Played On: PC
Completion: Completed campaign
Reviewed By: Carlos Hernandez
Twin-stick shooters have become an acquired taste: a genre only sought after by those wanting to relive the glory days of games where you destroyed everything in sight, often in an isometric view and with your pals (or alone, if you so chose). Livelock is one of those games. Despite its linear character progression and bland storyline, I had a blast destroying all the corrupt machines that have taken over this post-apocalyptic world.
In Livelock, you are given the choice to play the game as one of the three Intellects – robots embedded with human consciousness, tasked with taking back Eden in order to resurrect humanity from the dead. These characters not only provide a range of unnecessary humor, but also different playstyles: there's Hex, a soldier that specializes at long-ranged combat, Vanguard, who prefers to take damage and inflict his own up close, and Catalyst, who is more of a support class and can drop stationary turrets and apply status effects to her enemies. Each one has their own unique sets of equipment and abilities to unlock as you level up.
Each mission after the first gives you that sense of being overwhelmed, especially when playing alone. I found myself surrounded by enemies coming from all angles, as well as destructible environments that sometimes blocked my way, forcing me to use every skill to stay alive – rolling, switching weapons, triggering my abilities at the right moment, etc. It can get intense. After the dust cleared, I felt satisfied with the do-or-die carnage. The variety of enemies during the 5-6 hour campaign kept it fresh, with each campaign providing a new location to explore. Bosses are found in certain missions and have abilities requiring you to adjust to their pattern. They provide a reasonable challenge after taking on wave after wave of enemies, but they're not really a grand affair that can be turned into a war story worth telling.
The level progression is simple. Boosting your Intellect unlocks new weapons, abilities, and alternate versions of abilities that add new effects, such as 'Slow' to Hex’s mines. It allows for variety if you want to change your loadout, but I found little reason, as I progressed, to mess with what was already working. After a couple of upgrades to my preferred weapons of choice using the currency picked up in each mission, the basic abilities and first three weapons of Hex (for instance) were enough to plow through the three chapters of the campaign on normal difficulty. I experimented from time to time, but the choices are more of a preference than a requirement. But this works somewhat in Livelock’s favor since I spent little time tinkering with my loadouts and headed straight to the next mission, because what really kept me invested was blowing stuff up in a stylish manner, which the Ultimate abilities really help with.
The art of blowing up enemies left and right is not only satisfying to accomplish, but appealing to watch. The game is visually stunning when things get a bit dicey. Walls crumble and enemies explode like fireworks, triggering a series of flashing colors. The destruction stays vibrant throughout the course of the game but never hits the threshold of being distracting. I experienced the PC version of Livelock and noticed a couple of FPS drops in certain areas when tons of assets flooded the screen, but they weren't enough to ruin my time with the game.
In between the destruction, you do get more out of the story as you progress. In addition to the various audio logs you can find, thanks to input from Satcom, the robot up in space guiding the Intellect's adventures to find Eden, you gain more context about the world of Livelock, ravaged as it is with crazy machines.
The story itself was easy to follow, but the silly banter between the Intellects and other characters in the game are cringe-worthy. Witty remarks from Catalyst or any of the characters feel forced and out of place. The tale itself feels serious, but you get that sense of immersion-breaking detachment once the Intellects start talking during cut-scenes. By the end of the game, the plot twists were predictable and dull, leaving no drive to seek more about this world Tuque Games has created. But I did want to kill waves of enemies at a higher difficulty and unlock more abilities after the credits have rolled.
Going through the campaign on normal difficulty doesn't net you enough experience to get all the abilities available for one character. Plus, with each Intellect's gameplay being unique, beating the game with a different character provides a new experience, giving good replay value for those itching for more.
I found myself enjoying Livelock. It doesn’t break the mold of twin-stick shooters, but it also doesn’t stumble on what makes these kinds of games fun to begin with. The gameplay and the three classes available can keep you invested despite the rather dull story and unusual personalities. It’s an experience that can be replicated by games in the same genre, but once you start Livelock, it will definitely hook you into keeping the destruction counter going, eager to take on the next wave of machines that want you dead.
Reviewed By: Carlos Hernandez
- Intense combat from start to finish
- Unique experience found in each class
- Visually appealing destruction
- Linear class progression
- Weak story and unusual character personalities