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Lost Planet 2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Lost Planet 2 (PlayStation 3) review

"Lost Planet 2 is Capcom's fond revisit of the original Lost Planet. But the sequel is focused on co-op action rather than single player. It is marred by some (presumably patchable) weaknesses. And put together with how the game screams out for a few add-on episodes to go with one of the playable character sets, this makes the game feels somewhat incomplete. But what is there - if you can get past the online hurdle, the initial difficulty, and the somewhat mysterious interfaces - is epic on the l..."

Lost Planet 2 is Capcom's fond revisit of the original Lost Planet. But the sequel is focused on co-op action rather than single player. It is marred by some (presumably patchable) weaknesses. And put together with how the game screams out for a few add-on episodes to go with one of the playable character sets, this makes the game feels somewhat incomplete. But what is there - if you can get past the online hurdle, the initial difficulty, and the somewhat mysterious interfaces - is epic on the level of playing a part in a science fiction blockbuster movie.

The first Lost Planet was single-player only, with a narrative centered around the game's protagonist - and his quest to regain his memories, as well as finding a (good) reason to fight. This was told in cutscenes, that then tied the missions together as you made your way through E.D.N. III and all of it's cold intrigue.

Capcom's sequel departs from this in a number of ways. The constantly draining thermal energy ticker is gone as the tension-builder during the missions, just like the infinitely lengthy exposition afterwards. Instead, the focus of the game is now the co-operative multiplayer scenarios. The mission-structure mirrors that - instead of following a particular character, you follow a squad on a mission as one of four playable characters. Sparse cutscenes that subtly focus on your own playable character then work either as instructive briefing before the mission, or small segueways between the chapters of the episode.

For example, the train-mission in chapter three has a scene-shift mid-way that has your squad jumping from one train to another (as the first train explodes, obviously). You then have your own slow-motion quick-time event, just like the other players, which ends up on the other train together with the other squad-mates that also made the jump. Segments like these last for about twenty seconds, and then the mission continues.

In a similar construction, each of the chapters follow their own sub-stories, until they end up in a finale towards the end that tie them all together - with a bit of tape, a string, and a clotheshanger. I suppose the overall plot might not be too dramatically directed either. And sometimes it really is reduced to some terribly important revelation literally being interrupted by a gigantic Akrid - the other dangerous species living on the lost planet - crashing into the scene, as the soundtrack cranks up from "Imperial March" to "Akrid Overkill". Certainly we learn a little about NEVEC's evil plans, the mechanics of artificial global E.D.N. III warming, and why the snowplains are thawing throughout the game. As well as discover the motivation of the NEVEC defectors. But the amount of backstory is usually just enough to briefly explain more immediate reasons for why you and your squad is advancing through any of the locations.

The presentation of the game is well served by this briefness, in my opinion. Because It simply makes the point clear that the story-telling takes place throughout the individual scenarios during gameplay, rather than through the typical passive exposition so often used in games that wish to be cinematic. And Lost Planet 2 succeeds well in placing the pacing and motivation in the mind of the players with this twist, and more effectively engage the players than lengthy cutscenes would have. 

The immersion is also helped along somewhat since the individual segments all play almost as a rolling homage to modern science fiction, without letting the story-telling rest on the many references. Whether it is fighting jungle-pirates, hordes of ferocious aliens, fending off attacks from a giant sand-worm, or capturing an orbital space-station with a death-ray attached to it - all of these sequences in this game have an overall pressing motivation that is there in the background, in each eerily familiar scenario. But when the mission succeeds with the defeat of a gigantic Akrid, or by reaching and holding particular goals - completing it is easily accepted as the climactic end of the segment in itself. Specially if you were barely hanging on to an Akrid's leg with your grapple-hook, and firing the gun at point blank range, as it falls with a rancor-like death-roar that briefly dulls out the symphonic orchestra in the background.

Unfortunately, getting to the point where you can play epic moments like these with your friends is a somewhat long journey. The match-making only allows new players to join an ongoing game between chapters. Meaning that either the one that starts the game has to wait in the lobby until everyone is ready. Or else the ones that join late will have to wait until the players and the AI will finish an episode.

It isn't too problematic if you can ask where in the mission your friends are on a mic, if you have one. But there's no text-indication or a percentage meter that says how close to finishing the mission your team is. Since the first segment of any mission will typically last about ten minutes, this will of course work out often with a qualified guess - but if you join at the later stages of a mission, you could well be waiting for 40 minutes before being allowed to play.

This is not made better by the fact that you can't while away the wait by fully editing your character, with scarves, masks, and different gestures you can map for any occasion, while you are stuck in the lobby. Instead you only have the option to - ironically - quickly switch out weapons loadouts from your currently selected campaign-character.

Other elements in this game that might only appeal to people with fantastic patience, as well as excessively much time on their hands, will be the fact that you can only choose your custom character for use in the mission modes after you have completed all the chapters (on any difficulty).

Meanwhile, any unlocks in the game are given to you by picking up fairly rare [?]box pickups with "credits" - that you then bet for upgrades and weapons in the evil “lp2 slot machine". At least the character parts for your increasingly entertaining costumes unlock as you "level up" with playing the campaign. But you still have to complete almost a full chapter before getting the first (of several) extra character set.

So it will take quite some time to get all of the different costumes and upgrades. This part of the game seems more like an MMO than an action-game. Still, the scenarios really are good enough, and different enough each time, to play over a few times. And it is clearly intended that you should do so, to find new strategies and approaches.

You don't have the endless transport-stages from MMOs, though. There's a warm-up segment long enough to find some sort of team-chemistry. And then there's the boss-fight. But is an MMO without the backstory and persistent world really going to last very long? I might go with "for a while".

Outside of this, the technical side is fairly good. The graphics are pretty on either platform (Lost Planet 2 uses the same framework as Resident Evil 5), and the animation is well done. The character animations are not extremely complex, but they are effective, and nicely tied to the game's mechanics. In the same way the preset paths of the giant Akrid, and the way you can partially influence where they will attack next makes the game engaging without being completely unpredictable, or complex. So Capcom struck a fine balance between complexity and interactive cinematics - it's as pretty as an on-rails blaster, but still interactive enough to play as a good action game. And that's an accomplishment. 

It is unfortunate that the moment is slightly ruined by level transitions typically take place by crossing a red line with 50% of your human players, which then gives you a count-down until the mission continues. It's actually a mechanic that makes sense, and is helpful in any co-op game. But I can't help but think that this could've been handled without going meta that obviously. Another thing that stands out is how you seldom get any warning if you are about to jump to your death into any of the game's many bottomless pits. Some of the edges in the water have pirahnas that nibble at your health. But sometimes you will suddenly die and wonder what just happened.

Network-wise, the game is fairly accommodating when it comes to lag. The game looks the best and plays with the least breakage if you play with someone on the same continent. But the game's co-op modes allows you to play on just about any connection. On the other hand, if you do lose the connection, you can't simply join the game again, because of the mentioned problems with teaming up. And with no dedicated servers - if the host leaves unexpectedly, the game ends right away, and scores and progress is lost. 

Still, if all else fails, the game also has split-screen two player co-op. Unfortunately you can only use this while off-line - you cannot add two other players to your squad when playing in split-screen. And half the screen is occupied by a black box and a mini-map. Still, it's better than nothing.

The game's versus mode is a different story, though - the action is so fast and complex in the close fights here that intercontinental lag makes the game unplayable very quickly. It's not that the mode is not a good one - the team-based gameplay with Vital Suit combinations, and team-boost moves is interesting and entertaining when it works - and so are the global faction based ranked games. But the versus mode is simply so sensitive to lag that you shouldn't expect a very interesting match, unless all the players in the game are from the same part of the same planet. The control-mechanics and weapons are also clearly not designed for the speed those games will play at, and it makes you wonder why they even bothered with the mode in the first place.

On the other hand, the co-op really is excellent, for as long as it lasts. Specially if you play with friends.

Played the game for some 20 hours, which was enough to unlock a couple of extra costume sets for the snow-pirate regulars, and get through the campaign. But not enough to unlock the Gun-sword in the evil "LP2 slot machine" (because that would be based on luck). Favourite move is grappling an Akrid's critical point, attaching a sticky grenade to it, before somersaulting away to safety. I recommend turning on the "bounding area", and reducing the sensitivity for the controls, if you think the game doesn't work too well on the default settings (which it doesn't).

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Community review by fleinn (May 27, 2010)

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