Ahh snow, with it’s fluffy white goodness, what is not to like about it? It brings usually timid people out into a fury of snowballing menace and getting to wrap up warm and enjoy some steaming hot co-co cannot be bad. Capcom were thinking of those people when they made Lost Planet because they filled it with snow. Not just a few handfuls of the stuff, not even a blizzard or two, we are talking Mount Everest amounts and Capcom were not just happy with a load of snow, oh no, they went and threw in big guns, mechs and huge bugs. Interested in Capcom’s new Winter Break holiday package? Let’s take a walk my frosty friends.
If you played a word association game with Capcom you would undoubtedly come up with Zombies, and you would be correct. My last review for Capcom happened to be the zombie-splattering, erotic photo taking game that was Dead Rising, so seeing Capcom working on a new game called Lost Planet did have me wondering if they would shoehorn some pulse-dodging freaks in there somehow. I was shocked to find no zombies what so ever but I did find some huge bugs that I had to shoot with guns, which is always a pleasant surprise. The first thing you notice about Lost Planet is the very odd character names and fairly strange storyline. As the start of the game unfolds you find yourself firmly planted in the boots of your character, Wayne, on the planet E.D.N III which is mankind’s choice for a new home. Personally I would have chosen the nearby Planet Hawaii III but they obviously got a bit sidetracked and ended up on E.D.N III which happens to be pretty much frozen all of the time.
The story unfolds and sees your hero (Wayne) loosing his memory and linking up with a friendly group of miscreants as they hunt down the evil Snow Pirate. Sadly no skull and crossbones or funny hats could be seen with all my time playing the game, but they are still pirates somehow. I won’t mess up the story but it’s safe to say it does have a few weird plot twists in it and the cut-scenes do progress the story very well. With revenge, guns and dead bugs on the menu, all seems well so far for Lost Planet but there are a few areas of note for prospective players.
Graphically the game is top-notch, even if it does not have the graphical flare of Gears of War but most games never will. For a game that is primarily snow you would expect it to be pretty amazing and Capcom does not disappoint. As you wander throughout the levels the blizzards rage, you make footprints in the snow and slowly watch them fill back in again. Even if everything is white, Capcom have still managed to make the levels varied. One minute you are wandering through the snow waists, next minute you are scaling buildings in a snow covered city, you even get to do some non-snow filled levels like dams and underground hives, giving the bugs a kicking on their home turf. Yes there is a lot of snow going on and I cannot deny that it does feel very white as you go from level to level but, Capcom did manage to mix stunning graphics for the main characters, the levels, the huge bugs, the hatless Snow Pirates and also the great looking Cut-scenes. All of this shows that Capcom know how to use a 360 to get some amazing graphical trickery from it. Is this a sign that Capcom really like the 360? I hope so because Capcom are really working hard to come up with some imaginative and new IP’s for the 360, which is always welcome.
Cranking up the volume on lost planet you will notice one thing. Even the audio sounds freezing! You can hear the crunch of snow under your feet, the whistling winds echo out of the speakers, explosions sounds and look amazing, bugs squeal in terror as you unload some hot lead into their squishy, snow covered carapaces. The voice-acting is pretty good, though it does feel a little odd from time to time. Nothing really bad but you sometimes loose focus on the plot because you are laughing at the cast babbling on. Music is of the orchestral variety and tends to kick in when something major happens. Major usually means a huge monster bursting out of the snow and giving you a swift kicking. Capcom again does a great job on getting the music and sounds effects just right for Lost Planet. Wow, can they do no wrong?
Snow…check. Bursting Bugs…check. Big robots with guns?…Check! Capcom must have had a funny moment when they mixed all of the Lost Planet ideas together and then added Mechs. Called the VS’s or Vital Suits, Lost Planet takes an odd twist by letting you loose with a variety of VS styles with multiple weapon slots and also Mech abilities. Some are bog standard stompy Mechs, some have jump-jets on them, some even transform into other types of Mech. Hell, there is even a Gundam style Mech with a chainsaw on the arm of it! See Gears of War, look what you have started! The VS’s add a great new touch to Lost Planet and your understanding of the right Mech to use and how to use it can swing even the seemingly impossible fights. Bouncing around, launching missiles everywhere and watching as the carnage develops is a great moment in gaming and Lost Planet manages to keep this pace up pretty much all the way through the game. Add to this having to manage your HP bar and your Thermal Energy bar (T-Eng) and things get interesting. You always loose your T-Eng no matter what you do, if you run out you freeze to death. A careful balance of HP and T-Eng does make you play the game a bit more tactically because the all out assault may not work well because you freeze too fast. It is handy that when things die they drop T-Eng on the floor which you can pickup and replenish your T-Eng bar. The bigger the pickup the more you get, just remember to keep an eye on the gauge else it can lead to some very frustrating moments where you die for no reason, only to see you freeze to death.
Control wise everything works. You can run around in the snow, crouch to shoot things, reload your guns and even use your handy grappling hook as well. You also have a randomly handy 180 turn button, but to be honest I never even used it and when I did it was usually by mistake. Maybe Capcom should have changed that button to Snowball button. I would say that the default sensitivity for Lost Planet is a little low, so changing it before you get in is a good idea. On foot you do feel very slow and even though the VS’s are slow, they get around the landscape swiftly, so if you see a VS even if you don’t need it, just get it to make travelling a tad quicker. The controls work well, nothing out of the ordinary for a well made game, everything does what it is supposed to do and that pretty much sums it up.
So far Lost Planet seems like the best game in the world but is it really that perfect? Well, no it is not perfect. There are two main flaws in the game and one of the biggest flaws in the game happens to be the enemy AI. While it is fun to fight the Pirates, bugs and bigger bug bosses, they all feel a little dumb. Most Pirate enemies just stand and shoot at you until you kill them. Sometimes they run around a bit and try to act smart but they fail most of the time. Interestingly the bugs are smarter than the human AI is but they also feel a little too much like cannon-fodder. Even the huge daddy bugs just do the same attack patterns over and over until you die or they die. It almost feels like you are playing an old school, side scrolling shooter. Progress through the level, kill a boss, get some score-board and onto the next level with it’s slightly harder boss. It is a shame that Lost planet does so well at everything and then falls down on one of the most important parts of gaming, namely Gameplay. This then brings me onto the second main flaw of Lost Planet, the game is too short. You can clock this game, even on medium difficult in a couple of hours and that makes me sad. Capcom could have made Lost Planet an epic game with hours of gameplay in it but it ended up a short lived joy. Ok Capcom, you have proved you can make great games with great graphics but could you at least make one game which has all of that plus making it last a while?
The good side to Lost Planet’s seemingly short playtime comes in the form of XBox Live. Imagine the singleplayer full of crunchy snow, stompy Mechs and great weaponry, all packed in a box for 16 players to roam around in. The pretty much sums up the Live side of the game. Capcom are already adding updates along with new maps for us to enjoy, so even when the singleplayer is done and dusted, the online side of things is still a great laugh. You get a variety of standard game types like Deathmatch and Team-Deathmatch along with a few different variations on CTF and King of the Hill. There is enough here to keep gamers going and it does offer a different gameplay style to those that love Gears of War, Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. If Capcom supports the game with regular updates and maps then Lost Planet has a good life ahead of it. Capcom have proven they know how to make great games and they have proven they know how to make great new games too. Along with Dead Rising, Lost Planet is worth adding to your collection just because it looks damn fine and is a great laugh to play. The brevity of the singleplayer is a major downside since those without Live will not get to taste what the game has to offer. In the end Lost Planet is a cracking game, with cracking graphics and sound, with a splash of Mech filled goodness, great weaponry and a fun Xbox Live side but let down by being too short and a bit too old-school in places.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers