Thursday, 20 May 2010

Game Review: Lost Planet 2

The original Lost Planet was surrounded by a lot of hype back in early 2007. The game sported phenomenal visuals most notably an incredible environment, robust action sequences against a variety of larger than life enemies and most importantly, Lost Planet was a lot of fun. It did have considerable issues but most of which were easily overlookable and overall, it was a success. You would assume then, that Capcom would take their successful series, which sold over 1 million copies by April 2007, expand upon it and release a new installment that had all of what made the original so great but excluding the previous issues.

Unfortunately, this is not the case here. As much as you want to love Lost Planet 2, it is a disaster waiting to irritate and frustrate you every single time you play the game. Not only did Capcom not address the game’s previous issues, they seemed to assume we didn’t mind being plagued by linear and poor level design, awkward camera angles, some of the worst AI you have ever played with and inconsistencies left, right and centre. Blessed with terrific visuals, a few pretty fascinating and action filled boss segments and great multiplayer, Lost Planet 2 manages to stay afloat but unfortunately, it does little for itself to warrant a purchase.

Lets start by talking about some of Lost Planet 2’s good features. Returning back to the Planet E.D.N. III some years later provides a shock to those who played the original. No more is the looming snowy landscape, now the climate has drastically changed allowing for exploration in a lot of diverse and varied locations ranging from forests, deserts to compounds. Perhaps its biggest asset as I have said before, is the incredible visuals that really help bring the planet to life. It is also worth noting that you will have the opportunity to experience different types of game-play across all of these varied terrains, allowing some of the slower paced segments to be used as a way to really admire and take in the technical visual beauty of Lost Planet 2.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the only time Lost Planet 2’s technical traits shine. While the levels may be varied, they lack consistency in length and often end as things are starting to pick up, or leave a sour taste in your mouth by showing over and over, the inconsistency of the game’s design, be it through failure in communicating objectives, to oversimplifying moments that seem to be destined for an explosive climax or by killing you again and again with unfair and cheap pummeling methods that can rarely be stopped or avoided.

I remember a moment in the original Lost Planet game where you take a snowmobile across a massive terrain and you get attacked by a giant worm like monster that ends up being an optional boss to tackle. It was so difficult to kill partly because the game did not tell you how to do it. This however, is acceptable because it is optional and you don’t have to do it, in fact you can just run right past it. Lost Planet 2 however, chooses to not tell you how to accomplish your main goals, which leads to exceptionally frustrating segments that boggles my mind because it is such a basic design error. Most notably, a certain mission places you on top of two speeding trains and while being constantly knocked off the side of the train is horrendously annoying in its own right, getting to the conclusion of the level where a giant enemy attacks your train and you are told nothing of how to stop it, is absolutely ridiculous.

This sounds mind-numbingly painful and it doesn’t stop there, oh no it gets even worse. Lost Planet 2’s campaign is based around multiplayer; indeed you are at all times supported by 3 computers AI. By supported however, I mean they do less than nothing to aid your cause and would literally be better off trying to shoot you because in that case, you could dodge their bullets and they might accidentally kill an enemy behind you. In all seriousness, it is a joke how bad the game’s AI is, going back to the speeding train level, if you ever figure out what you have to do at the end, you will end up needing the help of friends in order to accomplish the variety of different objectives that need constant attention in order to pass the level. The AI, do none of these objectives for you, playing alone is pretty much suicidal and human friends are a necessity for this part and indeed others throughout the campaign.

Lost Planet 2’s design flaws don’t just exist on the larger scale, for the most part, everything in this game is out to make your experience not fun. Inconsistency is a word I have thrown about a lot in this review but it is just the perfect word to describe some of the bizarre things that happen throughout Lost Planet 2. For example, the game tries so hard to keep you engaged in action sequences, but gives your enemies the power to send you flying and then continue attacking you giving you no chance to get back up and defend yourself. Lots of weapons deal a lot of damage and all have massive knock-back as well meaning you will spend so much time on the ground or stunned it is ridiculous. Forget about trying to heal or throw a handheld weapon while involved in combat as all animations are stopped if even so much as a single tiny bullet hits you. Now I understand technically that makes sense, but it just makes the whole experience incredibly irritating. On top of that, while the game may look pretty, fundamental errors in terrain boundaries can be noticed all the time. Sometimes water signals instant death, while other moments it is perfectly ok. Some rocks look like you can grapple hook onto them, others for some strange reason won’t let you, it’s baffling all the time.

I guess playing with friends makes the game somewhat bearable, if you are the most persistent set of gamers that have completed everything else available in your local store. In all seriousness, some joy can be found joining forces with friends and taking down the epic beasts that are encountered throughout the campaign. Lost Planet 2 does a great job introducing some beautiful and terrifying creatures into the action and when playing with friends, it is a lot of fun trying to take them down. As I am writing this I am beginning to really believe that Capcom set out to just make everything here as annoying as possible. Even this simple co-op experience had to be tampered with in such a way to come up with some sort of problem. You cannot join friends that are already mid-action, which is pretty dumbfounding. Also you can only play levels that both you and your friend have completed, again, I don’t actually understand the reasoning behind this. Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets for the campaign mode.

Prodding the campaign further, would it have killed Capcom to attempt to inject Lost Planet 2 with a bit of life in the character and story departments? Think of the campaign mode as a beautiful, yet shallow shell, it may look good but it is about as interesting as a goldfish. The original game had a protagonist and a stab at some sort of story, here you play as an unnamed group of soldiers, you follow an incomprehensive campaign with little to no explanation about what’s actually going on. The game even opens each levels with a ‘ready 3 – 2 – 1 go’ segment just showing further the shallow arcade feel it gives off. I understand storyline isn’t actually that important when it comes to shooting games but a bit of substance could never hurt.

Thankfully Lost Planet 2’s online competitive multiplayer is actually pretty good. The game offers a large variety of different enjoyable game-types across some pretty cool maps that really have an original twist to them from a technical aspect. The multiplayer faction mode is another great highlight of Lost Planet 2 as it divides the world map between 5 factions and earning points helps your faction climb the ranks and be victorious. There are also lots of goodies to unlock and rewards for continuous play. The important ones of course are weapons and upgrades but the consistent and persistent unlocking of useless titles like in Modern Warfare 2 make it really irritating because you cannot choose what to unlock as its done randomly on a roulette style machine. Regardless, with enough game time you will start unlocking lots of cool stuff that keeps the online action entertaining and fun.

I am disappointed with Lost Planet 2 because it simply had so much potential. With a solid base to work from, there really is no excuse for Capcom’s delivery of this sequel. They had all the tools to build what could have been one of the best games of the year but consistent basic issues and problems really take the enjoyment out of the majority of Lost Planet 2. Fortunately, beautiful graphics, the option to play with up to 3 friends, a great multiplayer and variety in different areas help keep Lost Planet 2 from being a total failure, but it is a right shame this could not be the winner we were all hoping for.

CeX (UK) Contributor

Igor Kharin

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