Review: Livelock (PS4)

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Title: Livelock
Format: PlayStation Network Download (12.9 GB)
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Developer: Tuque Games
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
Livelock is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Your mission in Livelock is to break the infinite cycle of war between machines, mostly by killing every single one of them. You have three very different machines to choose from in the beginning of the game and each has unique weapons and abilities, all of which can be upgraded once you unlock them on the battlefield. I randomly picked the melee combat machine the first time round and was surprised at how much fun I had.

The Vanguard is a large hulking robot with massive piston gauntlets and some tough armour, so I could charge in and do plenty of damage without worrying too much about my regenerative health falling too low.

I thought it best to try the others and was happy to see that I could load up another save with a different machine but keep the levels unlocked. After that I was able to switch between any created machine when in the lobby area. I started again with an assault class machine named Hex and got busy upgrading that one. I even found some new heads, paint schemes, and a few cloaks. These are purely cosmetic but help to make it your own.

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Unexpectedly my favourite machine turned out to be the last one. Named Catalyst, the smallest of the three but just as deadly, it has a feminine look and an unexpectedly large posterior. It starts out with a pulsing laser that acts like a powerful rifle and a sentry drone that is quite effective in taking some of the attention away from the weak machine.

You can easily replay earlier missions to farm some carbon energy cores used to upgrade the many weapons you unlock. This is done by killing the many enemies and finding fallen comrades and harvesting their energy. Most of these are slightly off the linear path and a few are in secret locations, none of which are too hard to find.

… an ever-increasing onslaught …
The campaign story is reasonable but not the main draw for me, what does keep me coming back is the almost constant flow of new gear to upgrade and unleash on the crazy enemy hordes. Now that I mention hordes, that reminds me of the other mode available.

There is a survival mode for you to test the mettle of your chosen machine and see how long you can last with an ever-increasing onslaught swarming toward you. This mode quickly becomes ferociously hectic and quite addictive once your machine is carrying the big guns.

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During the missions you’ll find temporary upgrades and bonuses that give boosts and increased multipliers to your all important score. Killing enemies in quick succession awards multipliers so it pays to be precise and deadly in every level. Losing a life and calling in a dropship with a copy of your machine drastically hurts the end score.

Choosing the right abilities and remembering to use them after their cooldown can be a huge help when you are slightly outgunned. It’s a feeling that will linger when playing the latter levels unless you farmed some carbon energy by replaying the first few.

… they lose much of their coolness and charm when out on the battlefield …
Visuals:
A fair amount of screen tearing spoils an otherwise nice but slightly bland looking game. A decaying grey and brown cityscape, with crumbling ruins that were once hotels, shopping malls, offices, and homes make up a large part of the game.

The only signs of life in the concrete jungle are the dim embers of the carbon power cores that idle in their machine shells of the once great warriors. There is a decent amount of destruction as many of the walls and vehicles easily crumble at a mere touch from your machine.

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The three metal entities under your control are intricately detailed when viewed up-close in the lobby screen. Sadly, they lose much of their coolness and charm when out on the battlefield. I would write that I like the thump of the dropship as it crashes to earth, but it only reminds me of how poorly I am usually doing.

Livelock isn’t all bland and boring, the gunfire and explosions are full of color and the bright blue and purple lasers light up the dull surroundings with an impressive glow. Lighting is nice too and the lack of it in some levels help to create a foreboding atmosphere. As your regenerative health falls, the screen reacts as if it were an old CRT monitor that just had a few damaging knocks.

… many lost connections and timing out …
Audio:
You will hear some good music and some silly one-liners from the machine as you trudge through the streets. There is quite a bit of chatter between machines, and it sounds as you would expect. You can find audio logs scattered around the levels that give an insight into what happened all those years ago.

I did chuckle at some familiar quotes from many of the machines. The best came from one located in a subway level very early in the game. I will not spoil it but the comment was very fitting and made me smile.

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Online/Multiplayer:
There’s no local co-op which is a big shame, but you can play with two other online people, a feat that I only managed a few times in between many lost connections and timing out. When I did play online with one or two others, it seemed to play just as well as the singleplayer experience.

Unfortunately I do have to bring up the time when the end of level boss didn’t trigger and we had to start over from the beginning. It also took a long while for the level to exit, which meant we were stood around with nothing to do for a few minutes.

… urging me to play a little longer …
I would advise playing through the entire campaign before going online with random players, as the game does not care what level you are dropped into so I ended up playing the last mission, only realising it near the end.

On the plus side, the lobby system is nice. You can see the machines of the other players along with their loadouts. You can quickly invite other players or friends but them being able to join is a little hit or miss.

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Conclusion:
Livelock is a fun game with some big enemies, but its pace is a little too lackadaisical for my liking, at least in the early levels. Ever decreasing score multipliers and sporadic waves of enemies, combined with a slow pace and the need to explore off the beaten track seem at odds with each other. I want a fast run-and-gun action game but this never fully delivers.

Even if it were by design the slow trudge of the machines hold you back from the crazy action and only the temporary speed boost from a dropped bonus unshackles you from the invisible boots of treacle the machines seem to wear.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad game. I felt the need to play through the missions with each of the three unique machines and I especially like the progression system that teases with the next unlock, urging me to play a little longer.

The online component needs tweaking as it is a little spotty but the biggest fail for me is the lack of local co-op play. It could have been a blast. Along with the slow pace, the constant screen tearing bothered me and was enough to diminish my desire to reach the end.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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