Game Description: The next installment in the popular Lost Planet action series, Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter which continues the story of humanity's futuristic struggles and attempts at colonization on the planet E.D.N III. A blend of new RPG elements and features that made the original game a huge success, including massive boss battles against the alien Akrid creatures, rugged terrain, mech warfare and dynamic multiplayer support, Lost Planet 2 is sure to please both new and longtime fans of the franchise alike.
HIGH Jumping into a transforming Vital Suit and unleashing hell on enemy troops.
LOW The poor setup for mission 3-3 turns a great battle into a frustrating slog.
WTF Earning customization items is soul-crushingly slow and hatefully random.
What makes a sequel a sequel? In most cases, the answer is fairly obvious; the protagonist returns, the storyline continues, and gameplay is tweaked to make the next installment feel like "more of the same, but better." This is the route many developers take, and it's certainly sensible—after all, change too much and developers risk alienating their fanbase or squandering the cachet of the brand. However, every now and again a developer will surprise everyone by striking out in a new direction and taking a path no one expected.
That unexpected path? It's called Lost Planet 2.
Although Lost Planet 2 takes place on the same fictional world as the first and retains key elements like robotic combat machines (Vital Suits) and enormous energy-sucking creatures in a dozen different flavors (the Akrid) this sequel is radically different from the game that inspired it. At its core, Lost Planet 2 has been heavily shifted towards the multiplayer side of the game design spectrum, this change reflected in every aspect.
For example, instead of picking up with Lost Planet's hero where the last game left off, the campaign mode is instead comprised of a series of disconnected missions, each starring a separate faction. Every character wears a mask, and none have names. From this "generic soldier" approach, it's clear that the intent was to put the focus on the action rather than any one recognizable character. While this style would have been potentially disastrous in most titles, it actually makes a kind of sense in Lost Planet 2 since the campaign is designed from the ground up to be played with three friends. (Three bots can be recruited if no buddies are around for co-op—it's definitely not recommended to go lone wolf here.)
As someone who plays primarily solo, this shift was a little jarring. Disappointing, even. With no central character tying things together and no overarching goal to guide me, each sortie felt abruptly discrete and random. Mission goals were arbitrary, and the motivations behind them sketchy at best. This is definitely not how I like story in my games told, and while I'm not a developer myself, I daresay it wouldn't have been difficult to thread the missions together in a more cohesive fashion, multiplayer or not. However, I did start to grasp what Capcom was going for by the time I hit the halfway mark. As cliché as it sounds, Lost Planet 2 is one of those rare titles that must be played from start to finish before its scope can truly be appreciated.
For example, only after I had been through a number of the missions did I begin to see the appeal in giving different perspectives on the same subject—in this case, each side's role during the planet-wide energy struggle taking place. By the time I was in the endgame, my respect for the multifaceted tale had greatly increased.
The story's slow-burn quality also extends to the gameplay. The first two missions were mediocre at best, but the action began ramping up strongly with the third. The fourth and fifth were impressively epic, and the sixth was a showstopper. Each new mission managed to up the ante and keep things energetically fresh thanks to interesting scenarios and wide variety in level design.
While starting the game off in a bland snowfield and then transitioning into a generic jungle might not have been the best way to kick things off, I can't imagine anyone being unimpressed with the nighttime beach assault that comes later. Its stunning seascape rages with a storm's fury as players get their first real taste of the powerful Vital Suits, and actually transforming from robot to vehicle mode to continue the assault is something that won't quickly be forgotten. Other scenes are just as memorable. Hijacking a giant transport ship while streaking across a sun-scorched desert was something straight out of a Hollywood summertime blockbuster, and the final push to defeat the giant Akrid absorbing the world's energy has to be seen to be believed.
While the action is certainly strong enough to carry a player from beginning to end and the story eventually did come together in its own way, there's no getting around the fact that Lost Planet 2 did stumble a bit as it was blazing this mixed-design trail. In such an experimental title, a certain number of missteps are unavoidable, really. While most are just mildly irritating (convoluted menus, buddies who aren't as far as the host in the campaign can't join, the grappling hook doesn't work while jumping) my biggest gripe has to do with customizing characters for use in the online competitive modes.
While character appearances can't be changed the first time through the campaign, players do have the option to customize their avatar when going online. Scanning through the menus and looking at the different options that can be tweaked, it's clear to see that there's a fairly substantial amount of depth there. Weapons can be upgraded and altered, attributes can be reassigned, and different outfits or skins can be equipped on the characters to make them visually distinct. The problem is that the game is ridiculously tight-fisted in doling out these options, taking far too long and requiring far too much effort to earn.
It's true that certain items can be unlocked simply by leveling up, but most of the items used in customization must be won via the game's random "slot machine" function. By spending points collected during play, players can take a spin with the hopes of winning a new weapon or piece of clothing. However, what usually happens is that the game sucks these hard-earned points away in exchange for Noms de Guerre (trite nicknames that others can see) or "emotes"—physical actions like giving a high five or jumping up and down for joy. Neither of these worthless things has any effect on gameplay, and it was incredibly demoralizing to get through the entire campaign and several hours of multiplayer matches with my only substantial extras earned being one new gun and a few minor abilities to show for it. Player customization is a huge focus in the industry these days, and I'm sad to report that Capcom has completely misinterpreted the correct way to do it.
My frustration with the customization aside, there's no denying that Lost Planet 2 is an interesting and engaging hybrid title that delivers a new blend between traditional solo play and modern multiplayer expectations. I can't say that the developers totally nailed it, but with solid mechanics, a strong sci-fi theme, exciting action and tons of large-scale watercooler moments, I do recognize it as an experimental step forward that succeeds far more than it fails.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 6 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains animated blood, language, suggestive themes, and violence. Moms and dads should know that this game is built on weapons-based combat. Although there are certainly a fair number of monsters to take down, the bulk of the shooting is directed at enemy combatants who are all human and wearing various pieces of armor. It's not incredibly graphic violence, but it's still violence nonetheless. There were a handful of swear words during the cut scenes, but nothing excessive. I did not see any sexual content besides some of the female avatars online wearing vaguely skimpy outfits.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You shouldn't have much difficulty with the campaign. All dialogue is subtitled, and there are visual on-screen representations when the player is under fire. During some heated exchanges, it can be hard to tell who is shooting from where, but that's not something due to audio—as a player with perfectly normal hearing, I got lost in the chaos a few times myself. Player chat is enabled online, but in the time I spent playing, most of the chatter was about completely irrelevant subjects. Players who are not able to hear online discussions aren't really missing much, if you ask me.
UPDATE #2: The Xbox 360 codes are ALL GONE!
However, we do have a small number of PlayStation 3 codes left. If you have a PS3 and want a code, there's still time!
What do you need to do?
Post a message in the GameCritics.com forums and tell me who/what your favorite big robot/mecha/android/mechanized thing of all time is. Comics, cartoons, anime, games, WHATEVER. Also, tell me why.
When you post, tell me you want the code for PS3 version. Winners will be picked tonight at random.
So, Capcom was gracious enough to invite me in to get a sneak peek of Lost Planet 2's multiplayer the other day. I'd never been to Capcom before and there were a ton of great review/journo people as well, so it was truly a double treat to attend the event.
Before getting into Lost Planet 2, I need to first disclose the fact that I enjoyed the original Lost Planet a great deal. If you haven't already read my formal opinion, here you go. (Go ahead, click it. I'll wait.) Although the game got a fairly rocky reception in review circles, I found it to be a fantastically good time, and absolutely on the right track. Simply put, I'm a fan.
With that disclaimer aside, I left the demo feeling very positive about what I saw. Although we did not get a full and complete look at the whole game, there is very little doubt in my mind that Lost Planet 2 will surpass its predecessor.
Overall, there were two main themes to the content: Customization and Mecha.
Looking at the customization first, the Capcom reps made the point over and over again that the player's character is meant to be a unique, personal avatar for use in both the main campaign mode as well as online. We were quoted that (at the moment) there's at least seventy thousand possible permutations of a player's avatar, and that number is likely to grow prior to the time the game hits the shelves.
In addition to physical appearance and clothing, weapon customization plays a large role. There were several classes of weapons that each player will have access to, and each class has several different styles and levels of power. For example, in the "heavy" class, characters can choose to have a rocket launcher or a pistol-like hand cannon. Each of those weapons has several different styles and variations, and so on.
When asked about acquiring the different options, reps stated that while some items would be preset and specific to certain conditions in the campaign or tied to in-game achievements, players would also collect credits that would be used for a slot machine-type mechanic that would randomize the gear people get. Not sure I'm sold on that particular concept, but I remain hopeful.
Although we weren't allowed to change any of the settings in the demo, it was pretty clear to see that there is huge potential for each person buying the game to have their very own customized character, and that's always a good thing.
Moving on to the mecha, all I can say is "WOW". It's no secret I'm a nut for giant armored things, and Lost Planet 2 is absolutely filthy with them. These "Vital Suits" are definitely a major focus of gameplay, and they've been revamped in every way possible.
For starters, the number of different models was incredibly impressive. I got to play the demo for around three or four hours, and it seemed as though every time I looked at someone else's screen, I was seeing a new VS I hadn't seen before.
The smallest was almost like a thick suit of armor that encases the player's body and functions like an extra life bar. Moving up in scale, there were several small "platform" types that were sort of like Segways with guns, both terrestrial and airborne. Even bigger were tanks, bipeds designed for melee, lighter units that can transform between walking and hovercycle modes, and so on.
The heaviest Vital Suits on display were extremely impressive. The first was a three-part walker that was piloted by a player in the middle and had two independent gun platforms on either side. Even larger than that was a massive giant spider that had been outfitted with cybernetic armor implants. Towering over the players on foot, it appeared to be able to hold four or five players, each controlling their own set of weaponry.
(Oh, and the best thing? There were several mentions of a two-part Voltron-style combiner that will be available, though it was not running in the demo.)
The most interesting and exciting thing about the expanded focus on Vital Suits was that so many of them were able to fly in some fashion. In a level that strongly resembled an oil rig, I hopped into an assault helicopter and proceeded to pick people off the platforms at will—definitely a high point of the demo. Another helicopter was designed for transporting ground troops, and many of the lighter (or even medium) Suits were capable of taking to the skies. My mind was blown when a cyborg scorpion piloted by the enemy team leapt straight up and exposed membranous wings before sniping rockets from above. To say it was completely unexpected is a massive understatement.
Differences between the 360 and PS3 were basically nil. Some people at the demo felt that the 360 graphics were sharper, while others were sure that the PS3 had the edge. Although I did spend more than a few minutes trying to suss out which one was superior, I think it's a nod to Capcom that they were basically identical even on a nitpick scale. Honestly, I could not tell the difference.
One final note, reps at the event said that the game has a multiplayer focus in both campaign and competitive modes. When asked to clarify, the answer was that the traditional story mode is meant to be played with at least one other person, if not more. Co-op is absolutely being positioned as the preferred method, and AI bots will be available for people who do not have friends on-hand when playing story mode. It was also noted that players who are intent on going alone will have the option, but that the game does not scale difficulty down for people lacking backup. You've been warned.
Capcom has stated that the Lost Planet 2 multiplayer demo will become available to the public on April 21 (unless you're a Capcom Unity fan or win a code via contest) and the game itself will launch on May 11.
The other day, my fellow GameCritics staffer Trent Fingland reported that his apartment was robbed and tons of his game stuff was jacked by some decidedly unsavory individuals. (What kind of jerk takes everything in sight, but leaves behind a pink DS?)
A few years ago, the same thing happened to me. I had a large amount of my game collection and related items in a storage locker that was broken into and cleaned out. It was incredibly heartbreaking and depressing, and I would have been lost if not for the kindness that GameCritics readers and other people online had shown. A ton of people who I'd never met in real life sent items to me to replace the ones that were taken—believe it or not, someone was even nice enough to send me a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga completely free of charge!
That kind of generosity really blew me away at the time, and I'm hoping that readers of this blog and GameCritics.com will show the same sort of love to Trent—He's been a longtime member of the site as a reader, and he's been a great asset as one of our newest writers. Man deserves it.
I asked him to send me a list of the stolen goods that were most valuable to him… this list is by no means complete, but he chose these as the things that he'd most like to have replaced. If anyone reading this can spare one of these titles and help Trent rebuild his stolen collection, you will earn my thanks and a huge amount of good karma points for use in the next life.
If you can spare one of these or would like to help Trent in some other way, drop me a line here or through Twitter and I'll share the pertinent info.
Earlier today I finished Lost Planet 2 on PlayStation 3. It was a really bizarre experience for a few reasons, but primarily because it started off lukewarm and sort of middling, but then actually managed to get better and more exciting with each successive level. I wasn't feeling too hot on it at first, but the game had completely won me over by the time credits rolled.
An interesting blend of solo and multiplayer styles, it's a fairly experimental title that tries some new things and mostly succeeds. The level design is great, and the graphics are very impressive, and there are a bunch of OMFG moments that will likely remain in many players' minds for some time to come.
On the downside, the story could have been ten times better than it is with just a little bit of tweaking. It was fairly painful to see some of the missed opportunities in terms of the plot, but I will admit that it did come together in its own slightly awkward way by the time credits rolled. However, one thing that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever is the way the game doles out customization items for player characters. For whatever bizarre reason, Capcom thought that including a random slot machine mechanic as a way of awarding extras was a good idea, and you know what? IT'S NOT.
When I play a game that features player customization, I don't mind having to earn or unlock certain things, but at least give me a few options from the start and for God's sake, don't make anything random about how a player gets more. Give me a store to shop in, or some objectives to shoot for... anything that has some clear focus and end goals. I can't think of anything more distasteful and painful than grinding for points to spend in a slot machine, and winning worthless crap over and over and over again when what I really want is a new gun or different head to use for my character.
The review will go live at GameCritics soon, but for right now but me just say that I enjoyed my time with Lost Planet 2 more than I had expected to, and the final review (and score) are definitely on the positive side.
In other games news, I've started Dementium II for the DS. A first-person Horror title, I've got to say that it's been creepier and more gruesome than I would have expected possible on Nintendo's handheld. I've only barely scratched the surface of it so far, but I'm liking what I'm seeing.