Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Xbox 360 Review
Back when the 360 was first launched, Capcom was not a company that would instantly pop into your head when asked who you thought will be one of the top supporters of the new-fangled console. The company never seemed to give a damn about Microsoft’s first foray into the console gaming world, offering very little over the lifespan of the original Xbox with a collection of 2D fighters being the very tip of a rather dishevelled looking iceberg. Thankfully for Microsoft’s second outing the great Japanese company seems to have put any qualms aside they might have once had and are now offering Microsoft’s next-gen baby a collection of brand new franchise to call their own. First was Dead Rising a great looking – but highly flawed – shooter; different from anything else out there and now we have the similarly twin worded Lost Planet that is equally great looking, also a little different from anything else but crucially also a game strewn with flaws that stop it from being great.
Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful!
Lost Planet takes place on a rather inhospitable planet known as E.D.N. III. – the full name of the planet is never explained but I’m are sure it stands for Extremely Dumb Name 3. For some reason the people of earth got up and left our little corner of the galaxy to colonize this place. Long story short, the colonization was a very bad idea as not only is the E.D.N III a very cold place, it is also stuffed with guys called Akrid who love to attack humans, but there is hope at hand as these Akrid are also a source of heat, thus helping humans – or more importantly the game’s main protagonist Wayne stay alive. The only way to get the heat (or T-ENG as the game calls it) from the Akrid is to blow them into little itsy-bitsy tiny pieces and due to your T-ENG supplies dropping at all times it is best to grab as much as you can! All in all the game’s storyline is very contrived, it seems obvious – to me at least – that the core mechanics were thought up first and some convoluted ramblings were built around it at a later date. To make things worse, as the game advances some silly plot twists happen (which make little sense) and none of the characters are in any way memorable which just add more fuel to the fire that Lost Planet is nothing more than a mindless run-and-gun shooter dressed up in next-gen sheen – there’s nothing wrong with a run-and-gun shooter though, but it has to be done right!
Lost Planet – for the most part – plays just like your typical Third Person Shooter. You play as the previously mentioned Wayne and you usually feel very overpowered as you fight against the hoards of enemies – there really is nothing new about this as we’ve all been doing it for years. There are a few things which brighten up the tasks set. Firstly the collection of weapons on show is impressive, you may feel overpowered but the arsenal is fun to use so that aspect of the game does not get boring. The next change is the aforementioned T-ENG which you must collect as you advance by blowing up the myriad of Akrid – and as we all grew up collecting all manner of things in all manner of games this appeals to our basic gamer instincts and thus is also is a fun activity!
The final big change is the inclusion of Vital Suits – which are mechs in all but name. These also need T-ENG for power but when Wayne jumps in one he has access to more firepower than ever before. The mechs however are destructible, so some care is needed when in control of one… it is best to try and keep in a mech as much as you can as it gives you a much better chance of success of surviving. Another nice touch is that there are a collection of different kinds of mechs available – such as jumping, hovering, flying and tanklike designs – which gives you something new to think about on each of the levels as you advance. One final plus point which I enjoyed was the option to pick up mech weapons and use them on foot. While holding one, your speed of movement is severely limited but having all that power grasped in you hands can only be considered extremely cool – that’s a fact!
But The Fire Is So Delightful
One facet of Lost Planet that is highly noticeable after only a few minutes play is that it is a very easy game. It is not only easy due to some substandard AI (that problem can be sorted by choosing a higher difficulty) but the main problems come from the simple gameplay decision Capcom has made to have the weakspot of every enemy on show for all to see. At times you almost expect some of the enemies to barge onscreen with a neon light tightly gripped in one of the tentacles emblazon with the helpful message “<—— Shoot Me Here.” As a result of showing you basically how to kill your foe each and every time none of the battles in the game are at all tense – in fact any form of nervousness you could have had while facing the selection of colossal battles is substituted with an effortless exercise of pointing at the enemy’s glowy bit and shooting over and over again, which in all honesty is not what you would call fun.
Another part of LP that may try some people’s patience is the game’s control scheme. Instead of doing the smart thing and opting for the same method used by the vast majority of 360 shooters Capcom – in their infinite wisdom – have decided to make a few tweaks here and a few alliterations there. I guess they thought the changes would make the game unique, but in all honesty they have succeeded in making the game more complicated than it needs to be. The aiming reticule also seems to be fiddlier than most, however it is hard to pinpoint what exactly feels different. It is probably just another residual effect left over from Capcom thinking different would really be better! The game however does try it’s best to make you want to love it. It has some nice ideas thrown in here and there. One of the most entertaining parts of the game, for me anyway was the grappling-hook tool – which instantly gave me a warm nostalgic flashback to the old NES great Bionic Commando – which incidentally was also a Capcom release. The basic mechanics behind the tool are simple but the idea is skilfully integrated to add another layer to the game.
The multiplayer aspect of game has the ability to keep you entertained for a few short burst of excitement but there are not enough features and/or action to keep you up into the early hours. The game has – the now almost mandatory – deathmatch and team deathmatch modes which are playable over a collection of eight different maps. There are also a few more modes which pit a differing number of players against each other and ask them to do certain tasks (titled Post Grab and Fugitive) but there are no modes you could define as truly special. Another disappointment is that the game offers no offline multiplayer options so you will have to have Xbox Live Gold should you want to take on other players. I know split-screen gaming may seem a bit outdated these days but at the very least they could have gone down the system link route; there is also no co-operative mode available either (on or offline). In terms of what you get for your money, the main game can be finished in about 9 hours but for those with a yearning to achieve, the Gamerpoints in Lost Planet are well laid out, making you work very hard if you ever hope to get the full 35 Achievements to get all 1000 points.
And Since We’ve No Place To Go
Graphically the game does a good job at looking next gen – excelling in those all import areas of being bright, shiny and of course high-def – but on the whole has an irriintating feeling of being very samey. Even though the levels evolve from the snow-filled areas of the game’s opening, the geometry of the environments remain the same and nothing really stands out to give you the feeling that you are fighting through a real place – a task Gears of War excelled at with an almost infinite amount of graphical intricacy. Instead Lost Planet feels very droning as you advance through the levels. On the other hand, some of the character designs are quite impressive, in particular Wayne himself seems highly detailed as are the many mechs he finds himself using.
There are also some nice effects on show. If you played the demo(s) you have probably already experience how good the snow looks but there are also some gorgeous flame, smoke and fire effects particularly on some of the latter stages. Boss battles are another huge plus with many of the end of level guardians defining the word immense, with gigantic monsters on show trying to take you down. While the boss fights themselves may not be highly memorable, the visual impact as they appear and bounce around screen is highly satisfying.
Audio is “serviceable” at best – and as with the rest of the game it has its share of nagging problems. Underwhelming voice acting is easily the biggest offender of the bunch as most of the characters in the game seem to have lost the will to live, with terrible vocal performance that may even make thunderous Brian Blessed speechless after hearing – yes it is that bad! Sound effects however are top notch, with each of the weapons having a nice loud boom equivalent to a clap of thunder when fired – the bigger the weapon, the more impressive the accompanying sound is. All the mechs also seem very powerful with hard, harsh clanging sounds going hand in hand in all their moves.
A good job has also been done with the music. It is, however, not very epic when compared to similar games in the genre and really does nothing to hype you for coming battle but all in all it does seem to fit the game’s style quite well – which is something all good video game soundtracks should aim for.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
Lost Planet is a playable game and nothing more. It offers a few interesting ideas but crucially does nothing to expand on them. The same can be said about the environments and characters themselves – everything just seems very basic. The game could easily be labelled as very shallow – it looks beautiful and will draw you in over the first hour or two – but there is nothing to back it up as you advance, which in turn eventually leads to boredom. All in all, Lost Planet is the equivalent of “the princess being in another castle” and then being forced to play the exact same castle over and over again into an infinite loop of despair. At the end of the day perhaps the best compliment I can give the game is that it looks to be the start of a great franchise… the basic ideas ARE there for a great game but ultimately they need greatly expanded on in the inevitable sequel to craft something that could truly be labelled a classic.
A borderline enjoyable, solid title but in all honesty it really is nothing special.
7.3 out of 10