Personality can take what would otherwise be a generic game and make it memorable. So it’s a shame that Livelock fails in this regard, despite how much work has gone into creating the sci-fi story and cooperative twin-stick shooter gameplay.
The plot kicks off as a meteor approaches, and humans are put into a sleep state for their own protection. In order to awaken humanity, three people opt to put their minds into robots, so they can survive the crash without their squishy bodies. When the time comes, the pieces needed to open the vault have been taken by creatures across the world, meaning the robots will have to fight if they want to get them back.
Thought has clearly gone into all the little details of the story and its world, with plentiful descriptions of what’s going on and who exactly it involves. Unfortunately, that information has been used in lieu of emotional storytelling. I was told to destroy monsters just because they were bad, and had no idea about who the people behind the protagonists really were. I’m not saying that it should have been a tear-jerker, just that a personal reason to care could have provided some much-needed investment.
Our three robotic heroes act as the playable protagonists; close-combat Vanguard, long-range Hex, and Catalyst, who serves in the support role. They each expand their respective arsenals throughout the game, allowing you to pick the best weapons, abilities and upgrades for every situation. Most are in keeping with their standard roles, but a few extras are thrown in to curb repetition.
With Livelock throwing hordes of enemies at me, it was a relief to play as a healer who could pack a punch. Catalyst could wield some pretty nifty laser guns, place turrets, and call upon armies of drones, in addition to healing and providing buffs. Similarly, Vanguard is able to punch and use shields, while Hex has long range guns combined with close proximity mines. Not only does this bring some balance for solo players, but also gives a large advantage, in the form of diversity, when battling with others online.
After having chosen a character, I soon discovered Livelock‘s consistent formula. Levels are based on moving forward and blasting through anything that gets in your way. It is possible to go off the beaten track to hunt for extra experience points and in-game currency, but in general, things are pretty linear. Luckily, the fast paced gameplay and swarms of enemies were enough to keep me distracted from any repetition in the design.
Boss fights, escort missions and protection quests peppered throughout also have a hand in stopping the gameplay from becoming stale. Likewise, the environment changes up often enough to keep things interesting on the eyes. Locales include ruined cities, bridges, underground tunnels and technological alien homes.
Despite detailed designs, from locations to the enemies in them, the top-down perspective leaves everything looking rather similar. It’s the problem with looking at anything from a distance: it hinders a lot of the tension and quite literally reduces the scale of the events that are going on. As one example, I didn’t find the bosses to be intimidating in the slightest — their huge size didn’t quite register with such a zoomed-out view. Combine this with limited music and sound effects, and Livelock ends up with a disappointingly mild atmosphere.
Each level does offer new monsters to take down that steadily increase in strength, numbers, and ability. It makes for a decent difficulty curve, and I constantly looked forward to what Livelock was going to throw at me next. Personal favorites included one that used hooks to drag my character towards itself, and another that had a rotating shield to block my fire. Unfortunately, no matter what the game threw at me, the only strategy I ever needed was to constantly shoot and occasionally dodge.
Completing the campaign alone was no problem thanks to Catalyst’s healing ability. Certain moments did give off a “it’s meant to be played with friends” vibe, though. Health depletes quickly when surrounded by large waves of enemies, all of whom want you dead. If even that happens to sound too easy, though, rest assured that Livelock has a hard mode as well as an additional survival level, providing countless waves of foes that will only relent once you’ve bit the dust.
Multiplayer, with friends or others online, is where Livelock shines. Up to three players can go at it at once, one per available character. Joining forces can actually negate many of the game’s lackluster elements, with the combined strategy, and higher attack power, enabling the whole team to feel pretty badass.
When all is said and done, Livelock is a good game despite my qualms. All the elements are in the right place, especially for small groups that enjoy the genre — just don’t expect anything overly unique.
This review is based off a PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Livelock provides decent twin-stick shooter gameplay, for a good time with friends. It’s just a shame that the title doesn’t do anything new, focusing on an information-heavy plotline instead of providing any solid emotion.