We knew we’d like Livelock from the opening cinematic in which one character proudly states that “the only thing better than building a robot… is becoming one”.
We wholeheartedly agree.
That quote gives you the gist of the plot of Livelock; gamma rays are heading for Earth and they will destroy all organic life. The simple solution is to simply extract all humans’ minds and store them in three clusters around the world. When the cataclysm is all over the minds can then be put into robot bodies and everything can continue as before. What could possibly go wrong?
Well those gamma rays, for one. They were too powerful and corrupt the clusters, turning them into warring hordes which fight for centuries, continually building new robot bodies to fight the bad fight.
You play as one of three of the original humans to have their minds transplanted into robot bodies. With the help of a suspicious AI, you need to free the clusters and bring humanity back with a plan called “Eden”.
While the plot is pure disposable pulp science fiction of the highest order; it has some great concepts and showed glimmers of hope (a robot that was never human trying to figure out what humanity is, for example) but it never delivers past that. Delete all your hopes now and get on with the playing it.
Livelock is a good ol’ fashioned twin stick shooter. Once you have chosen a class (or “Chassis”), you set forth to shoot through the three factions of enemies and activate Eden to save the day and humanity as a whole. Hoorah!
Here’s where Livelock will either be a run of the mill twin stick shooter or something new and exciting: this split in experience comes from the first time you choose your Chassis. The three on offer are: Catalyst, a long range Chassis that uses drones, Hex, the standard mid range all rounder and Vanguard, a tank that does the most work in the front lines.
We cannot recommend Vanguard enough here. What makes this Chassis so different is a focus on melee combat. While Hex and catalyst do have emergency melee attacks, Vanguard uses its fists all the time. Using melee in a shooting game shouldn’t work, but it does here.
This is helped by the weighty feel of the game: almost all objects feel like they should, dense, tough robotics that you need to continuously hammer to defeat. if you’re playing as one of the ranged-focused classes, you’ll miss out on this.
This, however, causes a problem in-game. You can’t hop between the classes at will because each of them have individual levels, weapons and abilities. If you get a few missions deep and decide you’d like to play as another class, you won’t be able to because it will be underpowered.
This problem is solved by another problem, as strange as it sounds. We managed to complete the game on normal difficulty in around three and a half hours. While this could be seen as a positive – so you can play through again with another character – it leaves you wanting, especially as the game will be sold for $20 (R274 pending regional pricing).
To be completely honest, we weren’t looking forward to replaying this game after we beat it with an almost fully levelled Vanguard, but we’re glad we did. Livelock does a good job of drip-feeding you new unlocks, which presses you to keep playing.
On our second run as a Hex class we got to the mid point of the game in one sitting, partly because we kept wanting to try out the new unlocks, and partly because we skipped through the now boring cut scenes.
Last and least is the endless mode, and it’s a real letdown. There’s only one small map and the devs did nothing special here. Enemies from the campaign are pumped in at an increasing rate and you circle strafe until you get trapped in a corner and your run ends. It’s a real shame because this mode could have been a bastion for players feeling unsatisfied by the main story mode.
We really do like Livelock, the meaty robotic combat combined with a an interesting art aesthetic, satisfying progression and light customisation elements make us want to play more. Unfortunately, there isn’t more. This package is extremely shallow and full of annoyances like poor voice acting and irritating enemy types.
If you’re a massive fan of robots or twin stick shooters, this may be a good purchase for you, but everyone else should be weary, or wait for a sale.
Review platform: PC | Review code provided by publisher