If there’s one thing a games reviewer loves it’s when something central to the games plot, one of its most prominent features, lends itself to a lazy metaphor that becomes completely central to the review. From there themes, puns, similes and quips are all easily reached by a grasping literary brain and it makes the review practically write itself. How grateful we all were then for Lost Planet 2 from Capcom, helmed by the polarising figure of Jun Takeuchi, the man responsible for revamping the Resident Evil franchise among other things. He promised changes for the sequel, big changes... In fact gigantic changes that would stand tarsus to tarsus with any of the monstrously sized creatures from the first game. And no, that’s not the metaphor in question.
The game sees the protagonist return to the Ice Planet of EDN III and in a quick tutorial we set of plodding through waist deep snow, fighting off akrids and braving the elements. That feeling of isolation in a bleak and hostile landscape still apparent. Yet it doesn’t last long. It seems that EDN III’s core temperature has been rising, causing parts of the planet to thaw out and like a magicians reveal at the end of the trick the tutorial ends with the characters flying out of the snow and towards a lush and verdant jungle. The landscape of EDN III has completely changed, life on the planet has started evolving and more areas of the planet have become accessible as a result of the climate changes. In short, the environment is nothing like it used to be… And there’s your metaphor right there.
As sure as the in-game environment is unrecognisable from the first the focus of the game has also radically shifted. Where existed a traditional action adventure solo campaign with spectacular boss fights, there is now a game that is almost entirely focused on multiplayer and 4 way co-op. Does this radical shift in direction cause Seismic ruptures to the games surface or does it instead open up a sun kissed and warm world of infinite possibilities?
The control scheme is much the same as the first game and the blend of Halo 3 and Gears of War style gameplay is intriguing from the start, though there is no real plot to speak of. This is all about reaching the end of level bosses/objectives and moving on. There are more giant insectoid creatures than anyone could shake a Starship Trooper at and the early skirmishes feel tense and exciting even though there is never any real danger. However by the time the first mini-boss segment has come around it becomes clear that some additional work could be done on the colleague AI when playing on our own. For example it can be frustrating that with the enemy only a few feet away our teammates are content to flex their muscles, polish their weapons or make out of place wisecracks. In the end they do enough, for the most part, to get us through levels but they could do so much more.
Indeed, it is a great shame because much that was good about the original has been tweaked in such a way as to be better. The Vital Suits are back and featuring improved abilities and there’s a host of mechs to be utilised against the akrid masses that will satisfy those looking for some serious action. That said the stars of the show in this game, much like the B-movies of the 1950s, are the monsters. The new category G akrids, only newly classified in the unexplored parts of the planet, make the bosses from the first game seem like the insects that can be found under a garden stone. All the best parts of the game stems from this and there are moments of genuine awe as they reveal themselves that gives way to a sense of achievement when they are vanquished.
When the game is at its best there is so much on-screen action that it really feels like an exciting challenge. Deaths lead to respawns and the time spent waiting to get back into the thick of it feels infuriatingly long. The key to playing through the various chapters is definitely down to interaction with other human players though and all levels and bosses can be conquered with some lateral thinking and interesting strategies; there’s not only one way to win. That said, the train level in Lost Planet 2 is not intuitive. We don’t like spoilers here at GamingHeaven but for the sake of an easy life it is best those reading know that loading the main weapon turret, fighting fires and gunning down enemies is all required. Assign a task to each of your friends and stick to it.
Replayability in many ways comes down to a grading system and achieving a high rating requires knowledge of the “rules”. Sometimes being the brave and fearless leader doesn’t pay off as a few deaths and some inaccurate shooting can reduce the overall rating achieved. Often the best course of action is to be less aggressive and pick the kills more effectively. How successful this is as a feature really depends on the style of gameplay preferred. We opted for all out guns blazing fun with little care for the rating.
The game does include a wide range of unlocks that anyone who obsesses over such things will not be able to ignore. New poses, new costumes, new nicknames, weapon and suit upgrades. At least every run through contributes towards something persistent, even if a lot of the unlocks are merely cosmetic and something to show off with to other players online. Speaking of online play, when not in the co-op campaign there are plenty of the standard modes available including variants of capture the flag and deathmatch. There should be something for everyone in Lost Planet 2.
With an action packed campaign players would be thankful for a simple control system but we have to say that it does, in reality, feel a little over complicated. Thankfully there are several layouts on offer so if the default feels unnatural there may be another which simplifies the feel for each individual.
The new landscape does look great and there is plenty of glorious looking settings to interact with and not just dense jungles either. Mountainous regions, arid deserts, crude shantytowns and even an underwater section are on display in the brave new world and they look great. In attention to detail the creators can say unequivocally that they have made a better looking sequel.
The new environment is an opportunity to show off not only some impressive visuals and new settings but to throw together some imaginative concepts, especially for the monster design. The characters are all well animated and have their own distinct looks that show their strengths and weaknesses. The mechs rumble along and look great with a blend of both futuristic technology and mechanics that are anachronistic by our standards. The monsters are, in their own way, the best looking things in the game, grotesquely organic, exuding genuine creepy-crawly kudos.
There are a few slight graphical glitches, a bit of clipping here and there but nothing that jars too badly. All things told there aren’t many action games likely to be released this year that will look this good and boast segments that will genuinely take your breath away. This game has more than its fair share.
While the sound effects are all solid and do what’s expected, what underlines the drama of the game is the excellent score that kicks in during the most tense moments. The monsters might well roar but what gets the heart racing is the pitch perfect music that drives the action forward and puts the player in their own special-effects laden movie sequence. It is actually a shame that the score is underused only being saved for these moments, when it could add much more to some of the other sections that don’t feel as high octane as the boss fights.
The mechs sound great and thud and judder with all the physicality of an ironclad steam engine as they compress the ground beneath them. Yet balanced to these are the more delicate sounds such as the crisping of trodden snow, the snapping of twigs or the brushing of foliage. It is only a shame that the gun sounds and grenades don’t quite match the bass of the big sounds. Still, everything else is in order and when played through a surround system the ominous rumbling off a giant creature just off camera will set the pulse racing.
Games have been moving towards the multiplayer experience being the primary concern for some time; and it is clear that Capcom have focused on this aspect for Lost Planet 2 as the game really shines when played with human counterparts rather than relying on the less than perfect AI. For this reason we recommend playing the campaign online rather than solo. The co-op provides intense action and a variety of thrills that are heightened by having some buddies share in them.
The variety of ways to play multiplayer show that the creators really, REALLY want players to go down this road in addition to the campaign mode and as a result many of the unlockables are relevant in this arena. It has to be said though that this will disappoint fans of the original who wanted what the first delivered - a traditional, rip-roaring action game with old-school end-of-level boss surprises and an accomplishment that was to be appreciated individualistically rather than shared.
Lost Planet 2 is awesome online and with friends but more than a little disappointing alone. There is nothing particularly original or mentally taxing to be found in the game but fire it up with a few buddies, turn off your brain and grab some beer/pizza then get ready for a night of fun and thrills.
||Human interaction really is a necessity if the game is to be enjoyed and mastered. For those without friends there are better options out there.
||A great looking game. The landscapes are beautiful but the beasts are breath-taking.
||A wonderful score is underused in a game that has many moments where it would be appropriate. Effects are well produced but some would benefit from additional “oomph”.
||Entirely down to the way the game is played. With human colleagues or if playing online multiplayer gamers will keep coming back for more. Soloists will find little reason to replay due to less than perfect AI. It should be noted though that this game retails for approximately £10 less than other new releases.
(Not an Average)
||A great looking game which has an experience that depends on the ability to play with others. There are some brilliant segments and some truly amazing moments that will set pulses racing and draw players into the action. Like many of the best action movies, one that is best enjoyed with friends, alcohol, snacks and the intention to have a blast.