Review – Lost Planet 2
As long as we all agree the last one was a bit shit.
Capcom’s recent attempts to appeal to Western audiences by employing Western studios have resulted in poor sales and a studio closure, but will they fair any better themselves with their own Lost Planet 2? The first game was a surprise hit in America, and somehow managed to earn a dedicated online player-base. It’s this feature that receives the most attention in LP2, to the extent that the a pure single-player experience is arguably absent.
I think it’s fair to say most people made their mind up about this series after the first game’s demo. It captured my attention with it’s bleak, snowy environment and Starship Troopers-style enemies; complimented by visuals that set a console benchmark. As someone who disliked EDF:2017 for its floaty controls (not the mention floaty ants), I appreciated the clunking, deliberate animations and unforgiving physics that made the character feel connected to the world, despite taking control from the player. It had it’s many idiosyncrasies, that you either came to love or loathe. If you were in the latter camp, then stop reading now and forget about picking up the sequel, because Lost Planet 2 is one for the fans.
So assured of your dedication to the franchise is the game, that the story at no point fills you in on the back-story, with only a passing reference made to a long-dead secondary character from the previous entry. Oddly enough, he’s the only character with a face or name and for the most part you play as his clones, at least in the NEVEC episodes, where your primary antagonist is also NEVEC, who wear the exact same uniforms as you. Although to be honest they could be wearing a kilt and bagpipes (which I think you can unlock in the character customisation) for all the personality they have. The only characters I came to sympathise with were a bunch a murderous banditos, represented with the same cultural deftness that Capcom employed in Resident Evil 5. All in all, the narrative is so disjointed that it’s either the product of some of the most avant-garde storytelling yet seen in mainstream gaming, or a developer who dedicated all of five mins thinking-time to it.
Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
What they did spend time thinking about though was set-pieces, which were by far my favourite feature. Whether it’s a train-mounted gun battery vs. a Sandworm; a one-way trip down the gullet of a hexopodal Godzilla; or fighting from the broadside of a Sandcrawler, LP2 is at it’s best when you and up to three friends are working in unison towards a common goal, warning each other to brace for impact and getting thrown around like they’re on the deck of Enterprise. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these arena-based, MMO-style raids, but then the whole single-player is quite short. I’m guessing the episodic nature implies DLC down the line. I wouldn’t say no.
You are a Snow Pirate!
When you’re not ‘killing big’, you’ll be running through traditional, albeit lush looking, linear levels, with the only objective being the less-than-exciting tap the B-button to proceed. Most of the time you’ll be tapping one of the EDN3’s ubiquitous dataposts, which act as radar stations, respawn points and a dispensers of extra battle-gauge and Thermal Energy. Your T-Eng supply is no longer the hassle that it was in the first game, but still acts as the literal lifeblood of the LP universe, fuelling mechs, energy weapons and most vitally, your healing factor. The health regeneration is done really well, allowing you to manually heal at the cost of T-Eng.
Monster Closet Hunter
A lot of single-player games are little more than practise for the multiplayer, but LP2 takes that idea a step further and has the singleplayer basically be an extension of the multiplayer. In-game objectives almost without exception involve capturing and defending points; you earn killstreaks; you respawn instead of restarting; and when you complete a level (or what feels more like a map) you enter a countdown while they load the next ‘map’. Multiplayer was clearly a priority, but since they removed my favourite mode from the playlists, I didn’t put much time into it.
If you don’t have friends to play with and are unwilling to party up with randoms, you can take bring three AI teammates as backup. While they certainly won’t be leading any charges, (or even piloting their own mechs) they do at least draw enemy fire, and since their deaths don’t cost lives, the game can bizarrely be easier in singleplayer. It’s clear however that the game was designed to be played and, more importantly, enjoyed in co-op, with a competitive scoring system keeping you focused.
Acronyms without Meanings
The game is pretty short and designed for multiple playthroughs, separating its six episodes into bitesize chunks of about 3 chapters, with each chapter constituting a couple of missions and maybe a boss. If you run out of battle gauge (ie a shared pool of lives) during a chapter, you restart that chapter. This is a deal-breaker. You’ll need the patience of a saint or an achievement whore to put up with the some of the encounters. The mission can take up to 20 mins, so you can lose a lot of progress if you screw up or the game screws you over. This is made even worse by the fact that any experience or unlock tokens are lost, which was probably the reason you were grinding the level again to begin with.
Co-op play can elevate a good game to greatness or a poor one to playable, Lost Planet 2 is somewhere in the middle. It can be very enjoyable, with some excellent set pieces and a good sense of humour when it comes to emotes and nametags.
Unfortunately the core game doesn’t play as smooth as you’d like. Characters are quite slow, which I can live with in the smaller environments, but the sprint button feels near enough useless. The grappling hook isn’t very versatile and the ‘tricks’ you can do with it aren’t explained anywhere in game. Hell, a decent grappling hook could have helped to forgive this game a lot, but as it is it’s a missed opportunity.
Animations can take too long to play out leaving you wide open, there are no checkpoints within the chapters (even after a results screen), the method for unlocking stuff is insane (but strangely addictive) and the most likely cause of death is a one hit kill, generally from being knocked flying off the map.
Still, with friends, I had fun. There isn’t even necessarily a massive feeling of team work, but sharing the experience of fighting a giant monster with three friends is great. If you are thinking about playing through Lost Planet 2 alone I’d advise against it. Your ally AI is poor and the missions will take you much longer as it will be just you attacking objectives by yourself, when the game was designed for four players.
There is also a multiplayer mode with quite a few game types, but it suffers from the same control problems as the single player. If you played the multiplayer mode on LP1 then you’ll know what to expect. If you played LP1 and loved it then you should probably give this a go, especially if you have friends to play with. If you hated LP1 I can’t see this changing your mind and if you’re lacking in the LP2-owning friend department then this is much harder to recommend.
Secondary Score: 6/10
Unfortunately it’s only through copious amount of grinding that you’ll start to unlock actual new weapons in the game fundamentally flawed slot machine unlocks system. While the nicknames and emotes bring a lot of much needed levity to the proceedings, (and I certainly prefer having someone /dance on my corpse than teabag it) what I would much rather bring is a flamethrower or a portal grenade. But these will be off limits until they come up at random, which probably won’t happen since there are far more useless dogtags than weapons. This is a great shame because in many instances they’re by far the best weapons in the game and frankly some of the only new additions.
Hot Blooded Awesomness
That’s probably my main issue with LP2. Although it’s been three years since the last game, a lot of content has been recycled, with your primary arsenal, mechs and Akrid adversaries relatively unchanged. In addition to Modern Warfare-style perks and a commendable set of character skins, a few improvements have been made to the actual game, such the ability for mechs to merge and perform multiple transformations. Unfortunately I didn’t even realise this was possible due to the controls being hidden away in layers of menus dating back to the Permian. (or at least a generation where you could get away with expecting people to read the manual)
I’ve covered wars
In ignoring the criticism of the first game and expanding upon the multiplayer at the expense of the campaign, Capcom will have done little to broaden the appeal of the series. Even as someone who loves co-op gaming, I’d rather have seen a purely single-player story, will co-op offered in the style of Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops. Hopefully the third game will see a return to the norm (and Wayne).