Just recently, both Microsoft and Capcom have furiously denied claims of a buyout of the Japanese developer, but on the evidence of Lost Planet, it’s not hard to see why the claims surfaced in the first place. With newly wed editor, Jim, being locked away in his office since September with our copy of Dead Rising, and Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting having been the most successful Live Arcade title since launch, Capcom certainly seem to be enjoying their time on the Xbox 360.
Of course, as much as we love Capcom they still have their faults, and Lost Planet continues this unwelcome tradition with the story that accompanies your adventure across the alien and pirate inhabited frozen world of E.D.N 3. Had the British ever been in sole command of such a clean-up operation, the game would last only a few hours, perhaps mere minutes. But it seems that whenever the Americans (or, to be more exact, Hollywood) or the Japanese get their grubby little mitts on a situation, everything turns into a blockbuster movie. Short on action, the cut scenes that break up each level in Lost Planet are your usual bout of drivel filled with awkward pauses and poorly written scripts, complete with annoying and mind bending twists that a good bitch-slapping could sort out. So much so this reviewer was amazed at the lack of a Tom Cruise cameo, given his knack of movies filled with the aforementioned content. The point of your being is the frozen planet E.D.N 3 has seen the emergence of its natural inhabitants, the Akrid, who seem intent on taking back what the humans took away. Cities have been left in ruin and the entire race has been evacuated. It’s now left to the army and a few mechs to sort things out, but this all goes upside down when your father is killed by the big bad boss, Green Eye. As expected, we’ll now battle away towards the green giant to avenge his death. Oh, and there’s also Snow Pirates, a scattering of vigilantes housed away in secret locations that hate your guts. But I won’t spoil that one for you.
Step outside from the hideout of the vigilantes you team up with at the start of the game however, and Lost Planet comes into its own, with 4 degrees of difficulty. On the easy setting it’s quite possible to run through each level in the quickest possible time, with the odd pause to tackle larger enemies. Crank up to the harder settings and suddenly gun running takes a back seat to tactical running and jumping as the game launches wave upon wave of Akrid, some small and some large. This is where the grapple hook comes into play, allowing you to shoot up on top of a building within seconds to counter an attack or gain a vantage point, or merely escape from danger. The smaller Akrid such as Trillid and the gnat-like creatures are simple machine gun-fodder, with the basis of attack being taking out the nests nearby before filling the area with hot lead. Larger Akrid such as Dongo (a crab-come-armadillo) and Chryatis (stick insect with big arms) require more precision as both have weak points highlighted in orange. Attacking these for massive damage will kill them off quicker then simply shooting blindly, but also allows players to have a bit of fun whilst butchering their opponents. The Chryatis has huge arms which it tries and stabs you with, but by shooting the orangey bits on its joints, the arms will fall off, leaving the Akrid writhing around in the snow helplessly as you decide its fate. My favourite is a gum grenade stuck straight on its nose.
Whilst perhaps cruel, it’s important to practise the dark art of butchering because Boss fights are the typical Japanese fare of hitting weak points to drain an energy bar. These huge creatures are pretty much like the villains seen in a typical James Bond movie – they’re so big and huge and powerful that they could squish you in seconds, but prefer to arse around and give you ample opportunities to win. Unlike regular Akrid however, machine guns, grenades and shotguns are too weak to make a difference. Luckily then that Lost Planet has various mechs – Vital Suits – dotted around levels and in boss arenas to really lay the smackdown. Armed to the teeth with lasers, gattling guns, grenade launchers and the like, it’s merely a matter of timing than endless stabbing of the triggers to down an end of level boss. The ease at which you can command a mech means you won’t be perplexed at jumping into one to tear through an army of Akrid because the controls are more or less the same as when on foot, only you get to use your suits’ special abilities, be it a super high or long jump or even the ability to fly short distances.
Exploration can come at a cost, as although your energy bar refills rather quickly, all of your actions are governed by Thermal Energy, something that has replaced fossil fuels of old and can be harvested by killing the Akrid. The cold temperature eats away at this at a constant rate, so whilst killing enemies you must also jump about trying to gather the energy to keep going. Whilst levels are linear and straightforward, there are plenty of containers and frozen objects full of energy hidden away in buildings and small caves and openings to distract you from surging forward. It’s also unlikely that you’ll run out of weapons to kill Akrid with (and then collect their energy) as there always seems to be plenty of ammunition scattered around the place to keep things interesting.
Visually, Lost Planet is no Gears of War, but is very good in its own little way. When faced with the prospect of frozen, run-down cities filled with snow it leaves little to the imagination, what with everything being more or less white. Instead, it’s the massive explosions from detonated grenades and rockets that fill the air which will tingle your taste buds, with huge plumes of black smoke filling the screen and hiding pretty much everything in the vicinity for a few short seconds. Giant Akrid and bosses also look the part, towering above your puny self or mech with tentacles, whiskers and other bodily parts all looking top notch. Pretty much everything about Lost Planet is about the things within the icy plains and crevices than the world that inhabits them. And for that, things look awesome. This is backed up by a decent score of music and sound effects, from the rat-a-tat-tat of your machine gun to the satisfying whoosh of a rocket whizzing towards its target (or, depending on your aim, the scenery behind it), as well as the roar of monsters and the yells of the Snow Pirates.
And after all that, there’s online multiplayer too – for up to 16 players at a time. Whilst a nice option to take a break from the plains of E.D.N 3, it’s pretty much your standard “make shit dead” affair, only with mechs.
Coupled with Dead Rising, Capcom looks to be a company that wants to succeed on the Xbox 360, and with Lost Planet the evidence certainly helps us believe it. Whilst the tediously poor storyline, rather linear levels and repetitive gameplay stop this latest release from reaching triple-A status, it’s certainly something you should see the year in with as despite the glaring faults, hanging from a grapple hook whilst blasting away with a machine gun is something every gamer should sample.