Lost Planet 2 ReviewBy Paul Semel - Posted May 06, 2010
Like the original, Lost Planet 2 is a third-person sci-fi shooter set on a planet full of malicious military types, defiant pirates, and gigantic aliens, and none of them take kindly to trespassers. But while the basic game is somewhat solid, it has a lot of little annoyances that add up to ultimately prevent it from being more than a rote shooter.
- Engaging battles against ginormous enemies.
- Mech suits are bad-ass.
- Co-op actually requires co-operation.
- Loses so much of what made original unique.
- Suffers from many bad design choices, from targeting to teammate interaction.
- Campaign is arguably hostile towards single players.
After a year of fanfare, including countless videos, a smattering of game demos, and plenty of preview coverage, Lost Planet 2 has finally arrived. Yet it’s hard not to think that Capcom’s shooter sequel might’ve come a little too early. While the basic gameplay is solid, there are a lot of irritants that, collectively, make this a lot less fun than it should be.
For those who skipped the demos, videos, and previews, Lost Planet 2 is a third-person sci-fi shooter set on the planet E.D.N.III. Except that E.D.N.III isn’t the paradise its groan-inducing name suggests; it’s a hostile planet populated by surly space pirates, a malicious military, and gigantic creepy-crawlies called Akrid. Though why they’re fighting over this (crap) hole is so convoluted -- and, at times, riddled with idiotic stereotypes -- that it’s best to just shoot first and ask questions never.
Assisting you in the shooting is a returning arsenal of guns and grenades, as well as a Bionic Commando-like zip line that helps you reach those hard-to-reach places. But the most impressive tools in your arsenal are the Vital Suits (VS), mechs that range in size from personal-sized Battle Armor to multi-soldier titans. You can even remove the guns from a VS for personal use, and while it will slow you down, they’re also oh-so powerful.
All of those weapons are especially important because some Akrid are so obnoxiously huge that Godzilla could ride them like they’re ponies -- and you know how much Godzilla loves the ponies. It is these lengthy, epic, and ultimately satisfying battles that are Lost Planet 2’s highlight. That isn’t to say that the human soldiers you face are pushovers, just that they’re more like tasty appetizers before big main courses.
Like many recent shooters, LP2 lets you play through its campaign either solo or co-op. Unlike the first game, which was more of a solitary experience, you’re always part of a four-man squad, a necessity since many objectives require teamwork, or are at least easier when you don’t have to do everything yourself. But since you can’t control your A.I. allies, LP2 is best played with friends. That’s not to say the A.I. guys won’t have your back -- they will, and may even do things on your “to-do” list -- just that it’s easier to coordinate an attack when someone’s listening.
There are also competitive online modes, including LP2-flavored variations on “Deathmatch” (“Elimination”), “Team Deathmatch” (“Team Elimination”), and “Capture The Flag” (“Akrid Egg Battle”). There are nine maps included (with more promised to come), and players can even decide if they want to fight on the small, medium, or large versions of them. There’s even a leveling up/perk system, though it’s mostly about customizing your character’s look.
Couple all this with a good variety of environments (jungles, industrial areas, underwater), some rather grandiose set pieces (including an exhilarating train ride), and this adds up to be a rather solid sci-fi shooter.
“Is this going to be a standup fight, Sir, or another bug hunt?"
But while Lost Planet 2 is fundamentally sound, there are some glaring problems that really hobble the experience. None are individual deal-breakers, but they are collectively irritating, especially since they could’ve -- and should’ve -- been avoided.
For starters, you can’t easily look down your gun’s barrel for more accurate targeting. While the game has eight different button configurations, none put the “zoom” ability in a convenient spot, and even then it’s not like using iron sights in other games. It’s is a big oversight, since the Akrid are vulnerable in specific spots. There’s one armadillo-ish character who has a hard outer shell that covers everything but his sensitive tail. A better lock-on would make these big battles more manageable.
Campaign is also so totally heavily geared towards co-op play that, even to play it alone, you have to host a co-op session and set the number of A.I. players to “3.” But if you take a break, you can’t continue your game automatically. Instead, you have to manually reset it for where you left off, and even then only at the end of a chapter (which are often made up of multiple missions), since you can’t save at the end of a mission. It’s downright appalling to deliberately include such a glaring obstacle to a fun single-player experience.
The team-based competitive online modes also have a rather conspicuous flaw: unlike every other game in which your teammates’ gamertags are blue and your enemies’ are red, it’s reversed here. It might sound like a dumb complaint until you realize you’ve been playing for hours and are still reflexively shooting at your teammates.
The multiplayer modes aren’t especially different from these same ones in other games, even with the zip line adding some quick vertical movement and the badass factor involved in piloting a VS suit. The one exception to this is the invigorating “Fugitive,” which is basically “Kill The Guy With The Ball,” but you’re really killing the guy.
But the biggest issue is the game’s change of scenery. What made the original so engaging was its iced-over Hoth-like setting, which gave it an air of loneliness and isolation. That’s been completely tossed out here, not just because the planet is now largely leafy and green, but because, as we said, you’re accompanied by three mood-killing pals, whether you like it or not.
Also, because of the warmer climate, you don’t need to constantly collect thermal energy from downed enemies, which kept you from freezing to death in the last game; instead, you use it to power a health regenerator or VS. As a result of that changed element, LP2 has lost a great deal of the tension that made the original game so nerve-wracking.
“That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over!”
Lost Planet 2 is a somewhat solid sci-fi shooter, one that could satisfy fans of the original, if they were fans of its multiplayer components. It’s got competent huge boss battles and rather sound mechanics, but several minor design decisions combine to work against it on multiple levels. The idea of creating an online co-op shooter -- even when playing offline with bots – sounds good in theory, but when Capcom recreates everything about the online experience (including the inability to save and pause properly), it flounders. Several elements of the game add up to a sequel that simply falls short of its processor. It’s just hard to think that were it not for all the minor (and often inexplicable) issues, Lost Planet 2 might’ve been more than just somewhat solid.