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Lost Planet 2

It was hard to not fall in love with Lost Planet: Extreme Condition way back in this generation’s infancy. On the Xbox 360, its copious amounts of motion blur and other freakin’ sweet shaders and effects were mind-blowing, and when the game launched on PC, the cutting-edge DirectX 10 additions were equally drool-worthy. Never mind that the game had some problems – more apparent now than they were in 2006 – it was gorgeous.

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Lost Planet 2 is eerily similar. Its release on the PC coincides neatly with Nvidia and ATI’s line of DirectX 11 compatible cards, and once again, has extra graphic effects that’ll bring a tear to anyone’s eye, provided they have a powerful enough rig. However, the problems with Lost Planet 2‘s gameplay are more apparent now than they were the first time around, and it doesn’t help that it adds some new ones to the pile.

First of all, this sequel has a large focus on multiplayer. The campaign’s story is a transparent vehicle for co-operative shootouts; so much so that the game feels significantly harder without at least one friend on board to help out. While most of the time is spent shooting hostile soldiers and hideous alien Akrid, there are some levels where each player begins in a slightly different place. These are, funnily enough, the coolest part of the co-op play; in particular, there is a mission early in the game where, if two people are in the game, one will be on the ground holding position and waiting for pickup, and the other will be sitting shotgun in a helicopter on its way to provide said pickup.

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Unfortunately, these situations are significantly less exciting when the gameplay itself is factored in. Lost Planet 2 provides a myriad of options for disposing of enemies: lots of guns, lots of moves, and lots of vehicles. However, after about an hour of play, it becomes apparent that there are simply too many options. This isn’t a knock against open-ended gameplay, mind. Shooters in particular have been known to hold the player’s hand in recent years, so it’s refreshing to have the training wheels removed. Lost Planet 2‘s idea of removing the training wheels, however, seems to involve not teaching you how to ride a bike in the first place and pushing you into traffic.

On consoles, the controls are frustrating. On PC, they’re a nightmare. Sure, an Xbox controller is supported, but with the way the keyboard controls are laid out, one might as well be required. Lost Planet 2 has keys for running, using, reloading, switching weapons, getting in and out of vehicles, taking weapons off of vehicles, putting them on back on vehicles, zooming, reloading your vehicle’s left weapon, reloading its right weapon, honking the horn, jumping, meleeing, emoting… I’m sure I’ve missed plenty. These aren’t all actions that would be unexpected for an action game, but the fact that they are virtually all separate keys on a keyboard is simply mind-boggling. Games just as complex as Lost Planet 2 have made do with the WASD keys, a few action keys, and the mouse; this game, however, seems to assume that only 747 pilots play PC games. For a game that is, essentially, a run-and-gun shooter, it’s entirely too much.

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It doesn’t help that the game finds other ways to punish you. There’s a large multiplayer component outside of the campaign, which features a robust customization mechanic. Costumes, titles, weapons, and power-ups can all be changed in multiplayer – which is awesome, until you remember that 1. you’re playing Lost Planet 2 and 2. unlocking anything remotely interesting for multiplayer is a crapshoot. Items can be unlocked through the campaign in the form of boxes, which are “opened” at the end of a chapter. These can sometimes contain neat rewards like weapons, but usually, the game dumps a bunch of credits and titles on you. Credits can be used in a slot machine to earn another chance at unlocking items, and titles are simply that – nametags that appear over your character in multiplayer. Some of them are amusing, but there are hundreds of them, and more often than not, your hard-earned credits will be spent in the slot machine to earn them, instead of something useful like a power-up or a gun. Even if you enjoy Lost Planet‘s brand of arcade action, it will find a way to annoy you. It’s pretty impressive, to be honest.

It’s a shame, too, because the game clearly isn’t the product of half-assed design. The level design is short, sharp, and at its best, exciting. The boss battles are tough, but when the controls are cooperating, they can be incredibly satisfying. It’s also undeniably gorgeous, provided your computer can handle it. The problem seems to be a lack of cohesion. There’s simply too much in this game, or at least, enough ideas to turn an unfortunate control scheme into a bad control scheme. Lost Planet 2 may satisfy fans of shooters and Japanese arcade games looking for a hybrid – at its best, it’s a mix of Gears of War and pattern-based action games – but it will probably frustrate them, and it will definitely offend everyone else.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

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