First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Lost Planet 2
Lost Planet 2 fails to deliver a comprehensible narrative to make sense of the conflict
- Online multiplayer mode still a lot of fun, expanded with new maps and customisation options, solid graphics and visuals.
- Four-player co-op campaign is dull and frustrating, awful checkpoint system further sullies campaign, unintelligible narrative with anonymous characters
Lost Planet 2 features an enjoyable multiplayer component and interesting monster designs, but it isn't enough to overcome its many faults. Gamers who enjoyed playing the original title online will find reasons to play it, but it's a disappointing title that doesn't live up to its potential.
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For those of us who battled monstrous Akrid bosses and launched our collective grappling hooks millions of times over in the original Lost Planet, the prospect of expanding its fertile blend of mechs, snow, and alien bloodshed with a four-player co-op campaign seemed like just the thing to propel the sequel to must-play status in 2010. Amazingly, it's not. In fact, the dramatic transformation of the campaign in Lost Planet 2 sucks much of the expected excitement out of the game, resulting in an ill-explained co-op adventure that's a pain to trudge through.
The original Lost Planet centred on a somewhat ambiguous hero named Wayne, and while his dialogue and exploits weren't always exciting or memorable, the character grounded the campaign with a semi-established narrative that gave you a sense of what you were fighting for. Lost Planet 2 takes a markedly different approach, scrapping all known characters and replacing them with several different factions, each fighting for T-ENG -- a valuable resource akin to Dune's spice -- about 10 years after the first game's conclusion.
Unfortunately, Lost Planet 2 fails to deliver a comprehensible narrative to make sense of the conflict. It doesn't introduce its characters or explain their loyalties or motivations; instead, you take control of a fresh faction with each new episode without really being told who they are and how they're involved. I'd forgive this narrative lapse if the campaign's action lived up to its potential, but the occasional glimmers of hope are subverted by dull, segmented missions and an outrageously poor checkpoint system.
It feels like Capcom tried to craft a campaign out of bits and pieces from Lost Planet's sharp multiplayer component, but in doing so, neglected to consider some of the core elements that make the series unique. Tight corridors largely replace the open canyons that provided the setting of the first game, and most of the highly unique, snow-covered environments are now replaced by genre-standard desert and jungle stages. Even the Vital Suit mechs are marginalized -- they're available throughout the campaign -- but they're rarely essential considering the game feels designed around on-foot action.
Blasting giant Akrid to kingdom come still provides its fair share of thrills, especially when you're armed with one of the game's killer shotguns, but the campaign quickly falls into a repetitive routine. The missions either consist of mind-numbingly mundane tasks like activating data posts or shooting foes en route to an exit, or massively frustrating encounters like laborious boss fights and missions set on moving vehicles.
Lost Planet 2 is a game best experienced with at least one co-op partner, if not three, and while the game fills in the gaps with A.I. controlled partners, their actions are inconsistent at best. I witnessed my automated allies performing admirable acts like activating a data post I had missed, but I'd also see them standing motionless past a clearing as numerous opponents surrounded me.
What gives the campaign an especially unpleasant edge, however, is a very poorly crafted mission structure that separates each of the game's six episodes into chapters comprised of smaller missions. Checkpoints come only at the beginning of chapters, so losing a later mission in a chapter kicks you back to the start, typically claiming 20-25 minutes of lost progress along the way. I can't even describe how gut-wrenching it is to lose a couple hours of play because your squad keeps dropping the last mission of a frustrating chapter. Feel no shame in knocking down the difficulty, action fans -- Lost Planet 2 is very generous with weapons and the battle gauge on easy mode, making for a much more pleasurable campaign experience.
The online multiplayer fares much better, though, and it's the game's lone bright spot. It hasn't changed much from the mode found in the expanded Colonies edition of the original game, but the new content improves on what was already one of the most unique multiplayer shooters around. Due to the limitations of reviewing a pre-release game that only a handful of other outlets had available, I wasn't able to take part in any full 16-player battles, but I was able to take part in several matches with a smaller group that gave me a taste for what to expect in the final product.
Lost Planet 2offers a familiar multiplayer experience, but it remains a very compelling draw. Whether you're battling for kills or capturing Akrid eggs or data posts, the option of using Vital Suits and grappling hooks still gives the game a unique flair that doesn't exist in other online shooters. New character customisation options and unlockable abilities offer fresh and stylish ways to enter the battlefield, though you'll have to play through the campaign stages to earn credits for many bonuses.
Among the 10 included maps -- others are coming as DLC -- are unique scenarios like a confined game-show battle zone complete with overenthusiastic announcer, and an outer space setting where each player has a hoverpack to jet between platforms. While it is disappointing that Lost Planet 2 discards some of the bonus multiplayer modes like VS Annihilator and Akrid Hunting found in colonies, I am intrigued to see how players take to the new Faction matches, which let you choose one of the five factions and join recurring territory battles set on different maps.
Though it may not be a major upgrade, Lost Planet 2's competitive multiplayer is still a very worthwhile mode; it just doesn't fully compensate for what is an otherwise disappointing experience. Hardcore fans of the original's online modes might find enough to justify a purchase, but the monotonous campaign and overall lacklustre design makes it hard to recommend to anyone else. And if you didn't care for the original, don't expect anything in Lost Planet 2 to drastically sway your opinion.
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