By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Arc/Perfect World Entertainment are well known for a variety of solid free-to-play games: Neverwinter, Blacklight, Star Trek, and so much more. So to see them drop a buy-to-play game genuinely surprised me. I’m a child of the 80s, and I spent so much of my free time in arcades, playing topdown shooters, side scrolling beat ‘em ups, fighting games, and skiball. Livelock takes me back to those arcade days, but in a newer, grittier package. It’s a game where you play as one of three robots, called “Intellects,” on a quest to unlock Eden, and save humanity. Humanity has been absolutely decimated, and all that pretty much remains are these robots. You have the Intellectuals and the Abbadon. Abbadon obviously being a reference to Demons and the Book of Revelation [at least I think so]. They brought about this end-time, well, the war of the machines did, and it’s up to your team to save everyone and everything. It’s very Terminatoresque, in that a War of the Machines brought about the end of humanity. Livelock can be played with a controller, or keyboard and mouse, and will be on Xbox One and PS4 on launch. Honestly, it’s better with a controller; aiming is so much better that way.
Each character is different. Their combination of strengths and weaknesses promotes teamwork and online multiplayer I think since I had a bit of a rough time playing solo after the first few stages. You can play as the same character, all three of you, but I definitely don’t recommend that. But they all look and feel very different with their own personalities and loadouts. Vanguard is the tank-style Chassis, with his mighty fists and humongous hammer. He plows through foes with impunity. Hex is the sniper/big damage dealer. Lots of AOE, rockets, an Anti-Material Rifle, cluster mines and even an orbital strike. Catalyst, my personal favorite, acts as the support unit. Her kit comes complete with a Forge Rifle, an Arc Rifle [think chain lightning], a turret, a repair drone, and more. She has command of a few varieties of drones and bots to hover around and aid her. It’s all about teamwork and compatibility. You can also upgrade your guns using “Carbon,” a blue glowing item found on the ground in stages. Everyone on your team can get it when it drops, so you don’t have to stress about not having upgrade material (directing that at you Colton). You can also unlock new customization pieces for your chassis, but those are all style-based and do not aid your gameplay at all. You unlock upgrades as you gain levels with a chassis, so you aren’t overwhelmed all at once.
The stages are top-down like traditional arcade games, which is a nice change of pace to me. It feels like the team-based arcade shooters that I played in my youth, like a top-down Combatribes, Contra or Aliens vs. Predator. The world is ruined, and you push rubble, beaten up cars and more out of your way, and destroy Abbadon when they pop up out of nowhere. There are also secret areas to find! These are mostly filled with carbon and stuff like that to help you on your journey. Stages are pretty straightforward though, mostly dimly lit areas in the start with big bosses at the end or waves of things to destroy while you protect something valuable. The difficulty doesn’t ramp up too quickly, but I do feel like solo playthroughs are a bit harder than a team. You do have a dodge/roll ability you can mostly spam, but it’s not going to help when it’s 20 on 1.
It’s an infinite cycle of death and destruction, and only you and your team can stop it. It’s chaotic, and it’s intense. Not every step of the way is plagued with opponents, but when it rains, it pours. The hardest part for me so far are the suicide bots. They come out of nowhere, glow and explode, and can come in huge waves. If you don’t have the wave clear for them, you will probably die. At least you regain health outside of combat, and if you die, I believe you lose points and a pod drops down with you in it. Fortunately there are “Overclocks” you can acquire that give you temporary buffs and can really make the difference between exploding into pieces or wrecking an enemy wave. It can feel a little repetitive, but that is certainly the nature of team-based arcade style shooters. It’s fun to play a few stages here and there, and come back to it later the next time you’ve got the itch.
Rise of the Chassis: Great [4/5]
This game was so fun. It’s a blast from the past in a beautiful package. It has a definite challenge factor, it’s got online co-op, with friends or with strangers. It’s on both of the big consoles so everyone can get a hand on it. While it’s not perfect, none of the detractors were enough to keep me from loving this game. The reticle for your aiming is pretty awful since it blends in with most of the backgrounds though. I’d rather play with a controller, and was very glad to see it’s an option on PC. The aim isn’t perfect, but it’s not enough to drive me away. I love that there are lore items to find in the game, which is voiced so you can listen while you resume your killing spree.
Livelock is a bold move for Arc/PWE, and I think if it does well perhaps we’ll see more content for it, or more buy to play games from them in the future! The controls were easy to get used to, the characters were interesting and the challenge was manifold. I was admittedly disappointed that there were only three characters. That’s one of the genuine downsides to it feeling like a retro game: What you see is generally what you get. Maybe there will be some DLC/unlockable content in the form of new Intellects, but I’m not forseeing it. There was a bit of a delay in the launch of Livelock but that is the nature of the beast! I’d rather it be ready to go on launch than have a defective product. Livelock is now live on PS4, Xbox One and Steam, but while I have not heard of any crossplay, it is certainly something I’d like to see to help get friends playing across the borders, so to speak. I almost feel like this would be better on console than on Steam since I’d love to play something like this couch co-op with a few friends. Nonetheless Livelock is fun, challenging, and blowing up robots with big-ass guns and hammers? Totally on board with that.
+ Fast-paced shooter with lots of exploration and plenty of challenge.
+ Interesting characters, a realistic reason for doing what they do.
+ Guns! The guns are all badass.
- While it is a pretty game, the colors can blend together after a while, not counting lasers.
- When playing the same character, there’s no difference in color in the build I covered.
- Was hoping to unlock/uncover more Intellects. I also hate that name, “Intellects” for the main characters. I get it, but I don’t like it on a creative level.
Ready to see Livelock in action? Check me out as part of Bottom Tier in our first look video!