Like fighting huge monsters, explosions, piloting big robots and thinly veiled political commentary on the failings of the industrial military complex? Then you’ll love Capcom’s latest third-person shooter, Lost Planet 2. The game takes place on the planet E.D.N. III, perhaps one of the most poorly named planets in videogame history. It’s just emerging from an ice age, is populated by bands of gun toting mercenaries, a giant military conglomerate and colossal, murderous insects all of which are constantly at each other’s throats. It may not sound like somewhere you’d want to be, but trust me, you do.
Graphics – Orange is the new black
While not mind blowingly beautiful, this is a sharp looking game and available in full 1080p. The environments are vivid as they are varied, ranging from frigid wastes, scorching deserts and lush jungles. The art design is a little on the generic side but has some intriguing elements to it. The Snow Pirates and NEVEC characters have a fairly stock sci-fi look to them while other human factions have more unique features like dreadlocks made of chains or boxy scrap metal helmets with only one eye hole. The Akrid (giant bug monsters) are a little more interesting. You’ll be combating waxy alien versions of mantises, spiders and potato bugs streaked with orange glowing bits (more on that later).
Sound – Now in full stereo(type)
The audio in the game is not bad. It features a sufficiently epic orchestral score, the type seemingly now standard for mid-to-high budgeted games. The voice acting is a mixed bag of mostly vanilla and inoffensive offerings with a couple notable exceptions. The voice acting for two of the factions is horribly stereotypical. The Carpetbaggers (the Asian faction), all have fairly predictable accents, almost reminiscent of the Chinese guards in the Lee Hong Assassination level from the first Hitman game (“Alarm, alarm!”). The second, and slightly more offensive of the two, are the Hispanic sounding Desert Pirates. Although not quite as bad as those Squirrels from those Sony PSP commercials (you remember those), they are portrayed as being quite dimwitted, impulsive and prone to hooting and hollering. As a result, some of the voiceovers come across as a little silly.
Story and Characters – Attack of the clones
The game’s plot is really not worth mentioning, it simply serves as a backdrop for the constant action and a rational for playing as the different factions. The cuts-scenes are interesting enough to watch at least once and some have the occasional quick-time event, the result of which causes different cinematic outcomes. But these branching scenes are only superficial. If your character gets crushed by a rock because of your fat fingers, they’ll just magically appear again at the beginning of the next chapter. As well, the characters are incredible shallow and it doesn’t help that all four possible player characters in the co-op campaign look virtually identical. Until you beat the game and are able to use custom characters in story mode, you’ll be left constantly wondering who is who during each cut-scene.
Gameplay and Mechanics – Bringing the heat
The quality of the controls is a little uneven. The gunplay is tight and predictable, but the default button layout is terrible. I’d recommend switching it to one of the alternate configurations. In general, it feels vaguely similar to Gears of War, with its sprint and heavy-footed movement. Playing for the first time can feel awkward due to some of the unintuitive aspects of the controls, like your inability to jump while sprinting, but with a little time you’ll discover that they’re more than adequate.
In terms of gameplay, it’s a real blend of traditional with the unorthodox. At its core, it’s a traditional third-person shooter. You point your gun at things; they die. Big things, and there will be many of them, require you to shoot the glowing bits. Boss fights play out in ways gamers are very familiar with. The enemy has a discrete set of attacks, visual and auditory cues to their actions and weaknesses. They may seem intimidating and wickedly powerful at first, but it’s just a matter of finding the optimal strategy making them challenging but not impossible.
Thrown into the mixture are some rather unique mechanics. Firstly there’s the grappling hook, which allows you to scale or repel down structures quickly, but don’t expect to be swinging around like Bionic Commando, its uses are limited. You’re unfortunately not able to swing, jump or even re-deploy the hook while hanging. But in spite of its narrow implementation, it’s still quite useful. With some practice, you’ll be able to use it to traverse the environment easily.
The game’s second major mechanic is thermal energy, the substance that fuels just about every device on E.D.N. III. Each player has their own supply of it which can be replenished by grabbing globs of it that are dropped by enemies or by finding recharging stations. It’s important to keep a healthy amount on hand because it’s consumed to use Vital Suits (mechs), certain energy weapons and harmonizers (a personal device that regenerates health). You also have the ability to shoot portions of your personal supply of thermal energy to open certain containers or recharge other players.
Lastly, the game uses scale and numbers to ensure you are always up against overwhelming odds. While the general design of each level is on the small side, most are swarming with enemies. You’ll find yourself constantly facing hoards of soldiers, throngs of Akrid or on of the game’s many oversized bosses. The result is constant, frenetic, adrenaline pumping combat.
Co-op and Multiplayer – Raison d’être
Playing the game it quickly becomes apparent that this game was designed for multiplay from the ground up. The campaign mode supports two-player local split screen and up to 4 players online or via system-link throughout. Even when you play offline, by yourself, there are AI player that fill the empty player slots, complete with gamer tags and emotes. And this perhaps is where this game shines. Co-op is easily one of the most satisfying parts of the game; tearing through masses of enemies, crushing gargantuan foes with 3 friends or strangers is oddly rewarding.
In addition there are also a variety of multiplayer modes that support up to 16 players including standard free-for-all or team-based modes, ranked matches, and even persistently tracked faction based matches. It’s been less than a month after release, and there is already a vibrant online community in place with an adequate number of matches running all day and night (at least on Xbox Live).
The Final Word
Lost Planet 2, developed and published by Capcom, is a solid and exciting third person shooter. It’s a little rough around the edges but gets the fundamentals right. The graphics are great in 1080p with only the rare slowdown. The controls are off-putting at first but with patience, they’re superb. At its root, the game is a refined third-person shooter with some interesting elements built up around it, including a grappling hook for more mobility and an exaggerated sense of scale and number of foes.
Multiplayer is also a large component of just about every aspect of the game. Every game mode supports multiple players through some combination of split-screen, online or system-link. There’s also mechanics that enhance online play such as a plethora of unlockable emotes, weapons, titles and customizable characters.
In the end, it’s a game that is difficult to describe because experiencing it as whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. While not the most elegantly designed, Lost Planet 2 consistently provides thrilling action complete with giant bosses, swarms of foes, explosive combat and powerful vehicles.
Lost Planet 2, developed and published by Capcom, is currently available for the Xbox 360 and PS3 for $59.99 CND. Review based on the Xbox 360 version and played for 41 hrs, completed on normal and hard difficulties, Career Level 90.