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July 2018


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Perfect World
Developer: Tuque Games
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'Livelock'

by Brian Dumlao on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Livelock is a fast-paced cooperative top-down shooter combining intelligent action and unique characters.

When you see the company name "Perfect World," your first thought is free-to-play. Take a quick look at the publisher's game lineup, and you'll see a bevy of free-to-play MMOs, from its self-titled original to licensed ones for Neverwinter and Star Trek. They've done well enough in this space that it is exciting and surprising to see a traditional paid game this time around, albeit one that's still digital-only, like the rest of their titles. Developed by Canadian company Tuque Games, Livelock is good but suffers from many small issues.

The story starts with a cataclysmic force heading toward Earth, but mankind was able to prepare for it. Scientists preserved humanity by storing everyone's conscience in big, towering robots. The first three test subjects, collectively known as the Capital Intellect, are stored in an underground facility while everyone else's minds were huddled in Moscow, New York, and Tokyo. A sentient AI floating above space promised to safeguard humanity until the cataclysm passed. Unfortunately, the event caused major damage and corrupted the machines, so they fought each other and further ravaged the Earth. You've awoken from your slumber, and you must fight the damaged robots and find the keys to a place called Eden, which will somehow bring back humanity.

Aside from the use of robots, the story is similar to just about any other postapocalyptic tale in that a magical place or item will return things to normal. There's nothing wrong with that, and the story is told quite competently. The dialogue may be cheesy, but you never get the feeling that the tale is told with the utmost seriousness. It's a strange omission to have the audio logs you collect be inaccessible outside of the moment you discover them. They aren't overly fascinating, but it does make their collection rather trivial if you're not interested in hunting down Trophies.

Before you can do anything else, you have to choose between one of three classes. Hex is a projectile class who can surround himself with mines and cloak himself to facilitate stealth, though you'll only want to do the latter if you need a breather from combat. Catalyst is a healer who can dish out damage and buy you time with her placement of turrets. Then there's Vanguard, who can take tons of damage while dealing the most melee damage. No matter who you choose, everyone can do well on their own if you go solo on the title.

From here, Livelock takes on a twin-stick shooter mechanic combined with Diablo-esque touches. The enemy count is varied, but quite a few come in augmented varieties ranging from invulnerability to faster movement speed. You'll be able to take three guns with you into battle, along with three supplementary powers, but those can only be accessed when you reach the appropriate character level. While you can't pick up weapons from the field, you can get things like new helmets, capes, and paint jobs to change your overall look. The money you collect can be used to upgrade your weapon stats to make them more powerful or hold more ammo.

To be honest, the game mechanics don't feature anything that's new or special. Mission objectives are pretty repetitive, from killing a boss to protecting objectives. Despite this, the solid game mechanics make the title fun. Aiming is precise, bullets feel like they make an impact, and most of the environment can be destroyed with reckless abandon. Enemy groups don't feel too overwhelming for solo play, and there are real tactics that need to be used in order to come away victorious. It all works so well that it makes what can be a mediocre game engaging since the fundamentals don't feel broken.

The other strong point in the game's favor is the speed of the overall progression system. Go solo, and you'll easily get enough XP to level up. This isn't just in the early stages but the later ones as well, so going from 20 to 21 is just as easy as going from 5 to 6. Each level upgrade also unlocks new abilities and weapons, so it's always eventful. Aside from weapon variety, leveling up doesn't give a player a tremendous advantage.

There are some odd design decisions that count against Livelock. Whenever you unlock something new, you're only given a picture of what was unlocked instead of being told what you got. You need to go to the character customization screen to find out what you got. Even then, you don't know the new item's category, so you'll fumble around the menus to locate the new addition. Considering the pace at which you're unlocking stuff and getting the money necessary to upgrade, it's annoying that you have to leave the game session to perform those upgrades. You're still in the lobby, so you can jump back in with your party without issue, but the system feels clunky. Finally, death seems rather trivial. When you die, everything collected up until that point isn't lost — unless you play at the absolute highest difficulty level.

The campaign runs at an average of six hours, but there are a few things you can do once you've completed it. The most obvious one, beyond going through the game again on higher difficulty levels, is to go through it again while playing as the other classes. Then there's Open Protocol, which is essentially survival mode with your current character. There are two variants — one that's endless and one with a 15-minute timer — but they all take place in the same level, so it gets quite boring after a while. It also doesn't help that you can't gain XP or money from this mode, so most people won't want to go through it more than once.

The lack of any benefits in Open Protocol mode explains why the online population is almost nonexistent. There's no one online playing any of the Open Protocol variants, and searching for players in Campaign mode will barely register any blips. At least players can jump in and out of games without getting in a lobby, so that helps. What doesn't help is the lack of offline co-op, which would've provided a means for other players to experience co-op when online populations are low.

Graphically, there's nothing really special in Livelock. We've seen ruined cities countless times before, and there's nothing that makes this title different, except that there are more chasms present, so the whole thing feels like it's floating. It is rendered well enough and has lots of good details, but other elements make it less than spectacular. The lack of vsync means that moving through a stage produces a strange effect where the environments stretch slightly and then catch up after a few steps. The overall frame rate is solid enough, unless there are a ton of enemies and explosions on-screen, but the destructible elements run at a much slower frame rate, so it looks like it's being destroyed much more slowly. The issues are minor when taken separately, but they add up to a game that looks rather odd in motion.

Sound-wise, Livelock is pretty good. The music is fine for the big, sprawling adventure, as it provides a good backdrop for the action. The voice acting isn't bad, even if the delivery on some of the questionable dialogue is suspect. The effects are what you'll hear the most, and the sounds of bullets hitting metal and explosions are great. Missing are the sounds for melee attacks, so unless you're looking at the energy meter on your opponent, there's no audio cue to let you know that your attacks have landed.

Livelock is still worth checking out, so long as you know you're getting a B-level, sci-fi action-RPG with guns. It would've been great if it had received some more care and polish. It doesn't add anything new to the genre, and it can be rather obtuse when it comes to upgrading and learning about your new upgrades, but the basic gameplay is solid. The fast pace of upgrades may provide players with enough encouragement to forge ahead. The blemishes in the aesthetics and audio throw things off, and the lack of a more robust multiplayer, especially offline co-op, definitely counts against it.

Score: 7.5/10

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