FOLLOWING ON FROM 2006’s Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, sequel Lost Planet 2 fi nds us on the same fictional planet, E.D.N. III, 10 years after the events of the first game. However, the arctic climes of the icy debut are replaced with a more temperate environment due to greater concentrations of Thermal Energy (T-ENG). The precious resource is the attraction for E.D.N. III's human inhabitants and the cause of its civil war.
From the outset, the campaign drops the player straight into the middle of combat between a range of warring human factions battling for control and supply of T-ENG, which also serves as the player’s health. Through six episodes, the player assumes command of a character from each of the factions; each story tells us a little more about what is going on in the wider picture from a range of perspectives. It’s all done in a way that feels distinctly multiplayer, with the campaign lobby used to create games/sessions with the various characters that become unlockable as you work through. Each episode generally involves either attacking another faction or destroying Akrids, the native alien race that is both the source of the human’s ability to exist on the planet (T-ENG) and also their greatest enemy.
This multi-perspective set-up is one of the more innovative aspects of the game, and allows the player to explore a range of often beautifully designed settings, be they dense, humid jungles, bleak urban areas or scorched deserts. Grand in both scope and perspective, the environments and general art design of the game are real highlights, with the melted snow allowing more interesting backdrops more varied than the fi rst game. The Akrids, too, particularly the enormous Category G bosses, are also a treat to the eye (when they’re not frantically trying to rid their home planet of you) and help keep the diverse nature of the visuals running strong throughout.
Sadly, when you stop looking at the game and actually try to play it, the results quickly become a lot more disappointing, at times unfathomably so. With so much effort clearly put into the graphic design of the game, it’s hard to understand how seasoned developers Capcom managed to get so many of the other aspects wrong. Case in point: the vital basics of player movement. Regardless of who you’re controlling, the game seems to make it as diffi cult and clunky as possible. It's easy for players to get stuck in unwanted areas without the means to get themselves out of the situation. The control scheme also has fundamental issues with oddly chosen buttons (powering up using the ‘Start’ button – really?) unlike the increasingly intuitive Halo-aping schemes prevalent in modern shooters, and some actions doubled up in plain stupid pairings (throwing a grenade and ‘shooting’ energy at a team-mate are way too similar, leading to obvious problems). Other minor but frustrating details like the inability to save without fully completing a mission and issues with joining games online also build up across the game.
Furthermore, while the campaign’s structure and varied viewpoints strive to do something different, the story itself is pretty shallow. It doesn’t provide much aside from the generic space-army battling/ monster killing set-up that most shooter players will be painfully used to. This isn’t helped by the episodic format. While it does keep things from getting too bogged down, it also deprives the player of the opportunity to delve into the minds of each of the characters or the group they belong to.
What usually allows shooters and the like to get away with such storytelling is the fact that it is often a vehicle for brilliantly-orchestrated set pieces, thrilling getaways and chases, or general allout action, all of which are sadly lacking from Lost Planet 2. While the missions allow brief glimpses of tantalising action, often the player’s three AI team-mates will ruin any semblance of tactics. They’ll either spread out and provide as little help as possible or crowd around the player in a way that both hinders your actions and also makes the team an easy target. It’s also an indictment on the game that some of the most adrenaline-inducing moments happen during the well-crafted cutscenes.
Thankfully, the campaign can be played either as a co-op session in split-screen format or online, which helps to soothe the AI problems by allowing abundantly more helpful human counterparts to assist. What this doesn’t remove, though, is the feeling that as you move further through the game, you’re essentially going through the motions of the same mission; venture through a new environment, fight a gaggle of rival soldiers and/or smaller Akrid, before a Category-G Akrid bursts on the scene provoked by the spike in T-ENG activity. These battles, while often against intricately and diversely imagined bosses, always involve the exact same thing: shoot its glowing body parts with weak weapons for a tediously long period of time while often feeling powerless against its overpowered attacks that are sometimes impossible to escape from.
Overall, Lost Planet 2 is a game that does well at creating beautiful environments to run around in, but seriously drops the ball when asked to actually give you something to do within them. The mere provision of pretty graphics may have been acceptable a decade ago, but Lost Planet 2's numerous and infuriating issues are unacceptable. With so many better-designed options in the genre for you to choose from, Lost Planet 2 seems destined to fall through the cracks as a forgettable entry into the genre.