Review: Lost Planet 2
Ten years after the events of the original game, Lost Planet 2 tells the story of the brutal conflict to collect life sustaining Thermal Energy on E.D.N III. Numerous factions fight to control the precious material, and are willing to do whatever it takes in order to survive. While the war is tiring on its own, the denizens of E.D.N. III must also contend with the Akrid, a ferocious insect-like life form that ravages the land in search of prey.
While the game’s premise is enough to draw me in, a myriad of technical and gameplay problems absolutely kill Lost Planet 2.
Think back to your days in elementary school, when you were first taught how to write essays. The teacher told you to explain the topic as if you were explaining it to a Martian, someone that has absolutely no idea what you are talking about. This is the approach that Lost Planet 2 takes toward treating the player.
Enemy encounters are laughably simple. Giant oozing monsters have glowing yellow spots for your targeting convenience, shots seem to hit regardless of how off target they were, and following your squad members often leads you to right where you need to be. If by some terrible mental affliction you still don’t know what to do, don’t fret! Your squad mates will explicitly tell you where to shoot! There is nothing more hilarious/facepalm than watching a towering Akrid with a pulsating yellow spots on its legs enter the scene while some idiot yells “GO FOR THE LEGS!” as if he’s having a eureka moment.
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve never played the original Lost Planet, but from what I’ve seen of it, monsters had giant “shoot me here” spots in that game too. So why is it that, in the sequel for God’s sake, LP2 feels like it needs to hold your hand? I guess Capcom must think we’re all goldfish or something.
Something that Lost Planet 2 doesn’t really want to explain, however, is the plot. Vague dialogue voiced by men determined to sound gruffer than the last will reveal what is happening, but never gives much of an indication of why I should care. The planet is in danger, I get it, but honestly, it’s hard to emote when you can’t see anyone’s face.
You read that right. Throughout the entire Lost Planet 2 experience, the most you will ever see is a character’s eyes (and that in itself is a rarity). Every character is covered head to toe in armor apparently designed by the artist responsible for crafting World of Warcraft’s shoulder pads. For all I know, there are #*@&ing penguins in those sets of battle armor. In short, everyone looks and sounds the same, making it impossible to become emotionally invested in the story.
Possible character model inspirations.
Like the plot, the gameplay itself isn’t very engrossing. While loading screens will often give hints such as “stay stealthy!” there is absolutely no encounter in Lost Planet 2 that cannot be won by running head first into a room of enemies guns blazing. The more meat-headed and mindless you are, the more successful you will be.
Dying, if you can even call it that in Lost Planet 2, is a total joke. Every mission starts you off with a set number of battle points that diminishes when you die. Only when your BP reaches zero do you actually fail a mission. Therefore, feel free to run and gun to your heart’s content, as the game will not punish you for doing so.
The only difficulty you will encounter (and I use that term lightly) is in the occasional bottleneck segment where the sheer number of foes will give you some trouble. Well, that and the control scheme. And the squadron A.I.
Despite how much Lost Planet 2 wants to hold your hand, it completely leaves you to your own devices when it comes to the control scheme. The default scheme makes certain necessary tasks unnecessarily hard; healing yourself while looking around requires two thumbs on your right hand, as does properly lining yourself up to perform melee attacks. Much of my time playing LP2 was spent in the “claw” position, where I would use my thumb for the joystick, index finger for face buttons, and middle finger for the trigger and bumper. The other control schemes did little to help, with each one making other equally vital actions painful to execute.
The over the shoulder camera is an absolute nightmare. Large, blocky armor and weapons almost always obscure your vision, and the issue only gets worse in narrow corridors and cluttered areas.
Collision detection is all over the place. Lost Planet 2 features a hookshot that enables you to navigate the terrain, but it’s finicky. Often times you will suddenly plummet en route to your destination, pushing you back further to the start of a mission, or to an annoying accidental death. Even standing on solid ground isn’t safe in LP2; items, enemies, and comrades have at times just dropped through the floor to their dooms.
All of these issues come together in the worst way possible during a mission that takes place between two parallel trains. In order to succeed, you must jump back and forth between the trains, taking out enemies and dodging explosive artillery fire. The cramped camera makes targeting painful, and using the flimsy hookshot to go from train to train caused more deaths than I care to count. However, nothing was more annoying than the artillery fire. Even if you dodge the shell, the explosion is often enough to knock you off the train, killing you instantly. LP2 happens to label those deaths as “suicides” by the way, which must be some sort of joke for Capcom.
Equally maddening is the bipolar squad A.I.. At times, your mates are brilliant. While I carried the shield to provide cover, the A.I. successfully turtled behind me and capped a control point. Additionally, they will often actually shoot and kill enemies, which is, sadly, a step up from most other games.
However, the A.I. spends as much time being brilliant as it does being a vegetable. In the exact same scenario that I just mentioned, needing to capture a point, a teammate held the shield while I was supposed to cap. Unlike me, the shield toting lobotomy patient just stood there doing nothing while I was riddled with bullets.
And that’s another thing. Lost Planet 2 subscribes to the notion that you the player are the only one worth shooting at. In an endgame segment, for example, I hid behind cover while my 3 squadmates stood completely out in the open. Nary a shot was fired at them. However, the moment I poked a pinky out from behind cover, the entire opposing army was trying go Yosemite Sam on my ass. I understand that I am the only guy on my team trying to win, but LP2 should at least pretend like my squadmates are valuable, if only to make me feel like I’m not completely alone.
The action, while frenetic and moderately amusing, becomes boring in a hurry. Every mission requires you to capture data points (read: control points) in order to progress to the next area. This, my friends, is idiotic. On more than one occasion I had completely cleared an area of enemies and was standing at the exit, only to learn that I missed a control point and had to run all the way back to the beginning of the level to activate it, and then run all the way back to the end to leave.
Unfortunately, there is no variation in the gameplay. LP2 is just a series of run, shoot, and activate data point that rinses and repeats from the moment you put the disc in until the finale.
It’s a shame, really. Lost Planet 2 actually has a lot of awesome things going for it. The enemy Akrids are fun to take on. Their monolithic size and design feel pulled right out of the super fun Starship Troopers, and the solid graphics let you revel in their goopy, slimy glory. It’s almost as if LP2 was designed by Michael Bay. While that may not be great for films, the concept of “make my monsters huge and my explosions… huger” really lends itself to gaming.
Lost Planet 2 is definitely worth a try, as its atmosphere and graphics are really superb. Unfortunately, the same care and effort was not applied to the game’s mechanics and plot. If the game controlled tighter and its story was more engrossing, it would warrant a buy, but its technical issues regulate it to weekend rental status.