Livelock is what it is: a shoot-em-up that wants you to blow up as many robots as possible. It is nothing less than that, but that also means that it does not have much more than robo-splosions. For some, Livelock will be a fun, albeit short jaunt filled with multicolored lasers, attack drones, and machines philosophizing about human nature. Others will look at the game’s lack of content and pass on it. I’m more inclined toward the former sentiment, but I do sympathize with those who would want just a little bit more.
The game features two main game modes: a Campaign and “Open Protocol.” I’m assuming the latter will be fleshed out later on, but for now “Open Protocol” basically means “Survive wave upon wave of enemies.” The Campaign is the meat of the game, and it started off really well. The first eleven missions established story and the basic setting. You play as an Intellect, a human mind placed in a robotic suit designed to survive after gamma rays blast Earth. Their mission is to work with SATCOM–a giant supercomputer in space who is exposition incarnate–and revive the human race through the use of a device called Eden, which will revive the human race. Unfortunately for SATCOM (and fortunate for those who love lasers), the gamma rays corrupted most of the machines that were intended to help and will try to stop you.
The main draw of the game is its cooperative aspect. There are three Intellects to choose from: Hex, the assault-oriented sharpshooter; Vanguard, the melee tank; and Catalyst, the drone-making support. Each can choose from a variety of weapons and abilities to better fit each mission. Vanguard, for example, can reflect projectiles back toward enemies or intentionally draw fire away from his comrades. Catalyst can use a handful of drones to make a small army or can deploy healing units in the heat of battle. Finally, Hex’s abilities generally focus on getting out of trouble and firing more bullets, which isn’t as flashy but still works pretty well. To get these abilities and weapons, you have to play as the characters and level them up. That’s right, ladies and gents, it’s a progression system! You’ll level up fairly quickly, though, so just play through the story mode a time or two to max ’em out.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is where things get a bit… odd. It appears the game was designed with co-op play in mind, as huge swarms of enemies will murder you absurdly fast and story cutscenes showcase all three Intellects working together. So if the story and the game want you to play with a couple friends, how does Livelock support that? You have a couple of options. You can either set up a lobby where you invite your pals over, or you can jump into a game in progress. The focus on co-op means that single player is much harder, even on Easy difficulty.
Let me explain a bit. Since the general gameplay mechanic is “destroy hordes of enemies until they die,” you have to deal with a lot of bots really fast. Vanguard can generally tank the vast majority of the damage. Catalyst can heal herself and draw fire away from her with her clones. Hex, however, is kind of screwed. The only thing he can do is shoot and run, which is not exactly the best strategy. His abilities are also geared toward co-op play, since one makes him invisible until he attacks and another dashes him out of harm’s way. While it is possible to use Hex solo, I found myself constantly being overrun and mauled. If you play solo, don’t use Hex.
That being said, the game itself plays well-enough. I found that playing with keyboard and mouse had one glaring issue compared using a controller. When aiming with a gun, the weapons fires in a line that is represented by a laser pointer. With the mouse, I found that the reticle for the gun and the cursor itself were misaligned. There were plenty of moments where I’m hovering my mouse over the boss and finding that my bullets are firing off to the right of it. Controller, on the other hand, plays just fine.
Returning to the campaign, I was surprised how short it was. There are three acts, and I was legitimately shocked to find that Act 1 takes up half of the 21 missions. Yup, 11 out of the 21 missions are just from Act 1. Act 2 is almost half as long with six missions, and Act 3 has a meager 4 episodes. This would be fine if the missions themselves were longer, but they either take the same amount of time as before or less time than usual. I even felt that Act 3 had fewer enemies than previous acts. The story told over the campaign is the standard “robots debate humanity’s worth,” but there honestly isn’t much story there to matter.
If you and a couple of pals are looking for a game where you fire high-caliber lasers, spin-to-win with giant hammers, and make everything go kaboom, Livelock might be your thing. Otherwise, it will probably fail to bring you in. After all, once the Campaign is completed, the only other thing to do is Survival mode in order to delete more robots. Then again, that might just be what you’ve been needing to play.
Author’s note: Livelock was scheduled for release on PC August 2nd, but Arc Games announced last Friday that the launch was postponed indefinitely until it can be released on all platforms simultaneously. The game was released today, August 30, 2016, for all platforms.