Review: Try to follow this story and you'll end up extremely lost
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is the latest game from Onimusha creator and Capcom R&D head Keiji Inafune. Right from the start, you can tell Inafune's team went all out on this title. From the beautifully rendered landscapes and character models to the awesome fire and smoke effects, you'll definitely be thinking to yourself ?This is damn cool?. While not all the elements blended together perfectly, Lost Planet still qualifies as one of the better games released on the 360 thus far.
Lost Planet is basically the story of the colonization of EDN III, which is the ?LOST PLANET?. Earth is done and humans need a new home. EDN III is the frozen wasteland we chose (Don't ask me why). Only problem is, it's already inhabited by alien insects called Akrids and they don't want any human guests crowding their place. We find out while battling this scourge of indigenous life forms (because we should just be able to take over any planet we like and kill all the native creatures), that they carry thermal energy in their bodies. So we can destroy the monsters and use their liquid innards to power our new homes, pretty convenient.
They kick our butts though, so we go home and develop Vital Suits to battle them. We come back and the fun starts all over again.
Oh yeah, it's also about Snow Pirates and the company Nevtec. Snow Pirates used to be part of Nevtec but then they formed their own group because they are against the Frontier Project being employed by Nevtec, which is the terra-forming of EDN III, which is the reason why we came here in the first place. Our hero, Wayne is Gale's son who used to be part of Nevtec and he's some big shot warrior type but he got killed and Wayne almost died too but lost his memory and was frozen for a year before some Snow Pirates found him.
Gale got betrayed by someone which is why he's dead?was it Isenberg??-.or was that Yuri who got betrayed? Wait?Luka and Rick work with Yuri and Yuri is cooperating with Nevtec, even though Luka, Wayne and Rick don't know it, but he's a pirate and wants to help Wayne defeat Nevtec and avenge his father who he can't remember??? Well, If you're a little confused, don't worry, about halfway through the story in Lost Planet, you'll be totally, well?lost.
Sometimes, I just wish developers would stick to either a simple story or include a 100 page mini-novel with the game manual, to explain the complicated ones. I can't keep up with this convoluted tale anymore!! Thankfully, there is actual good gameplay mixed up with the maze-like direction of the plotline so let's focus on that.
The single player campaign in Lost Planet is made up of 11 missions. CG cutscenes open the game and move the story along in-between the missions so you at least have a basic if not complete understanding of why you're fighting. Of course you can skip cutscenes you have already seen, which is always a welcome feature. In case you miss something during the intermission, a nice summary of exactly what your mission objectives are, appears right before you start each level. Your objectives, message logs and game options can be accessed after you begin via your PDA device.
The action mostly takes place in 3rd person view but you can switch to 1st person while on foot if you choose.
The game basically consists of you battling the Akrid insects, Snow Pirates and Nevtec security personnel.
Along with the standard handheld weapons and rocket turrets, both groups of human adversaries will attack you with VS's (Vital Suits), which is just another name for Mechs. After battling through the various enemies, each level ends with a boss character, usually a giant Akrid of some sort, but sometimes an enemy super VS.
Every mission will give you ample opportunity to control your own Vital Suits, which are parked in and around facilities or sometimes abandoned in the snow. There are several VS models with varying degrees of jump, movement and assault capabilities. Some Mechs even have the ability to act like Transformers and reconfigure into snow speeders or tanks for faster travel.
VS combat is a very well done aspect of the game. You're restricted to 3rd person view but considering that you usually fight multiple enemies coming from all directions, the situational awareness is crucial. During combat, VS weapons can be picked up off the battlefield so you can replenish ammo or change your implement of destruction. Depending on the model, strategy will also include skillful use of your rocket assisted jump and sliding capabilities.
Player weapons include a machine gun, shotgun, laser rifle, sniper rifle (zoom scope), plasma gun (zoom scope), rocket launcher and 3 styles of grenades. One very cool feature allows you to actually carry most of the VS weapons while on foot. When standing next to a VS, you can detach one of its mounted armaments and take it with you. The drawback is that it will slow you down considerably. Some of these detachable VS weapons include a gatling machine gun, large rocket launcher, heavy auto shotgun, grenade launcher, heavy laser rifle and multiple beam homing laser.
Your health system consists of a life bar and thermal energy meter. Thermal Energy (TE) is the fuel contained in your hip energy pod. It's used to power your exposure suit or VS Mech. The exposure suit keeps you alive in the frigid temperatures of EDN III. While walking around, the exposure suit is the only thing using thermal energy so the TE meter will drain slowly. If you get into a VS and start doing jet jumps, it will drain much faster.
When your TE meter reaches zero, your life bar will start to decrease until you die. If you take damage during combat, your life bar will drain even if you have TE. This is where the Harmonizer comes into play. It's a special device that uses Thermal Energy to replenish your Life Bar. However, the Harmonizer takes a bit of time to charge your life bar so you can still get killed if you take too much damage without getting a break to recover.
Thermal Energy can be attained by killing different Akrid species, shooting up Thermal Energy storage vats or by activating Data Posts during your mission. Data Posts are beacons that will point you in the direction of your final objective. Consider them waypoints, each one will guide you to the next Data Post until you reach your final destination. When you turn them on, your PDA accessed map will also become active and your thermal energy level will increase a good amount.
The 360 control pad mechanics in Lost Planet work well after some practice and includes standard customizations for changing the button layouts. One unique feature is the aiming system employed. There are 3 different forms of aiming styles and sensitivity levels for each style.
With some trial and error, all players should be able to find an aiming method that will satisfy them. Whatever style you choose, the response is not as fast as other popular FPS titles. The need to be more precise, however, especially when attacking weak points in the Akrids, makes it a necessary design decision.
Controls include jumping, melee attack, rolling dives and crouching. The shoulder buttons also give you the added function of snapping instantly 90 degrees in either direction. The best feature here, though, is the grappling hook. The hook can be launched into walls and ledges, allowing you to reach higher ground. You can also hook into an enemy VS then pull yourself on top of it. Once there, you plant a nade on the cockpit before jumping off and watching the fireworks, pretty awesome.
Gameplay has a few annoyances. One inexplicable defect is the inability to look or aim directly up. You'll find many encounters, especially in boss battles, where you have to back up in order to get a shot off because your character's upward motion has a limited arc of motion. This is stupid in the extreme and caused much hair pulling on my part during the campaign. The grappling hook has two glaring faults. It loses its connection if you get hit by enemy fire and you can't launch it while jumping. Both of these problems make it much harder to use it as a method to quickly evade incoming fire.
Enemy AI is generally good but can act idiotic sometimes. Nevtec rocket soldiers can easily be enticed into firing while partially behind cover, blowing themselves and others around them to kingdom come. The Ai in the Akrid bosses can be downright cheap in many cases.
I don't mind hard but bosses with cheap attacks just makes the game frustrating at higher difficulty levels. You may want to seriously consider playing Lost Planet on Easy difficulty the first time around until you get the hang of VS controls and boss patterns. Trust me, you'll still get challenged at the later stages and will save yourself from getting an ulcer.
I'm also not a big fan of the Thermal Energy meter which basically works as a timer. In Normal and Easy, you'll end up getting many chances to build up plenty of TE. Sometimes though, especially at Hard Difficulty, there is a sense of being rushed. You feel as if you don't have time to stop and enjoy the scenery or explore every inch of the world, which is a shame in such great looking levels.
The graphics in Lost Planet are definitely a high point. The CG cutscenes are simply beautiful, even if they have the effect of confusing you and introducing a few lame and annoying characters (Ricky, Luka). The rich, snowbound landscapes and interior industrial locales are outstanding. The missions that take you to the volcanic regions of EDN III deserve special mention. Whether it's the hot embers floating through the air or the positively glorious lava flowing all around, you'll appreciate the effort put into the visual touches in this game.
The character models are excellent throughout. The various Akrid insects are wonderfully animated and are reminiscent of creatures in movies like Starship Troopers and Dune. The boss Akrids are especially well done. My favorite models were those of the VS Mechs. The Vital Suits are
painstakingly represented. The ?powering up? sequences and VS movements are a joy to watch. Whenever you climb into or out of one, you'll get a good look at the detailed cockpit interiors.
I have to say that the explosion and smoke effects are some of the best I've ever seen in a video game. Destructible cover is a particularly satisfying graphical treat. There's nothing like taking out a Nevec soldier in a tower, by firing at the base of the structure and seeing it collapse to the ground in a pile of steel and guts.
The sounds are okay but nothing spectacular. The snow crunches under your feet, you hear the steel clanking as a tower falls, various weapons discharging are distinct and Akrid noises are appropriately alien. The music ramps up in intensity at more dangerous areas of the missions but again it's only decent. I think the best thing you can say is that the sound doesn't distract you from the gameplay by being bad at any point.
Online play is a unique and entertaining experience with Lost Planet. 16 players can battle within 8 well designed and good looking maps. The graphical flare of the single player carries over to multiplayer, complete with the stunning explosions and smoke effects. Map sizes vary so you can find suitable environments for small team close combat or a large scale free for all.
Customizations are what you would expect from a major 360 title. Different player models with various styles of uniform patterns are available. You can choose between a Ranked match or unranked Player Match. Quickmatch or Custom Match are both options. In Custom Match, you can set the time limit, starting equipment, map stage, Thermal Energy power limit, friendly fire on/off and MP mode.
The modes include Elimination (DM), Team Elimination, Post Grab (where the teams try to control the Data Posts on the map) and Fugitive (one player VS everyone else).
16 combatants may not seem like enough to some but multiplayer in Lost Planet still represents an action packed affair. You have players grappling to hilltops and rooftops, racing for unclaimed VS mechs and powerful weapons?.it just all works well.