Lost Planet 2 is a very good game, held back by some rudimentary and bizarre design choices. The game's essentially a four-player co-op shooter, in which you play as a series of factions in the varied and artistically interesting world of EDN-III. The game's narrative is revealed through the eyes of several different perspectives, though the story is not really the highlight here. That's partly because the plot is convoluted and cliche, but also because everything that happens seem like a justification for the huge encounters you're about to experience.
And huge encounters there are aplenty. Capcom's MT Framework engine is in full effect here - filling the screen with gun-fire, explosions and some of the biggest monsters you've ever seen in a video game. We're talking God Of War levels of scale here. Maybe bigger.
With a full multiplayer component, six episodes of four player co-op and a progressive unlock system, the average player should get at least 20 hours of play out of Lost Planet 2.
Once you get over the hurdles of Lost Planet 2's control scheme, you find a refreshingly tactile shooting experience underneath. The guns and machinery you encounter in Lost Planet 2 genuinely feel powerful. The feel is largely conveyed by the game's chunky animations, which can often be detrimental to the control you have over your character but provide a rare sense of weight. This is to the third-person shooter what Killzone 2 was to the FPS. Weighty, heavy, punchy. And all that's emphasised by some great audio work on the weapons, which sound practically terrifying. Sadly the game detracts from its own sense of power by making enemies efficient bullet sponges, soaking up ammo like there's no tomorrow. That said though, it's hard to defy the satisfaction of blasting an enemy with a VS Shotgun and subsequently watching him fly across the screen. Even if he does get up again.
There's one boss fight in Lost Planet 2 where you get eaten by the monster you're fighting. You subsequently experience a five minute trip through the inside said nasties' body before blasting yourself out of the other side. Lost Planet 2 competes with God Of War for scale. Bosses are enormous beasts lavished with beautiful animation. They really are a sight to behold. For all the spectacle of blasting the legs of enormous caterpillars though, they do boil down to the most basic of encounters. "Shoot the orange," your co-op team mates will scream. So you do. For about 10 minutes. And that's it. Still - they look absolutely amazing. If nothing else these encounters are a real technical masterpiece.
Lost Planet 2 is fun with friends or strangers. There's something bonding about meeting up with other players and shooting things in the face. You'll often feel for your friends what war veterans do for those they served alongside in the trenches: dependence, respect, admiration. Lost Planet 2 knows what its strenghts are - which is why the game keeps its sub-objectives so simplistic. It wants you to keep running forward with your buddies so you can reach the next battle ground. Battle grounds are often the source stress and tension, as Capcom thrust piles of mech warriors at your position. You'll need to work as a team to share resources - which are essentially for regenerating health. Any player loitering the resources will find his team in shady territory, so it's key to communicate and share. He who plays for others shall succeed - maybe...
... See there are big issues with Lost Planet 2. Take this one - instead of having lives in Lost Planet 2 you share a Battle Gauge with your team. This increases when you open Data Posts but decreases when a member of the team dies. That's not a problem in single-player because the Battle Gauge only decreases when you specifically die. In four-player co-op it decreases when anyone dies. To add insult to injury there are no checkpoints in Lost Planet 2. Yeah, you can see where this is going. In order to reach a save destination you'll need to complete a Chapter - some of which are 45-60 minutes long, and culminate in massively challenging boss battles. It's gut-wrenchingly heart-breaking to watch your team progress to the end of a chapter, get swept aside by an unavoidable attack from a boss character, and watch your battle gauge drain to zero. "Whoops, that's an hour's work down the drain then," you totally won't say because you'll be too busy throwing controllers and swearing like a mad man. It's a shame, because online co-op is definitely where players should be experiencing the game. In single-player, the AI is a little rough, and the whole experience feels a bit empty. Online, it's exciting, tense and vastly enjoyable. But it's broken because of these simple design choices. We can only hope Capcom issue a pretty prompt patch fixing our complaints. All they need to do is reduce the amount of Battle Gauge depleted after dying or introduce a simple checkpoint between each instanced part of the chapter. Problem solved. Review score increased. Players happy.
The game's inability to communicate with the player emphasise the issues explored above. While you and your team discuss exactly what the game wants you to do, a great hunking mech will have launched a missile at your feet and taken another 500 points from your Battle Gauge. Just one-step closer to restarting the entire chapter, eh?
Lost Planet 2's an extremely technically proficient game, that manages to throw some amazing encounters at you. But it does suffer from a wobbly frame-rate, particularly when there's a lot going on on-screen. Early reports are indicating this issue is emphasised on the PS3 SKU of the game, but we don't have the 360 version to compare with. It's not a game breaking problem, but it does lessen the impact of some the experience's more intense moments.
Single-player.Being a co-op game, playing alongside Lost Planet 2's AI can sometimes be problematic. The computer controlled counter-parts are usually fine in fire-fight situations, but are completely useless when buttons, switches and genuine mechanics come into play. The game's playable alone - and it can be a less frustrating experience thanks to the Battle Gauge problem not being so problematic here - but the experience feels empty, and the AI's just not as reliable as a good human player.
Lost Planet 2 includes a complete competitive multiplayer mode which we'll detail further in a future article.
Some unusual design choices make Lost Planet 2 substantially less fun than it should have been. Which is a shame because when the game's firing on all cylinders it's a real sight to behold. Frustratingly the game's flaws are sizeable and unavoidable. A missed opportunity.