The Setup:

When the invite to check out Livelock came across my inbox, my initial reaction was to dismiss it, as I noticed the publisher was Perfect World Entertainment. As the saying goes, it’s nothing personal, but their catalog of games, such as Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, PWI, and more, aren’t my bag. However, doing my due diligence, as one is ought to do when rewarded with a trusty media badge, I dug a little deeper into their invite.

The hype machine builds Livelock as a fast-paced, top down shooter and oh yeah, by the way, it features 3 player online co-op action. Immediately, the idea of playing a top down shooter with my online friends has me reaching for the controller. Couple that with the fact that games like these are usually twin-stick shooters, I’m now praying to the gaming gods that this game will not suck, as it sounds too good to be true. Once I come back down to reality, I book the appointment and away I go to PAX East.

The Experience:

Saturday is a busy day, not unlike any other day at PAX. We arrive at the booth around 2pm on Saturday and we’re quickly greeted by the Livelock PR team. We have the fortunate pleasure of not only getting to play the game but also to speak to Kevin Neibert, who works for Tuque Games, as the Lead Game Designer for Livelock. This will be the first game release for Tuque games but Kevin assures me the team is made up of prominent developers from Montreal, who have worked on many games, including the Far Cry franchise.

The story of Livelock takes place 150 years into the future. For many years, humans have been aware that there is an impending global cataclysmic event, which will wipe out all biological entities, such as humans, plants, and animals. To prepare for this gamma ray storm, humans made great strides in creating a mind-uploading technology. Right before the fateful event, humans uploaded their human consciousness on to digital drives and then transferred them into these robot “killing machines”.

Kevin explained that there are 3 classes of characters in Livelock. They are the marksman, tank, and support. However, regardless of which character you play as, over time, you’ll learn more about the events prior to the storm, after the storm, and, you’re human memories will return over time. Due to regaining your human consciousness, you’ll start to develop a personality and have emotions, as well as the need to make ethical and moral choices. One of the themes of Livelock is to understand what is the difference between an infinitely complex AI and a human consciousness.

A key pillar for Tuque Games was to create a game which has intelligent action. Your character will have 2-5 different attacks, which will cause enemies to react to you differently. Over time, players are expected to learn the strength and weaknesses of enemies. Each character will have 6 unique weapons and 5 unique abilities. Your final loadout contains 3 weapons and 3 abilities. There is a progression system for your weapons and abilities. For example, your special dash ability can be upgraded to do damage or give you a brief period of invincibility. It sounds like there should be enough upgrade paths to keep players engaged for a decent amount of time.

The Takeaway:

Finally, what matters most to everyone, how was our experience with actually playing the game?

Once we got our hands on the game, we were thrust into the character selection screen, which by all accounts was standard fare, as you’re simply selecting the class of your character, the color of your armor, and the appropriate loadout. I had the pleasure of playing as the tank, otherwise known as the Vanguard. Jay played the marksman class known as Hex and Kevin was our support character, the Catalyst. The action starts off fairly tame in order to get you used to the controls. We initially encountered a few enemies but it wasn’t until a later sequence till we discovered the motherload of AI. Killing enemies with our weapons was satisfying, as the hit detection felt spot on. Special abilities, like my shield, which by the way can return bullets back on to the enemies, was particularly useful in intense firefights.

The only complaint we had, and it’s significant, is that when the action gets too intense, it’s very difficult to locate your character on screen. At any given point, there could be upwards to 15-20 enemies shooting at you, if not more, plus a team of three shooting back. Add all that gunfire and mix it with environmental explosions and various special abilities, the screen quickly becomes engulfed in various colors. Therefore, at times, we found it very challenging to keep stock of the location of our character while continuing to assault the AI. Our best recommendation is to keep the tank upfront and have the other classes fall back or flank to the sides. We voiced our concerns to Kevin and he said the best thing to remember is that the enemies will always be highlighted in red and their ammo will be a different color as well. It’s our hope they put a little more work into this aspect, beyond just the colors, as ultimately players do need to see what they’re doing in order to be successful squad mates.

On the surface and with our brief playthrough, Livelock appears to be well on its way to being a fun, albeit chaotic, co-op adventure with friends. We look forward to its release later this year. You can expect to see Livelock released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Kevin hinted that the price for Livelock will be around $20.