We have a real live one here, folks.
When it comes to cooperative gaming, a sorely underutilized genre is the top-down shooter. Sure, there’s some excellent examples around, such as the ever-venerable Helldivers, but by and large, first-person and third-person shooting games outweigh their isometric brethren. Thankfully, there’s another entry in the top-down shooter category with Livelock, and it’s a rather stylish entry to boot.
Livelock takes place in a future scenario where Earth is threatened by a massive burst of gamma radiation. Calculating that the burst will eradicate all life on the planet, humanity makes a daring plan to transfer their minds into machines and preserve biological artifacts that may be resurrected once the threat has passed. However, the gamma ray burst is far more severe than what was originally projected, the result being that the computers containing humanity’s consciousnesses have been corrupted and have resorted to animalistic behavior. From here, players take on the role of one several so-called “Intellects”: those who were among the first humans transferred into synthetic bodies. A seemingly benevolent overseer AI named Satcom awakens our heroes after a time and informs them of the calamity that has befallen the world, seeking their aid in restoring the human race. The story is actually a pretty interesting little nugget of science fiction goodness, and I found myself genuinely interested in the fate of the planet and the various twists and turns that the plot takes.
There are three Intellects on offer, and each one offers a unique play style with their own individual weapons. My own personal favorite of the bunch is Catalyst, who is the resident gynoid of the team. She can perhaps be best described as a support class, featuring assistant drones in addition to powerful weapons that chain together attacks. The other two robotic monstrosities, Hex and Vanguard, are comparable to sniper and heavy classes, respectively. Besides making cooperative play more colorful and varied, the three characters instill a ton of replay value, each one offering a different experience in the main campaign.
Level design starts off a tad on the bland side, but it’s not long before things start getting a bit more interesting. Alternate routes become available and secret rooms and passageways gradually reveal a world absolutely abundant in secrets, all waiting to be discovered by the most curious of players. The reward for exploration is often currency in the form of “Carbon”, which can be spent on upgrades for an Intellect’s respective weapons and abilities. Sometimes, hidden routes will uncover a personal log entry, which is not essential but nonetheless helps in fleshing out the game’s backstory. Seeing as I hold the plot in high esteem, I found myself particularly pleased whenever I uncovered such audio logs; much more so than other such games that feature similar concepts.
Rather than just letting players burn through the levels through shooting enemies and reaching the exit, Livelock dishes out different tasks to accomplish. While some of these definitely work better than others, they’re mostly enjoyable, clever, and fun. For example, a point will have to be defended against an onslaught of enemies, or a number of targets will need to be destroyed. Occasionally, you’ll go up against a boss, with some truly memorable battles on offer.
The graphics and audio are a bit of a mixed bag. The visuals are clean and the models are imaginative and artistic, but the scenery – though expertly rendered – seems somewhat uninteresting. The visages of a post-apocalyptic Earth, with its various neon saturations and ruined cities, are adequately realized but lacking in their own distinct identity. On the audio side of things, sound effects and music serve their purposes well without being too remarkable. The voice acting ranges from great to cringe-inducing, with the smack talk of the Intellects being the greatest offender. On the opposite end of the scale is the voice of Satcom, which is so relaxing and silky-smooth that I could listen to it all day. Seriously, the actor did a superb job on his lines and he instills a very unique personality into the character.
Livelock is a great entry in the top-down shooter genre. It’s a well-crafted, quality title that skillfully mixes shooting with RPG mechanics, all while telling a surprisingly engaging story. The various characters and skill trees instill a lot of replay value, and best of all, it’s tailored with co-op play in mind. The game is best when you have a partner joining you in the carnage, so grab yourself a playmate and give this one a go. Get it from its official Steam page.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4; Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment ; Developer: Tuque Games ; Players: single-player, three player online co-op ; Released: 30th of August, 2016.
Full disclosure: this review is based on a Steam key for Livelock given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.