Despite its shortcomings and lukewarm response from the gaming press, the original Lost Planet showed signs of greatness that boded well for future iterations of the franchise. After all, what is there not to like about obliterating gigantic creatures the size of skyscrapers with a range of explosive weaponry and super-powered mechanical suits? That same concept still applies to Lost Planet 2; however Capcom has created a game that is now all about the multiplayer, co-op experience with a campaign backed up by an interweaving storyline that sees you switching between different groups of pirates from the planet EDN III. With the promise of bigger beasts, new weapons and brand new environments, plus the addition of a robust multiplayer component, it certainly sounds as though Capcom has learnt lessons and is heading in the right direction with its Akrid-killing bullet-fest. Let's see...
Lost Planet 2 features a four player split-screen or online co-op campaign, but it can also be played alone with up to three computer controlled A.I. on your side. It’s now ten years after the events in Lost Planet and the arctic winds and snow blizzards have drifted away to be replaced by brand new environments. The gameplay, however, remains largely the same. In Lost Planet 2 you get to shoot a lot of stuff, be it big or small, human or beast -- namely waves upon waves of pirates, VS Suited enemies, mechanical beasts and the giant insect-like Akrid that many of us will be familiar with. There are data posts to activate along the way, which point you in the right direction and flag up any enemies on screen, but largely your time will be spent grabbing as much ammo as you can lay your hands on, keeping your finger firmly pressed down on the trigger and killing foot soldiers and Akrid along the linear route on your way to tackling the big boss at the end of each Chapter.
It’s crystal clear from the outset that Lost Planet 2 was designed specifically for online co-op play. The Episodes are split into chapters and the chapters are split into relatively short areas/checkpoints, some of which can take only 5-10 minutes to plough through. This makes it perfect for those who like to jump in and out of games for short stints of play and gives it that pick-up-and-play appeal. The level design is brilliantly varied too with a decent range of locations, from space stations to lush jungle forests. Each area and chapter that you play offers something different, whether it’s a multi-level arena, a huge open space for ranged fighting, or room-to-room close quarter skirmishes.
The gameplay can be very fast-paced and Capcom has used an arcade-like ranking system to score you on each chapter, which encourages you to be attack-minded. You're also awarded with points that can be spent on abilities, emotes, name tags and weaponry, allowing you to customise your character specifically for playing online. You even rise up the rankings for completing headshots, or multiple kills with the same weapons. While this does mean that there’s plenty to personally gain from the campaign, it’s still teamwork that will win the day overall.
Lost Planet 2 is a challenging game, so teamwork is what will get you through. Thankfully, there are plenty of weapons littered around each area to ensure that you have the tools to progress. Each weapon has its own strength and weakness so you need to choose the right weapons for the right job while also utilizing the design of the environments to your advantage. One team member, for example, might take up a position on a balcony with a sniper rifle taking out the foot soldiers, while another might provide cover fire so that his teammate can reach the rocket launcher on the other side of the map. The last guy might jump in the VS Suit and steam right in. There's a wealth of tactical possibilities and to succeed you'll need to work as a team. With friends in tow this is one of the most immersive and enjoyable co-op games we've played.
The weapon set is impressively varied and Capcom was wise to introduce you to bigger and better weapons and VS Suits as you progress and the difficulty ramps up. Weapons are spread nicely around each location and there's always something around for each member of the team to pick up. You'll often see a rush for who can get to the VS Suits first, but largely there's enough of the heavy weaponry to spread around the team. Cleverly, the array of weapons on offer always seems to suit the type of enemy that you're attacking. If you see a Pile Bunker (pierces anything with heavy armour) on the ground, for example, you'll know that there's something mechanical, whether it be a VS Suited enemy or something larger, lurking around the corner.
The VS Suits play a major part in Lost Planet 2, as do their weapons, which you can use independently. It's often the VS Suits that will cause the most damage to your enemies, especially when you find the likes of the multi-seat VS that carries three team members, or the suit that fires rockets into the air and then rains them down on your target like you've called in an air strike. You'll come across VS Suits that can fly like helicopters, ones that can dash swiftly, and others that can transform from a two-legged machine (think AT-AT Walker from Star Wars) to a disc-shaped flying saucer. There's an impressive range of VS Suits that all perform extremely well and are great fun to pilot.
Of course it wouldn't be Lost Planet if there were no Akrid to slaughter in these impressive VS Suits. And though the Akrid in this sequel don't generate the same "wow" factor as the previous game there's an impressive array of old and new creatures to take on, as well as some colossal big bosses. There aren't Akrid to fight in every level; you can play for relatively long periods without seeing any at all. Their appearance though is quite unpredictable which does keep you on edge and nervously excited so that when you do encounter them their impact is more profound. You'll come across some old favourites like the Trilids that twist and turn in the skies above you, or the scuttling plant-like Sepia that group together in swarms to attack, but largely it's the Category G Akrid that provide the most thrills.
You can look forward to an epic battle against a Giant Salamander or the Akrid X that uses its fiery breath and sharp claws to cause havoc among your teammates. There's plenty of new Akrid to see too, including underwater creatures that resemble jelly fish that transform and use their spin attack to damage you, or the lizard-like Akrid that you'll find in the desert and use their huge floppy ears to detect sound. The Akrid provide some much needed variety to just fighting loads of pirates and the sections where the larger ones appear are both challenging and entertaining.
So, it's clear to see that we've enjoyed playing Lost Planet 2 and as a co-op experience played with friends we can’t recommend it enough. There is some bad news however. When you play Lost Planet 2 solo, and we're sure there are plenty of you out there that will buy it just for that, it is quite often disappointing. In single player mode, playing on anything other than easy setting (and even then you’ll struggle against some of the bosses and mini-bosses) it’s quite a hard and frustrating slog. This is largely because your teammate A.I. just isn’t up to scratch.
Sometimes they’ll cling to your position and follow you around like a herd of sheep and on other occasions they’ll go completely AWOL and you’ll find them in places where they’re just not helping at all. Your team’s biggest weakness, however, is that they don’t help you out during the bigger battles. They’re fine at dispatching human enemies on foot, but they won’t jump in a VS Suit, tactically switch weapons when needed, or carry out some of the objectives when you really need them to do so.
On one level, for example, you have to use a canon on a train to take out a huge sand-dwelling Akrid, but you also have to load Cobalt into the weapon and activate coolant systems on the level below whenever the train catches fire. When playing solo you end up going backwards and forwards doing all the jobs yourself while your team, rather stupidly, use their machine guns to try and take down the colossal beast. If you plan to play Lost Planet 2 alone just be prepared for some frustrating moments. It took us over two hours of trying and failing before we finally beat just one of the bosses!
There's also a host of minor irritations littered throughout the campaign mode. Slowdown occurs during the more frenetic battles and you'll occasionally spot enemy A.I. acting out of character by just standing there waiting to get shot. The lack of save points is also an issue, specifically when playing solo. It can take a lot of effort to get to near the end of an area, especially when your teammates are so thick, so it's really frustrating when you fail a mission and have to start all over again. The last of our irritations is the soundtrack. It switches pace impressively during the more intense moments, but when you’re fighting a Cat-G Akrid for a 30 minute stint and have to listen to the thumping, looping audio it can get a little on your nerves.
Graphically, there are no such issues. With the help of the MT Framework game engine that was used in Resident Evil 5, Lost Planet 2 looks very impressive; though it’s clear it doesn't push the boundaries of the PS3 hardware. Some of the interiors are quite dull and simply designed, but when you move outside through the forests or mountainous regions there's plenty of decent scenery to gawp at. The highlight, however, is undoubtedly the design of the Akrid and some of the larger mechanical enemies that you'll encounter who look fantastic and all have different behavioural patterns.
Away from the main campaign, Lost Planet 2 also sports a substantial multiplayer mode. Disappointingly, we can't really comment on it however because at time of writing we've had no one to play with. Hosting up to 16 players there's a wide variety of game types and variations of standard game modes, from Capture the Egg to Team Elimination and the overhaul of the interface does look impressive. Indeed, one thing we can’t deny that Lost Planet 2 has is its abundance of replay value. Aside from these multiplayer modes, it's always worth delving back into the campaign to beat your rankings on each chapter, gain more upgrades, or just to play it with new people and to experience it from a different angle.
With Lost Planet 2 it's clear that Capcom tried to create a new and enhanced Lost Planet experience by taking everything that was good from the last game and incorporating an absolutely blinding co-op experience. Sadly, it also brings with it some of the bad. Offline fails to impress and the few imperfections add up and lead to a few frustrations along the way. Nevertheless, this is still a game well worth playing. Not only are there plenty of thrills and spills along the way, intense action to enjoy and new Akrid to marvel at, you should get quite a buzz when playing it online with friends and taking on some of the larger beasts.
|Lost Planet 2 Review by Steven Williamson|
-The Final Word-
Not only are there plenty of thrills and spills along the way, intense action to enjoy and new Akrid to marvel at, you should get quite a buzz when taking Lost Planet 2 online with a group of mates and taking on some of the larger beasts.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|