As I write this review, I can hear my controller piteously vibrating from its new resting place – about half way up the the wall behind my TV. Lost Planet 2’s campaign has bettered my patience.
Capcom’s original Lost Planet was surprisingly popular given some of the widely criticised design decisions. The protagonist in this third person shooter was Wayne, a young man fighting on a frozen wasteland planet known as EDN III.
The local inhabitants, known as the Akrid, produce an orange ooze that also happens to be an abundant source of energy. It’s unfortunate, then, that the Akrid are a collective of giant bug-like aliens who aren’t too chuffed about greedy humanity’s plans to colonise and terraform their home.
As well as bug-monster-aliens the planet is crawling with factions of ‘Snow Pirates’ – the poorer colonists who were left behind after the first failed attempt at colonization, and who have since gone native.
Lost Planet 2 picks up the story ten years after the events of the original. EDN III has begun to thaw, possibly due to massive Cat-G Akrid that have begun to appear. The Neo Venus Construction Company plans to harvest these huge Akrid for their valuable thermal energy.
This time around there is no main character to follow as you make your way through the game’s six episodes. Instead, each episode sees you playing as a different faction on EDN III, all of which are fighting for the thermal energy.
The story itself is often hard to follow and without a leading character – or even any interesting characters – to sympathise with, it’s very easy to lose what little enthusiasm can be drummed up for the missions.
The trouble you’ll have emotionally investing in the world is compounded by the fact that you’re constantly changing sides. You’ll quickly forget why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, and the game itself isn’t fond of giving you much more than a ‘because’ response.
Unfortunately, it’s also often uncommunicative in the “what” department too. Often you’ll find yourself wandering around aimlessly with no real idea what it is you are supposed to be doing.
The gameplay in Lost Planet 2 is much the same as in the original. It’s a third-person shooter with a mixture of foot and vehicle combat. The missions themselves are formulaic: Head to X; clear out Akrids and/or Pirates in the area; boss fight. Then rinse, repeat.
The missions are played with four companions, either AI or co-op and completing the game with up to three friends counter-balances the slow and uninvolving story, and injects some much-needed excitement. The AI is a different matter. Blair Witch jokes aside, watching your team mates stare at a wall as you’re molested by a horde of Akrid is not as funny as it sounds.
Lost Planet 2 introduces a new respawn system. When playing co-op, the team shares a pool of respawns. When the total reaches nil, you’re sent back to your last checkpoint. The rub here is that there are no checkpoints, at all, between missions. The game’s six episodes each contain multiple chapters, and in each chapter there are several missions. This means you have to complete an entire chapter before you can save your progress.
Fortunately, when you’re playing with the AI, you get the whole pool of respawns to yourself – a necessary feature as the AI could well have been modelled on lemmings.
Even so, Lost Planet becomes much more enjoyable when you have some friends involved. Watching a buddy wielding the huge mini gun he has ripped from a wrecked Vital Suit and tearing through waves of enemies as you infuse him with your spare thermal energy is one of the few high-five-worthy moments in this game.
It’s also a nice change of pace to stride through an area unleashing your Vital Suit mini-gun or electric chainsaw to lay waste to a giant Akrid boss, but it’s speedily reduced to a cheap thrill.
Capcom have also outdone themselves with the game’s presentation. The monster design and animation is superb, and at times you’ll want to take a moment to drink in a vista.
However, the visual beauty of the game quickly takes a backseat to Lost Planet 2’s problems - many of which were found in the original. It still features a clunky and slow control system, you’re still unable to use your grappling hook on the fly, and the perpetual knock-down cycle is back.
The real silver lining here is the multiplayer. It’s largely unchanged from the first game, and includes good map design and the usual selection of modes. 16 player death match battles and a capture the flag variant called Akrid Egg Capture should give players some extended entertainment. Fugitive, where a team of poorly equipped fugitives must avoid capture by decked-out hunters, stands out.
Capcom has also included a new unlock system to the multiplayer. Here you can spend points earned in all other modes, and the singleplayer campaign, to have a spin on a slot machine. It’ll reward you new weapons, passive abilities or titles and emotes.
The multiplayer is definitely an entertaining experience and if you’re a fan of the original you’re sure to get some hours of enjoyment out of Lost Planet 2. For players new to the series it could well be worth researching and demoing Lost Planet 2 extensively before deciding to buy.
It’s clear that a lot of time went into Lost Planet 2 to make it the visual spectacle it is. But it can’t lift the uniform score alone. The numerous flaws and annoyances, some poor design decisions and a dull narrative make this game's total package a middling experience.