. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an enjoyable top-down shooter that is even better when playing with a friend or two, Livelock is more than worth the cost of admission.
Livelock System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP 32 bit
CPU: Pentium D 820 2.8GHz or Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4400+
RAM: 1 GB GB RAM
Video Card: GeForce 315 512MB or Radeon HD 4550
Hard Disk Space: 12 GB Free Space
Official system requirements have not yet been released for Livelock. The requirements above our based on our experience and will be updated when official numbers become available.
Livelock Music & Soundtrack
Livelock Additional Information
Developer: Tuque Games, Perfect World Entertainment
Other Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Announcement Date: January 26, 2016.
Release Date: TBA
Development History / Background:
Livelock is primarily developed by Canadian-based game studio Tuque Games. The game was announced on January 26, 2016. Tuque Games was formed in 2012 by industry veterans. The studio is working in conjunction with Perfect World Entertainment, publishers of Neverwinter, Jade Dynasty, and Forsaken World.