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Lost Planet 2 serves as a stark warning that global warming just isn't that much fun...
It's part of the Capcom DNA to make a game tough, on occasion frustratingly so. Either intentionally or the result of poorly conceived design choices, it's a trait that usually endears the publisher towards the hardcore who'll often overlook awkward controls and frustrations with an old-school sensibility. Deliberate design choices restricted the ability to move and shoot in Resident Evil 5 and Dead Rising. Fair enough, we could deal with that even if we didn't necessarily agree. Other times, as was the case with games such as Dark Void and Bionic Commando, it's an example of poor design and playtesting that leaves a game clearly feeling half finished. Lost Planet 2 falls into both camps, a game that provides a stiff challenge but insists on putting handicaps on you nonetheless.
Evidently the popularity and influence of Modern Warfare has shaped the direction for Lost Planet 2, as clearly dictated by the sheer determination to place all of its focus on multiplayer. The expansion of the original's scant competitive modes comes in the form of a singleplayer campaign that boasts support for up to three friends to join via splitscreen, system-link or online. Even if you're playing Lost Planet 2 alone you'll have to navigate through an array of menus, sub-menus, and pages of stats just to get a game going and put up with three AI bots to keep you company along the way.
But that's not the only change. Whereas the original continued Onimusha's tradition of basing main characters on actors of varying degrees of fame, the sequel settles for something far less aspiring in the cinematic stakes. As far as we can tell it's a more typical cast of generic video game characters. The six chapters focus on the actions of a different band of pirates, so there's not exactly a cohesive plot that draws you into the game. Instead it's a civil war, of sorts, between the bands of pirates as they attempt to lay claim to the rapidly evolving terrains that have emerged from the once frozen wastelands. It never really provides an urge to continue playing so ultimately it's still purely about blasting big bugs... well the best bits are.
While the original managed to stick out from the brown and grey colour palettes of the time with a distinctive portrayal of an arctic wasteland, the jungles, deserts, and warehouses of Lost Planet 2 ultimately leave the game feeling far more... well what you get in variety is taken away by the fact that Lost Planet 2 just looks like any other shooter now.
A more potent criticism is the fact that the switch removes signature elements of the Lost Planet series. Lost Planet was a stark, lonely experience. The concept of T-Energy providing warmth to the main character's lonely treks across the wastelands also added an exciting sense of urgency to the proceedings. With the environment less treacherous this factor is completely eliminated. Immediately this change smacks of a poor one. The African setting of Resident Evil 5 may have been a tad controversial, but we'd suggest the change in Lost Planet 2 is far less welcome. T-Energy is however used to replenish your health, rather awkwardly with the start button. To make matters worse, players can shoot excess T-Energy to a teammate in need, yet the combination of buttons to do so is cumbersome and often results in a grenade being chucked in their direction instead. Not the first complaint we have about the game's control issues.
So what's left is little more than a third-person shooter, albeit one packed full of bugs, mechs and big weapons. Most of the missions involve progressing through the stage fighting wave after wave of akrids or rival snow pirates and activating data posts along the way. Data posts not only serve as respawn points, but also work in conjunction with the new Battle Gauge. Essentially it's a unified life system for the squad and by activating data posts 500 points are added to the total, but dying takes away 500 points - when you get to zero it's game over. On first glance it seems like a good idea, an attempt to bring teamwork and comradeship to the experience. The result however is a setup that will quickly test friendships, as loosing all the points and that sacred last life means starting the entire chapter right from the beginning. Believe us, it's not much fun.
The game begins pretty slowly for the first few hours, the insistence on chucking smaller akrids and rival snow pirates does little to endear itself. The occasional set-piece and touch of creativity, such as activating and defending beacons for a timed duration, helps to instill a little variety but the emphasis is clearly on wave after wave of escalating action.
It's a slog made even more tiresome by the clunky camera and movement. Evidently Takeuchi-san was also inspired by the Gears of War series, so much so that at times it's hard to distinguish the two. I guess if Bleszinski was inspired by Resident Evil 4, Takeuchi thought it only kind to return the favour. The comparison is apt provided you remove the reasons why Gears succeeds. Turning and shooting is nowhere near as responsive, while the character's sprint is largely a hit-and-miss attempt to replicate Gear's signature move. The idea of rotating in 90 degrees with the shoulder buttons (copied form the original) just doesn't work as such specific movements simply don't suit the fluidity and pace of the action. Ultimately these shortcomings combined with the relentless pace of the action combine to create what is, even by Capcom standards, an infuriatingly frustrating game to play - and we like our games hard.
Fortunately, Lost Planet 2 does have some redeeming features. When the boss battles against larger Akrids eventually kick in, it's hard not be impressed. Gigantic, multi-screen filling beasts from a wildly wonderful imagination are the order of the day. There's a satisfying need to devise strategies, whether it's tackling the beast's organs from the inside or eventually working out how to arm and fire a massive railgun to combat the equally gigantic earthworm hurtling alongside you. The problem however is that these bosses are often a war of attrition, a sense of relief rather than triumph pours over you once the beast finally collapses at the protracted conclusion.
Despite the emphasis on multiplayer a word of warning to those contemplating splitscreen. The game's designed around a squad of four, which can be played via Xbox Live/PSN, System-Link or on your own with the support of three bots. For some reason when playing in splitscreen it's just the two of you without the assistance of two bots to make up the numbers, which makes this mode insanely difficult at times. More concerning is the butchered screen size that goes with it. Quite honestly if you're playing on anything less than a 42" screen you'll probably have to sit with your nose pressed hard against the screen just to distinguish anything. Resident Evil 5 made cutbacks when it came to splitscreen, but the sacrifice made in Lost Planet 2 is something else.
We can't really criticise Lost Planet 2 for following the multiplayer influence of Modern Warfare too much, considering it's set the format for virtually everybody else to follow. Obviously, Lost Planet 2 provides an experience points system across the various modes. Points, naturally, mean... unlockable body parts, weapons and techniques - although we think the name tags might be a little too close for comfort.