Harry Nilsson once famously sung “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”, and if you ever have the misfortune to play Lost Planet 2 singleplayer then you’ll discover all too well what he was singing about.
Yes, I’ve been having a mixed experience back on E.D.N III this week, homeworld to any number of warring humanoid factions and a wide variety of enormous deadly fauna. Lost Planet 2 is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions, and features multiple protagonists from different backgrounds to tell it’s story.
What that story might be, who it pertains to and why we should be interested is a matter of debate at this point, as most of the game appears to be centred around not being squashed by a giant animal with glowing orange weak spots. There were only a few chapters during the game’s campaign that seemed to book-end properly, and even then it was a little difficult to figure out who these people were or what they wanted to achieve other than survival.
But who cares, right? This game isn’t about compelling characters or intriguing plot, it’s just about fighting sky-scraper tall beasts and living to tell the tale.
And, for me, that’s where things seem to go awry for Lost Planet 2. Maybe it’s because the characters are so vague, or the story indecipherable, but I really just couldn’t bring myself to care about the action taking place on screen. The game certainly doesn’t skimp on the number of enormous beasts to take down, but instead of making these encounters the epic fight for survival you might expect, the result is a little bit too much like hard work.
If you’ve played the game’s co-op demo, then you’ve already battled against the most entertaining Akrid in the game. Almost every boss is identical in it’s execution: find the glowing orange spots on it’s body (protip: on it’s legs), then just keep shooting it until it doesn’t glow anymore. Try not to die.
This was what really killed the game in my eyes. The entire premise seems so good in theory, but is absolutely dull in practice.
The game improves dramatically when you throw a second player into the mix. It’s almost like the abundance of online connectivity options the game offers before starting a mission are a stern warning against playing it solo. Up to four players can co-op the campaign online, although in the matches I played it was more effective to stick with two. Four players offer the game far too many ways to deplete your battle gauge (the game’s equivalent of lives) which can result in some swift mission failures.
But for the most part misery loves company. Human allies can actually strategise (as opposed to being useless AI bulletsoaks) and co-ordinated attacks can lead to taking down even the biggest of Akrid in lightning quick times. When it does work, just be sure to savour the feeling of satisfaction, because that’s where Lost Planet 2 is at it’s peak.
Which of course means it’s all downhill from there. Capcom appears to have taken a page out of the Gears of War playbook when it comes to mobility. Your character lumbers. I have to write that in bold, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better definition of the word. Regular movement isn’t so bad, it’s just a little slow, but the moment you try to run or jump you feel like you’re playing an old online game with 500+ ping. It’s kind of cool, even appropriate when you find yourself piloting a massive mech, or fighting underwater, but it’s simply tedious and frustrating the rest of the time. I found myself pressing the jump button quite heavily, presumably in some sort of subconscious acknowledgment to the amount of effort displayed on screen.
And where this style of control actually seemed quite precise in Gears, it simply seemed sloppy in Lost Planet 2. Players would constantly catch invisible edges, jump off target, catch themselves falling when you meant to drop and drop like a rock when you’d hope they would catch themselves. The explosion physics are a real mess, too. A large explosion will damage you and throw your character a good distance, and being crouched down behind solid steel cover doesn’t seem to enter into the equation. Every explosion is treated as if you took a flying headbutt at the missile itself. This minor annoyance becomes a teeth-grinding nightmare during the mid-campaign train missions, where the game asks you to stand on open air train carriages yet delights in firing volley after volley of high explosives at you.
The visuals are an odd mismatch of the impressive and the mundane. Most of the Akrid you’ll battle are fantastic, quite detailed and animated well, and the art direction on most of the characters creates a good fusion of alien and human. For a game that seems to talk about atmosphere so much, the level design is a real mixed bag. E.D.N. III seems to feature some pretty impressive forests and swamps, which probably hope to balance out the eight-thousand mile long desert corridors walled by rock on both sides. The latter seemed somewhat geo-illogical to me.
Multiplayer is entertaining, but nothing special. It’s a bit of a pity, because the game appears to have quite a friendly online community behind it. There is a rudimentary rank progression system, and players can customise their online character by mix-and-matching different unlockable elements. Capcom have also put a lot on offer for loyal customers. Having played both Resident Evil 5 and Dead Rising I had Albert Wesker and Frank West as playable options, and I’m not sure if playing the game is required, but the Xbox 360 version also included player models for Gears of War’s Marcus and Dom.
All up this game was a disappointment. It’s a game that needs to be played multiplayer, but unfortunately I don’t see anyone but the hardcore fans sticking with this for very long. Grab a copy if you’re hard up for a new split-screen game to play with your friend, but otherwise be sure to avoid.
Pros: Vital Suits are a lot of fun to stomp around in and nicely compliment the game’s sense of scale. Capcom have to be praised for their long term commitment to split-screen co-op, which is really the highlight of this game.
Cons: A vague and uninteresting plot does nothing to endear the game to it’s players, and neither do the rather clunky controls. The “kill big” premise sounds brilliant, but the experience is far more lacklustre. Also, did I mention the pointless and unexpected quick-time events? It would be a shame if I didn’t complain about those!
Overall: Lost Planet 2 was one of several games that Capcom delayed to avoid the busy release schedule at the start of the year, and it seems like they were pretty savvy with that decision. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this game will be lost amongst the pre-owned shelves before you know it, which is probably the best place to pick it up if you want to give it a try. Don’t even bother with it if you’re a single-player buff. An average game, wait for a significant price drop. 2 out of 5 stars.
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