Livelock, formerly World War Machine, from Tuque Games and Perfect World is a hybrid twin-stick top-shooter and multiplayer ARPG. It can be played solo or with up to three people online with one of three characters (Capital Intellects), and it follows a linear narrative, with re-playability coming in the form of an endless Survival Mode that’s procedurally generated. But, the question is… is Tuque’s freshman effort any good?
Simply put: for $20, yes indeed it is. There are many full-priced $60 games that don’t pack near as much fun as Livelock, and while its far from perfect I find Tuque’s debut to be a promising start to what I hope is a long and prosperous development career.
The story of livelock is pretty straightforward. Man was overrun by machines, and to fight back and revive humanity the minds and spirits of warriors were synergized into Capital Intellects. Human minds in powerful mechanical bodies designed to fight back against the machines, unlock Eden, and take back the world. While the campaign unfolds in a linear mission-to-mission fashion, the story’s interest at least the first time through.
With 21 missions, leaderboards, and three different characters to level up, there’s roughly 10-15 hours of playtime in the campaign alone. Whereas any further exploding and shooting can be done via the Survival mode that allows you and your friends to just endlessly fight waves of procedurally generated enemies for loot and power ups.
The downside of Livelock is not only its relatively short main campaign length, but also that it’s so linear with level design that’s hardly ever exciting. Some enemy encounters can be downright exhilarating, but the bulk of your fights will become monotonous by the time you reach the end of the campaign. Stuck between twin-stick shooter and ARPG, Livelock could do well to learn from the latter genre of game it borrows from. Procedural maps and fights make a game stay fresh a lot longer.
The action itself is really quite good though, especially with Vanguard the melee-oriented Capital Intellect. He starts off just hitting people with his bare metal fists, but eventually gets a bolt gun, and even later a two-handed hammer that he can swirl around in a circle for nice PBAoE damage. He was by far my favorite CI to play. Fans of ranged classes will like Hex, your more “Soldier 76” archetype, and support fans will find the dual-pistol wielding Catalyst up their alley.
Fights in Livelock start off slow, but as you progress and come across more varied and interesting enemies, a lot of battles leave you on the edge of your seat wondering if you’ll make it. But therein lies the problem. There’s no consequence in death with Livelock. When you die, you can just respawn seconds later where you fell, even damaging enemies as your new body is dropped upon them from the stratosphere. The lack of pain from death takes away all meaning from the difficulty of fights, because you’re never really punished for failure except in the Survival endless mode.
The action excels though, when you bring in other people. Livelock is serviceable as a solo campaign driven game, but when you add two friend to the mix the mayhem on screen is intense and the battles are simply riotous. I will say that Tuque Games’ debut feels a little content-light, but then I remember its price tag of $20, and feel like it’s sort of the sweet spot. If anything, I wish there was more to Livelock because I enjoy the basic hook of the game and want more. Hopefully it’s a success and we see some DLC or added features come along soon.
It’s a shame that Livelock launched on the same day as WoW’s Legion expansion. While I’m sure it did fine on PS4 and XB1, the PC release was probably completely overshadowed by both Legion and the launch of Nuka World for Fallout 4. That said, if you’re in the mood for a decent top-down shooter with some solid ARPG elements in character building and load-out tweaking you could do a lot worse than the budget-priced Livelock. If you’ve got a good friend or two to play with, even better.
VISUALS AND SOUND – 8 | Livelock’s Capital Intellects are well designed, and even iconic looking. It’s a shame that its world and most of its enemies feel so dull in comparison. That said, the animations, crumbling scenery, and the robotic VO of the CIs and the enemies are all well done. It’s a very “metal” sounding game, which is fitting given there’s not an ounce of flesh to be found.
GAMEPLAY – 7 | The core shooting of Livelock is solid, and improved over the earlier builds I’ve played. But the basic loop of running through maps and just killing everything in sight is dampened by the fact that there’s no loot to be hunted. All your CI upgrades come from leveling. You may find a cosmetic item on a boss, but gear upgrades and stat bonuses are all obtained from leveling. It feels somehow missing, given the obvious pulls from ARPG-dom.
POLISH – 8 | I’ve run into very few bugs with the release candidate of Livelock. If there are any real qualms I have it’s with the UI between missions when you’re choosing your loadout for your Capital Intellect. It’s wholly unintuitive, and while you eventually get what’s what, it really shouldn’t need explaining when it comes to how to upgrade and change your equipment. That and the countdown every time you want to enter or leave a mission gets a little tedious and annoying.
LONGEVITY – 5 | While you could stretch the campaign to 10-15 hours if you played all three classes, I don’t think everyone will. People will play the CI they like, and focus on that one. Since the only other mode is a repetitive survival mode, I dare say that most Livelock players will be done once they’ve beaten the campaign and wind up waiting for new content.
VALUE – 8 | It’s $20! That’s a deal, any way you slice it, even with a small campaign and limited extra game modes. There’s a lot of fun to be had for about the price of going to the movies and buying popcorn and a drink. And you can’t beat that.