Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Game Description: In Lost Planet, human snow pirates navigate VS (Vital Suits) through hostile ice-covered environments, fighting against the indigenous Akrid creatures for the precious thermal energy they need to survive. For one such pilot named Wayne, death almost seemed imminent until he was fortunately rescued. However, he can only remember a few fragments of his past including the slaying of his father by the monstrous beings. Yet under the veil of ice, a devious plan has been set into motion for the termination of all Akrid and snow pirates alike. What really happened to Wayne? Who is plotting the destructive scheme? Encounter valuable allies and dangerous enemies on Wayne’s search for the truth.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Review

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Screenshot

As I felt the controller rumble and watched as a hundred feet of worm crawled its way out of the ice, bellowing madly and flailing about, I didn't pause to marvel at the fantastic creature design. I just started blasting away without a second thought. At its best moments, Lost Planet creates something really special that only the best arcade games ever managed—an adrenaline-charged state of hyperviolence where pulling a trigger becomes every bit as much a natural process as breathing. It's the kind of game that sucks players into its world from the moment they start playing, and if that world doesn't have a lot of depth, it's pretty and noisy enough that no one will notice any faults until after they're done with it.

A third-person shooter set in Earth's distant future, Lost Planet tells the story of Wayne, a cyborg who awakes from cryogenic slumber to find the planet overrun by giant insectoid creatures and bloodthirsty corporate goons. Since it's a videogame, he immediately concerns himself primarily with killing both groups of opponents either on foot or by piloting a VS, one of the game's suits of giant powered battle armor.

As the description suggests, there's literally nothing to the game but continuous violence, and it's all the better for it. There's a story, but it's of little to no consequence, and a little confusing in its sparseness. For example, both the game's heroes and villains seem to have the same motivation—to return earth to a thawed state, and their conflict with each other seems oddly contrived. Also unexplained is the presence of a wide variety of giant insectoid monsters called Akrid. They're fun as heck to fight, and do the best job yet of offering gamers a playable version of Starship Troopers, but the lack of any explanation of their origins seemed like something of an oversight. Who knows, maybe they're saving it for the sequel.

The action in Lost Planet is so incredibly fast and intense that it couldn't help but remind me of classic arcade shooters. The game's persecution of me was so viciously efficient that it almost seemed like it was trying to wring more quarters from my pockets. How does it accomplish this? That old, frequently overlooked device of game design, the time limit. Instead of simply having a refillable health bar, everything in the game revolves around the player maintaining a certain level of thermal energy. Just standing in the freezing cold lowers this energy constantly, piloting a VS lowers it more quickly, and being damaged drains it fastest of all. New thermal energy is acquired by killing enemies or destroying a variety of containers. This mechanic ensures constant forward progression through the game—there's no time to stand around enjoying the scenery, beautiful though it may be. If Wayne doesn't constantly find something new to kill, he'll wind up frozen solid.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Screenshot

Luckily, that killing manages to remain fresh and interesting nearly the entire length of the game. That's because of two key elements. The first is how smooth the controls and animations are. Eschewing the modern trend towards physics governing everything, enemy deaths in Lost Planet are entirely scripted, and all the better for it. Akrid writhe and bleed heat before turning to ice, humans pitch backwards when shot, power armour shudders and sparks before finally exploding in a huge plume of flame and smoke... every single enemy killed offers a fantastic, viscerally satisfying experience, and even though they might be the same animations over and over again, the action moves so quickly that players will almost never get a good look at just how their opponents are dying, but they'll be constantly aware that something interesting is happening at the periphery of their vision, and it improves the experience immeasurably.

The second element is the difficulty level I mentioned earlier. Lost Planet walks the most precarious tightrope imaginable: it finds a way to keep the action feeling just on the good side of overwhelming at all times. Part of the secret is the weapon switching system, where players can only hold two guns and a single type of grenade at any given time, and ammunition is in very short supply. More important, though, is just how numerous and impressive all of the enemies are. The Akrid are either small and swarming in huge numbers or monstrous in size and strength, while the humans are excellent shots, use every weapon the player has, and have access to the same variety of power armour.

Wayne is knocked onto his back constantly over the course of the game, whether by the explosion of a missile or the swipe of a creature's arm, and it's thrilling to watch him climb back to his feet each and every time, so long as he has the thermal energy to keep patching up his wounds. This high difficulty level just makes it all the more satisfying when the opponents finally die—watching a fifty-foot tall mantis turn to ice, or seeing a giant robot burst into its component parts is all the more thrilling because every time it happens it feels like an accomplishment, as if the creature almost managed to kill Wayne, and he just barely prevailed.

That kind of feeling is rare to see; most video games can't create it more than one or twice. It's to Lost Planet's credit that the skillful handling of the difficulty and level design puts the player in a state of desperation for almost the entire length of the game. Lost Planet doesn't break any new ground, but it's a landmark title all the same. It's proof positive that fantastic execution can elevate a pedestrian premise, and the kind of action experience that no one should miss out on. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Mild Language, Violence

Parents should be a little careful with this title. Sure, the violence isn't particularly graphic, but there's an awful lot of it, and much of it involves the bloodless death of humans. The swearing isn't any worse than your children might hear on television at the 9 o'clock hour, and there's nothing more suggestive than an impractically-tight snowsuit.

Action game fans have no excuse for not buying this. It's the best third-person shooter to come down the pipe in ages, and should be played by anyone who enjoys putting their trigger finger to the test.

Multiplayer gamers will fiond the standard deathmatching options available here. Nothing worth writing home about, but still worth a look if you enjoy shooting other people as opposed to AI.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers are fine. Important information is subtitled or printed on screen, and while they won't be able to hear the wonderful sound effects that herald the approach of enemies, many of them are so large that they shake the screen with their movements, which offers a nice cue.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Second Opinion

Lost Planet:   Extreme Condition Screenshot

To every person who went out of their way to say that I must be blind, dumb, or mentally disabled; for every person who decided that I did not know the meaning of the word fun; for every person who tried to convince me that I hate games and was absolutely missing the point of Earth Defense Force 2017 (EDF)... I give you Lost Planet: Extreme Condition.

On paper, the two games are practically identical. Both feature third-person frenetic run-and-gun action against huge swarms of giant creatures, mostly buglike. Both feature a large assortment of weapons in addition to vehicles or robots that can be piloted, and both make their home on Microsoft's Xbox 360 using the exact same hardware and technology.

The difference? Lost Planet is a sterling example of rock-solid control and level design, and one of the finest pieces of showcase-level production values created to date. Every element that EDF bungled, Lost Planet hits out of the park effortlessly. Instead of throwing mindless numbers of clipped-through drones at the player in an effort to drown them like EDF, Lost Planet's levels are carefully structured for sweat-inducing combat while never feeling senselessly haphazard. Where EDF feebly tried to create spectacle, Lost Planet crafts scenes of truly stunning imagery which can easily stand up to anything else on shelves today.

To put it simply: in terms of delivering fast-paced arcade-style action, EDF isn't fit to hold Lost Planet's sweaty, used, post-game jockstrap.

But to simply compare Lost Planet: Extreme Condition to a simpering, weak-hearted thing like Earth Defense Force 2017 would be doing Capcom a disservice. Although the core game structure isn't a revelation, the disc is a perfect example of how crafting each aspect perfectly can create a whole which is greater than the sum of each individual element.

Before playing the game, I doubted whether Dan's enthusiasm and bombast in the main review were truly justified. Lost Planet fell victim to a wave of backlash after it was released, and the common consensus was that it was less than expected. After playing the game, I think Dan nailed the game's excellent energy perfectly, and I have no idea how any self-respecting gamer could look down their nose at something so impressive.

Although most people currently hold up Epic's Gears of War as the current gold standard in graphics, I thought that Lost Planet's snow-encrusted clothing and sweeping, arctic wastelands were more beautiful and compelling than any war-torn ghetto Marcus Fenix trudged though. The sunset view from atop an enemy installation is art, watching the game's hero Wayne strap into a mechanically detailed VS suit is entrancing, and one heart-stopping encounter with a giant Akrid worm should go down as a classic moment in videogame history. And the explosions... oh, those sweet, sweet explosions. Capcom should be proud because these huge plumes of fire and world-filling clouds of billowing smoke are the best I've ever seen, no contest.

Every aspect that Dan praised, I second. Really, the only area where we differ is that I thought Lost Planet's story was good enough to propel me from area to area, and I thought the characters were a good fit for the material. A sequel should eliminate the lengthy "falling down and getting back up" animation that's a handicap in heated firefights (and I wouldn't mind a longer range for the grappling hook) but I really have no significant criticisms at all. It's that good.

Although its basic genetic makeup can be traced back to more primitive efforts, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a true next-generation title in terms of production and presentation. It controls like a dream, it's stunningly beautiful, and it delivers huge amounts of action and excitement, nearly non-stop. It may not be the deepest or most complex game, but it knows what it wants to do and it does it perfectly.

Earth Defense Force 2017—eat your awkward, ungainly, underproduced heart out. Rating: 8.5 out of 10.