Lost Planet 2
Posted 2 years ago By - Jeff Wimbush
Three years after the release of the third-person sci-fi shooter Lost Planet, the sequel is finally here. Though not without its flaws, the original drew a cult following and even inspired a movie that is currently in production. Capcom has promised the next installment will take the franchise to new heights, and satisfy the appetites of diehard fans. The question is, has Capcom really learned from their past mistakes, or should that pesky planet just get lost for good?
Lost Planet 2 brings players back to E.D.N III, ten years after the events of the first game. The planet is in a state of turmoil as the climate warms and the icy landscape melts. The new scenery is a welcome change, as environments now vary from lush jungles to low-gravity space stations.
The main new feature here is the cooperative campaign mode, which allows four players to take on the wilds of E.D.N. III together. It seems the entire game was designed around this new feature, so much so that playing alone is practically impossible. If taken on solo, players are confronted with the same campaign that is designed for four people, but have to deal with three A.I allies to assist them instead. Not only is it less fun to team up with the bots than real people, but it’s a recipe for frustration. The bots are little more than liabilities when searching for the spread-out checkpoints. While real players can use teamwork to make it from one chapter to the next, the idiotic A.I makes it extremely difficult. On more than one occasion I found myself in need of help, only to find my allies had wandered miles away, and were doing nothing more than getting slaughtered. How’s that for teamwork?
And teamwork is what it’s all about in Lost Planet 2. There are so many situations and gameplay elements that are designed to reward proper teamwork, and are completely satisfying if done successfully. One example is an enormous gun that players have to control together. Two players control the aiming, one reloads the giant shells, and another player operates the cooling system. Although it can be tough to co-ordinate a plan with random people online, when you finally do get an organized team, the teamwork elements really mesh well and deliver something special.
However, the competitive side of the multiplayer options is a different story altogether. While the grappling hook and the low gravity maps offer something unique, it’s still not enough to make me want to spend any real time in online matches. My major complaint would be that the weapons are underpowered, making your opponents too tough to kill. As most the characters are sporting bulky body armor, it’s understandable if it takes a few rounds to drop them. But the online competition is not very satisfying if I shoot a guy in the back of the head at point blank range only to find that he’s not even close to being dead. Instead, players inevitably end up running in circles around each other and blasting away until someone falls. With the "competition" part boiling down to who can strafe the best, the result ends up being an entire section of the game that failed to hold my attention for more than an hour.
As the campaign is designed to be played online, the storytelling takes a backseat to action. As opposed to the original Lost Planet, there is no main character. Instead, each episode throws the player into the shoes of a different faction. This setup keeps the cut scenes short and the action moving, but kills any feelings of attachment I might have developed for the characters. Soon I found myself trying to skip the cut scenes as quickly as possible, simply because I honestly didn’t care. In fact, I imagine it could get quite annoying if there were a deep story, because all four players have to agree to skip a cut scene. At least the narrative is light enough that it doesn’t become tedious to replay chapters again and again.
The mission objectives themselves will have you assaulting or defending bases, capturing or destroying weapons, and/or activating data posts. Because the gameplay ends up being so similar, each mission seemed to run together. Most of the time I couldn’t remember what faction I was part of or why I was tasked with this mission. The mission formula usually consists of activating several data posts, attacking an enemy base, and killing a giant alien. Wash, rinse, repeat.
One of the bullet-points that Capcom has been excited about is the persistent character customization options, which are pretty extensive. Players can choose all their characters’ weapons, apparel, abilities and even gestures. Customizable abilities include things like Lifesaver, which prevents players from losing a life when out of T-energy. While customizing is fun for the competitive multiplayer, it just isn’t a good fit for the co-op campaign. At one point I witnessed several players’ female avatars speaking in a rough masculine voice during cut scenes, because the default characters were male. Though funny to watch, it is a flaw that takes away from what little feeling of immersion you have.
Another feature the main campaign and many of the competitive modes use is a shared respawn meter known as the BattleGauge. When a player is killed and must respawn, it depletes his team’s BattleGauge, which is sort-of like an overall life meter. When the gauge reaches zero, it’s game over. This means that if there is one person on your team who gets killed repeatedly, it will cost the everyone. While this may sound frustrating, it’s actually one more way the game rewards effective teamwork. The BattleGauge system makes the game more strategic as it forces players to worry about every member of the team, instead of just racking up kills.
Lost Planet 2 also has it’s own spin on the health sharing or resource distributing system. T-energy is used to heal, and unlike the BattleGauge, each player has his own supply. Players can share T-energy with a gun that shoots globs of the healing liquid. You can target a player directly, or lay down large puddles for teammates to collect. While it took some getting used to (I thought it was a weapon at first and wasted tons of t-energy on enemies), its an original take on the familiar inventory sharing that I really enjoyed.
The mech-like vehicles from the original Lost Planet are back, although they have been overhauled and are still all very cool to use. Known as Vital Suits, the vehicles carry massive firepower and have the ability to transport multiple players. Even more fun is the ability to detach the Vital Suits’ giant guns and carry them over your shoulder. The difficulty in the campaign pretty much forces you to use your firepower and teammates wisely, so having the Vital Suits ends up working very well with the rest of the gameplay.
The iconic grappling hook from the first game also makes a reappearance, and it still feels a bit awkward to use. The hook can only be launched when a player is on the ground, not jumping or falling. It may have been a design choice to limit its use, rather than having players swinging around levels like Tarzan. However, after playing a game like Just Cause 2 that showed what can be accomplished with a grappling hook, Lost Planet’s grapple system feels almost archaic.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics were one thing that really impressed me when I first booted up the game. The character models look very polished and have their own style. Their body armor and equipment is extremely varied and all very cool to look at. The giant boss aliens (or Akrid, as they are known in the game) are breathtakingly creepy. Some scenes reminded me of a mix of Shadow of the Colossus and Monster Hunter.
The graphics really stood out when I fist powered up a Vital Suit. I watched my character climb into the cockpit and activate the menacing looking vehicle. The camera then swung behind the VS as it hissed to life with jets of pneumatic gas blasting from valves in the joints. It all just looked beautiful.
The sound just as excellent as the visuals, from the frenzied blasting of a mini-gun to rumbling explosions, the effects are all spot on. At certain moments, an orchestra will kick in with a rousing crescendo to complement the gameplay perfectly. The only problem is that there are often long stretches of gameplay and cut scenes left silent. Had the sound design enveloped the entire experience, it would have added a lot to the overall immersion.
The fact that the game is so focused on co-operative play will disappoint some fans. Before buying Lost Planet 2, gamers should ask themselves if cooperative multiplayer is what they’re looking for. Fans of the first game’s single player campaign who were looking for a direct sequel are not going to find it here. This game takes the franchise in a new direction, or at least the campaign mode does. Four years after the original Lost Planet, the online competitive mode feels simplistic and unbalanced.
With that said, the campaign offers hours of enjoyment and is made up of 6 episodes with several chapters each. There are enough breathtaking moments to want you to play some parts over and over again, provided you’re playing with human partners. The game also has great production values as can be seen in the extensive and easy to navigate menus. The main menu is presented in front of a map of E.D.N III and looks very nice. Joining online matches is a snap, especially since you can set several search parameters and scroll through the results.
So the 69-dollar-question is, is it worth full price for the campaign alone? Not really. Lost Planet 2 brings a lot of unique elements to the table that make it absolutely worth renting or at least grabbing after a price drop. But, since it’s no fun to play alone, and the competitive online is unbalanced, you’ll only find about 35% of the game worth your time and monety; which doesn’t warrant a 100% investment.
Lost Planet 2 breaks new ground for the franchise by focusing heavily on co-operative play and cutting back on story. While some fans of the original may be disappointed, there is still plenty of fun to be had. Problems with the plot, damage balancing, and the awkward grappling hook are faults that I can’t ignore though. However, Lost Planet 2’s campaign does offer some unforgettable moments and great teamwork opportunities, provided good group of gamers to play with.
+ Giant bosses
+ Vital Suits still rock
+ Beautiful visuals
- Ignorant AI
- Weak competitive multiplayer
- Erratic sound design
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Release Date : 2010/05/11
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Capcom
Developer : Capcom
Category : Shoot ’em up
ESRB : T
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