Livelock is a top-down twin-stick shooter game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Livelock is the first-ever game that Perfect World Entertainment has published that is not free-to-play having released games including Star Trek Online and Neverwinter Online. The developer Tuque Games is full of world class talent with some who have even worked on developing games such as Batman: Arkham Knight, Far Cry, Splinter Cell and more besides which provides an amazing pedigree of true potential for the studio and an intriguing prospect for the quality of their debut game Livelock. Can Livelock set a new standard for the top-down twin-stick shooter genre?
The story revolves around an apocalyptic event which exterminates humankind resulting in no organic life remaining; therefore a plan was formed in which humans would have their minds uploaded into machines in order to evolve and live on as artificial intellects. It was hoped that this would result in the rebirth of humanity, although the apocalyptic event was too strong and unfortunately corrupted the vast majority of the consciousness; resulting in the formation of factions with rogue clusters causing decades of warfare. Your character known as Intellect is humanity’s final hope as SATCOM found Intellect to defend the slim possibility that humanity may one day hopefully return.
Campaign mode provides a series of mission directives in which the fascinating story gradually unfolds over the course of three acts with each act comprising of a variety of levels as you search for four encryption key fragments to open the doors to Eden. Collectables can be found throughout the duration of the campaign mode including audiologs that are related to the story and even each robot chassis which rather importantly provides a back story to compliment the plotline as well as carbon being the currency of the world Livelock is set within.
Survival mode sees waves of enemies appearing with their specific purpose to work together to annihilate your robot chassis, while you must survive for as long as possible and in doing so destroy as many enemies as you can. An interesting gameplay design choice results in enemies gradually improving their efficiency in attack and defence when upgrading their level which certainly makes it harder to progress far into survival mode without actually increasing your own level and weaponry.
There are three character classes including Vanguard, Hex and Catalyst with each class referred to as a unique chassis of robot which contain varying strategies and class traits. Vanguard has great armour resulting in being able to absorb a huge amount of enemy fire combined with specialised melee weapons to inflict damage to enemies at close range making the Vanguard chassis a leader in battle, while having Unstoppable Force and Immovable Object class traits providing a bonus resistance to negative status effects and a bonus shield capacity respectively. Hex is a skilled marksman with the capability of inflicting damage on enemies with pinpoint accuracy and hit-and-run tactics, while possessing Crackshot and Plasma Shells class traits providing a bonus critical hit chance and bonus critical hit damage. Catalyst dominates in battle with advanced combat drones in addition to providing critical repairs to allies resulting in versatility as a support specialist, while having Mother of Drones and Battlefield Repairs class traits providing advanced combat drones and the ability to repair allies. Character customisation for your robot comes in the form of firmware modules which you will gradually find and collect when exploring and during battle. Firmware modules allow your robot to be equipped with a helmet, cape and alloy throughout a range of accessories within each category in order to create a customised aesthetic. Enemy design is varied as you will encounter opposing robots of differing shapes, sizes and colours, although your enemies have far more variation than superficial differences as enemy robots have their own methods and speeds of movement, upgrades, weaponry and more besides with some enemies even utilising stealth camouflage and teleportation.
The environment design is incredibly important to conveying a post-apocalyptic world in which humans no longer walk the planet, while environments have a fair amount of variety as they are set on the surface amongst the ruins through to ice in later levels and underground in caves and tunnels. Despite having a reasonable amount of exploration to uncover secret areas usually containing a chest which can be looted for important supplies such as the in-game currency referred to as carbon; the environment design is actually linear in its approach as it is more structured around the storytelling instead of providing more of an open world. The linear environment design still allows you to explore in pretty much every immediate direction, although it still feels more restricted than it should be given that you are controlling giant robots with seriously powerful weaponry; therefore your robot can smash through certain structures but not through others when it is suited to the design of that specific level which results in the environments only being partially destructible.
Your loadout starts with a single weapon as your further five slots are all locked until you have levelled up far enough, while primary weapons have unlimited ammo, although secondary weapons and launchers have limited ammo which must be collected. Every primary and secondary weapon has their own unique attributes including firepower, firerate, clip size and critical chance resulting in various advantages and disadvantages for every weapon such as a weapon having moderate firepower with an excellent firerate to somewhat counteract the inferior firepower. For instance, Hex will begin with a DAMR primary weapon before soon gaining a Mass Driver secondary weapon and eventually a launcher weapon which can be swapped for another weapon during your loadout selection when you have unlocked them. Functions are also unlocked after only a few levels such as a proximity triggered cluster mine and armour penetration which produces an increased firerate and weapon projectiles capable of penetrating enemies and even shields when positioned in a straight line, while every function has two unlockable function mods to effectively provide a variation of the purpose for each function when you have attained a certain level, although functions tend to have a cooldown period of around 18 to 25 seconds. Upgrading weaponry comprises of five upgrades for progressively improved performance which are bought using in-game currency that increases in pricing as the first upgrade has a cost of 75 carbon rising to 150 carbon for the second upgrade and so on, while a slider displays exactly how much improvement the upgrade will provide to each of the four unique attributes. Overclocking power-ups provide a variety of temporary boosts for 20 seconds including increased melee damage, invulnerability, bonus firerate, bonus critical chance and more besides in which two boosts are received simultaneously.
XP and levelling up is extremely vital to your progression in Livelock as you will earn XP from completing mission directives, destroying enemies and destruction streaks which will enable you to level up your character. Levelling up provides a variety of improvements to your robot’s loadout such as primary and secondary weaponry and functions all the way from the first level through to the level cap of level 30 for each of the three robot chassis.
Livelock’s remote play performance is excellent with the graphics, audio and general performance possessing the same level of quality as the PS4 version, while the control scheme has unfortunately not been optimised resulting in shooting moving from R2 and L2 to the right and left of the rear touch pad which does not exactly lend itself to the twin-stick shooter genre and does not have an in-game customisable control scheme. The rest of the controls remain exactly the same as the PS4 version, although your satisfaction with the remote play experience depends upon how easy you become accustomed to the right and left of the rear touch pad during combat.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller as they are based around a twin-stick control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to shoot your currently selected primary weapon; pressing L2 to perform certain functions such as an orbital strike; pressing R1 to perform a melee attack; pressing L1 to perform a roll in order to evade enemy attacks; pressing square to reload your weapon; holding square to interact with items such as chests; pressing X or O to utilise functions; pressing triangle or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to change weapons; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to manoeuvre your robot chassis; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim your robot’s weaponry; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.
There is no touch pad implementation which is surprising as it could have been utilised for the additional feature of swiping across the touch pad to position an orbital strike with pinpoint accuracy. There is also no light bar implementation which could have been used to display a shade of the colour representing your robot chassis or alternatively as a health indicator starting off with a bright green tone when you have full health, gradually fading from bright green to yellow, orange and red, descending into a darker red, then flashing red when your robot is marginal on health. The DualShock 4 controller also appears to not vibrate which is rather disappointing as you would imagine gigantic powerful robots would make a real impact, while there are certainly enough weapons and functions which your robot chassis possesses and more than enough enemy robots simultaneously firing at your robot to make some sort of vibration.
Graphically, Livelock looks amazing with exceptional particle effects when weapons are fired and during the resulting explosions, accurate lighting and shadows especially when your robot’s torch illuminates underground caves and tunnels, smoke emerges from the rubble of the desolate surface, accompanied by mostly fluent animations and frame-rate, distorted visuals when your robot has limited health remaining and destructible elements of scenery.
The presentation of the game is excellent with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, level selection menus, machine lab menus, progression menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. The background of the menu screens have some nice graphical touches such as the outline of the chassis progress indicator displaying in the same colour as your chosen robot chassis, while the robot chassis is exhibited to the right of the main menu which can be rotated and zoomed in towards via the right analogue stick with a stylish Livelock logo situated to the top left.
Voice-overs bring some personality to each of the three robot chassis as well as being provided with the mission directives from SATCOM and the more threatening and foreboding enemy robots which are complimented by atmospheric music composed by Mathieu Lavoie. Sound effects include walking, reloading, rolling, performing melee attacks when attacking enemies and knocking down walls to unlock secret areas, performing primary and secondary attacks when firing at enemies and enemies firing back at your robot chassis and loud explosions. There are many important sound effects that convey the post-apocalyptic setting including destructible components of the environments such as the remaining pillars of a building, cars, trees and monuments, water rippling as your robot chassis treads through it in some underground tunnels, enemies howling in the distance particularly in underground environments and enemies scaling their way up the side of the environment to reach your robot chassis’ ground level before attacking. There is surprisingly no DualShock 4 speaker implementation; despite the most realistic approach being to utilise the speaker would have been to project the voice-overs from the audio logs, accompanied by the voice-over for your chosen robot chassis and SATCOM’s voice-over for all of his communication with your robot chassis which is not unrealistic to have expected given that the respective voice-overs do not tend to interrupt each other.
The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 43 bronze trophies, 4 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Scrapped bronze trophy for destroying 1 Upgraded enemy and the Scrap Heap bronze trophy for destroying 100 enemies. Harder trophies include The Dream Team silver trophy for reaching level 30 with Hex, Catalyst and Vanguard character classes; the Singular gold trophy for completing every mission on the hard difficulty level; and the Transcendent gold trophy for surviving 15 minutes in the Survival OP Mission. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list, although rather uncharacteristically the trophies only seem to unlock when the player has an online connection even when playing in single player.
There are three difficulty levels that can be chosen in any game mode including easy, normal and hard also referred to as autonomous, emergent and singular respectively in which autonomous provides tough yet fair enemies, while emergent sees enemies become merciless, alongside singular which delivers a genuine challenge for experts only as enemies are entirely overpowered. Earning XP to level up your robot chassis becomes all the more essential if you plan on tackling the singular difficulty level in single player as you will definitely need to have your best arsenal of weaponry and functions unlocked and upgraded to be able to destroy the more aggressive robots.
Online co-operative multiplayer is available for up to 3 players with an excellent level of performance despite the frantic pacing and the huge amount of enemies that can appear at any given moment which results in an entertaining online multiplayer experience that provides strength in numbers especially in the harder difficulty levels. Players can create a public game for the campaign mode or survival mode in which anyone can join or a private game were only players you know can be invited. Beware of spoilers when playing the campaign in quick join mode as it is capable of positioning you into a level that is far more advanced in the story than what you have played up until that point.
I would have liked to see the online co-operative multiplayer be available in the form of local co-operative multiplayer in dynamic split-screen; just to provide further freedom for players to be able to play the single player experience locally with up to two friends and perhaps even a drop-in/drop-out gameplay mechanic to be able to have single player evolving into local co-operative multiplayer and combining with anyone from your friends list or globally to join in co-operatively to experience the adventure together.
I would have liked dynamic split-screen local and online competitive multiplayer to be included which would have elevated the game to an entirely new level by having one player as the good guy and a player as the group of enemies were the player could strategically switch from enemy to enemy in order to arrange their forces during battle. The concept could become even more interesting by having the third player choose their side for a 2 vs. 1 gameplay experience with customised levels and upgrades to set a one-sided or even difficulty curve.
The online leaderboards focuses on the highest scores from each player in every level of campaign mode and even survival mode with rankings covering solo, 2 player co-op, 3 player co-op and globally with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and their best score, while you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top 10, 9 players situated closest to your score or your team’s score and players from your friends list within any given leaderboard.
Livelock’s replayability stems from a multitude of areas such as the campaign mode and survival mode, earning XP and levelling up to unlock new weapons and functions for your robot chassis’ loadout throughout the levelling up process from level 1 to level 30 and upgrading your weaponry, aesthetic customisation of your robot chassis, collecting audiologs and carbon, 3 difficulty levels, online co-operative multiplayer for up to 3 players for campaign mode and survival mode and online leaderboards for every level of campaign mode and survival mode which will collectively bring players back to Livelock many hours after completing the first playthrough of the story.
- Title: Livelock
- Developer: Tuque Games
- Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-3 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 12.9GB (Version 1.01)