Starting a new IP is one of the hardest things to do. There is no wonder that there was a time when new ideas were scary, as marketing and appealing to a broad audience, could easily be the downfall of passionate creators. Though that did not stop Capcom from trying to create IPs for both the Japanese and American crowd, which was an interesting strategy. Games like Dead Rising, Bionic Commando (2009) and Shadow of Rome, are clear examples of Capcom trying to give a setting that is more familiar to the Western (and European) audience, while still provide over-the-top moments that Japan is quite known for.
Today’s game falls in this marketing-strategy. I remember when it came out as I was a huge fan of Capcom, but did not own either of the next-gen consoles at the time and my PC was nothing to brag about. When my sister got around to buying an Xbox 360, I only played the indie-games at first after the bland and dull experience Gears of War brought on board. In fact, it was not until Lost Planet 3 came out that I decided to pick up the first installment: Extreme Condition. Before I sold it and got the entire trilogy on steam, that is. I am going with the Colonies Edition as, while it is not vital for the full experience, it adds in some extras for the singleplayer and multiplayer modes. With that said, I am excited to see how Capcom takes on the apocalyptic ice-age with their small, but a significant trilogy.
Global warming is a girl-dog
Our story takes place in the far future, where we have even a new era called T.C -. In T.C-80, Earth’s condition has gone horribly downwards thanks to global warming and pollution causing harm to the inhabitants and making them go to war for the sake of survival. The Neo Venus Construction (or NEVEC), tries to make a new planet called E.D.N III their new home for the people of Earth. While it does represent more of an ice-age than anything else, they have discovered that the alien-monsters inhabiting E.D.N, called Akrid, have a substance in them that holds precious, thermal energy. While these monsters are incredibly dangerous and come in all sizes and forms, this is the only hope for colonizing a new home. After 150 years of battle, the humans lost to the Akrid, though they are still not giving up trying to find a way to live on this hostile planet. Our story starts with a “snow pirate” called Wayne who, after witnessing his father’s death, suffers from amnesia. With his new crew, he wants to get rid of the NEVEC who apparently betrayed them and the rest of humankind.
If the story sounds convoluted, it really is not. This is an action B-movie through and through, with dialogues that are over-the-top, cutscenes that features slow-mo for the cool stunts, and a plot involving revenge, traitors, and conspiracies that are obvious the moment the plot introduces them. It is all cut and dry, and not subtle at all. However, this makes it easier to take in, as the game goes along with its cliche and cheesy set pieces, and I enjoy the story for this. There are parts where you suddenly meet a new, bombastic villain and get some bizarre backstory that is hard to really get behind, but it never goes too far because the writing is aware of its cheesiness.
This is what keeps me entertained: it knows how far it should go. While it is nothing interesting or even good, it is serviceable with fun action and the plot provides a small glimmer of hope in this cold and hopeless world, which I love. It also never becomes pretentious with social commentaries or similar, as the world has simply gone to hell and it is up to you to save the day. You are not the messiah or a hero, just a guy who wants to do the right thing while avenging your father. Nothing more abstract.
Our main-characters are uninteresting and forgettable, though none come of as unlikable and it is actually intriguing to see what is going to happen next. Not because it is intelligent, but because it is entertaining, even when it tries to be so serious that it gets silly. I do also like the heroes’ sweet and simple support for one another and there are some legit good parts where facial-animations do the talking. It is still a B-movie game, but one that knows it well and goes along with it. Nothing great, but certainly entertaining for its action and nonsense.
Story score: 5/10
Unique, hand-holding survival
Lost Planet is a third-person shooter where you will control Wayne through 11 missions in a linear fashion, each ending with a bossfight. Like many shooters from the time, you can pick up and hold up to two different guns, such as the trusty shotgun or the rapid-fire machine gun to name a few. There are plenty of different types of two-handed guns to choose with all complementing your preferred play-style, though varying up your use is recommended for conquering different situations. For example, huge swarms of creatures might be easier dealt with using a machine-gun, while the bigger fights will go down quickly with some well-placed rockets to their face. What guns you will acquire depends on the levels, but you should always find enough variety to get the most out of the experience.
However, while you, of course, use a button to pick up new weapons, changing it out with the one you were already holding, I do not understand why ammo for the guns you are using has to be manually picked up as well. This is such a weird design and all guns and ammo are clearly labeled, so it is not even something you are supposed to look out for. It is a minor annoyance, but also an incredibly strange one. You can also hold upwards to 20 different grenades, which comes in three types: plasma, sticky and the traditional hand-grenade. You have a huge pouch for these, but they only provide a minor explosion and are thrown without an accurate aim, making them only a minor, but effective help.
Making Wayne more versatile, he can also dodge-roll, jump an impressive height and distance, and uses a grappling-hook for traversing further or in a horizontal matter. The last addition gives a huge amount of possibility for exploration to find more goodies or to take down enemies from different angles, which the game does wonders with. Edges can be slippery and not because of the ice-physics, and if you touch any surface while moving towards what you aimed your grappling hook at, you won’t make it. It can’t be used while airborne either, which I believe was to limit it to not make it overpowered. The other issues with the grappling-hook only halt it and not neglects it thanks to the levels incorporating the use of it well with tall areas you can traverse towards and plenty of surfaces it can be used on. I also love that it automatically is used to shimmy down edges if you go over one without jumping. There is also a melee-attack and FPV, but I never found a use for either as enemies are best kept at a distance and seeing your character’s surroundings is highly recommended. Aiming down the sight is also provided and actually useful.
The fiends to shoot at range from huge monsters, swarms of insect-like creatures, and humans with deadly weapons. All are a threat, but have interesting and different weaknesses. Humans fire at a long-range, can use huge weapons and machines, and their weak-spot is their head, but the monsters have glowing essence that contains the heat that is keeping them alive. If it is destroyed, they will either die of the cold or lose a limb, providing some strategy on how to defeat them. They do have massive melee-attacks and can be severely aggressive, so keeping a distance is important.
Though the enemies, in general, are relentless and won’t stop attacking you, their AI is questionable. Many will blindly go towards you, even to the point of forgetting that there is a literal wall between you and them. They will eventually try to go around, so the moves you have at disposal such as dodge roll and duck-walking will become useful, and the minimap is useful for highlighting nearby threats. I also love the detail that humans will fight other monsters, which you can use to your advantage. Due to the mentioned altitudes levels can provide, explosive barrels, and destructible environment; you can use a lot of creativity to take down the hard-hitting enemies.
Possibly one of the biggest selling points of the game is the mech-suits. These beasts come in a huge variety, be it the more combat-oriented with even a chainsaw attached, those able to turn into a speeding vehicle, or the ones that can leap huge distances, all are fun to try out and complement the levels design they are in, giving you a lot of fun ways to play. You can also remove their mantled gun and use them while running on foot, which packs a huge punch at the cost of making you less versatile. Putting them on your mech is more useful though. In fact, each can have two sets of guns at the same time. Choosing the fire-power of the same weapon or mixing it up is good fun for providing strategy on how to take on huge fights. It was however annoying that exiting/entering the suit and picking up weapons were mapped to the same button, but I never got killed because of it thanks to being invulnerable to attacks when it happened.
As I have mentioned throughout this review, the levels are designed beautifully around the game’s combat and exploration. The missions can involve climbing up destroyed buildings while fighting troops, infiltrating a guarded facility with plenty of optional ways to attack, or small caves causing claustro- and entomophobia. This makes no mission dull and while they can take between 15-30 minutes to beat, the checkpoints are forgiving so no death feels harsh. Ending each stage are the spectacular boss-fights, be they enormous creatures that make you seem insignificant in comparison with devastating attacks or other humans in mech-suits providing full-on attacks. All are fun to tackle and provide great fights with you having to manage dodging and attacking at full speed. What is odd, is that you can only save after a mission is done, making it so you really have to sit down and actually play through with little to no breaks. However, the game is clocking in about 5 hours, so with some dedication, it can be beaten in a day.
A key feature that makes every segment tenser is your Thermal Energy located under your health bar. This is basically your heating-meter, which goes down nonstop and will also fall quicker when using a mech-suit, energy-guns, dodge-rolling, jumping, anything that requires more movement than simply walking. This also heals you when you take damage, and it is needed as the enemies can do severe damage to your health, and if your Thermal Energy is gone, your health drains. This adds a nice risk for choosing whether you should follow the straight-path, explore for more support items, or consider if you have enough Thermal to use for energy-guns or mech-suits.
However, as long as you keep moving and take down the enemies, you will be fine. This is because by killing any opponent, they will leave puddles of orange goo, which fills up your T-meter. The other option is also to put up data-posts, which while will make you unable to shoot while you hammer on the button to start it, but will restore a big amount of Thermal Energy, as well as guide you to your destination. This is definitely a nice addition, though it made me forget that I could use a map and even that I had this meter at times. I felt a form of tension for sure, but was never afraid of running out with the exception of the last 3 missions.
This is when I realized that Lost Planet is a beginner’s survival game, as is clearly shown through the aggressive but dumb AI, the tense but lenient heat-meter, the entertaining but overly powerful mech-suits, and lastly, the controls. While I used mouse and keyboard, for the most part, the game was made with a controller in mind, giving you the ability to do 90-degree turns with the bumpers, provide a functional auto-aim, and even forget to tell what buttons on the keyboard do and just show the Xbox controller.
This does in no way make Lost Planet bad or even average, as all additions are great and fully realized with quality level-design, fun gunfights, minor exploration, and small details such as how you must stand to switch out your gun, forcing you to be careful. However, the tension it wants to create is lessened because of its more approachable structure. For veterans, a higher difficulty-setting is recommended, though anyone can jump into the campaign and say they had fun with this installment. Just don’t forget to turn of auto-aim for a bit more challenge.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Cool as ice and metal
There is something to be said when you make a thematic apocalyptic setting gorgeous and intriguing by the visuals alone. The planet is all covered in snow and ice with fantastic weather-effects that covers our protagonist in snow, leaves tracks on the ground, and the general fog that masks the danger ahead. When it is easier to see, the worlds are brimming with personality, such as a fallen city, mysterious factories, caves infested with the most disturbing creatures, and more that I do not want to spoil. The sense of being alone in a hostile world like this is incredibly effective. What is more impressive, is how steady it all is when huge amounts of enemies are on the screen or the colossal beasts take over the battle-arena, providing intense action-packed moments, and the draw-distance is always impressive. The team actually used 300,000 to 600,000 polygons in the screen at once for a single battle and then used an XSI program to manually add in elaborate details. This level of talent is shown throughout the entire game.
This attention to quality is also shown in the design of the characters and monsters. The varied amount of insect-creatures is terrifying and grotesque with plenty of small details, such as the hair on them looking uncomfortably realistic. The actual humans look good and the design for their costumes are well made for providing both a nod to the traditional and appropriate attire for these kinds of setting, while also adding in creative setpieces fitting for the futuristic setting. Mech-suits must be mentioned as they are all unique and memorable by their designs alone and have unique looks to make them distinguishable, but also show that these are used with what materials the soldiers have left. The female costumes, while not bad, could use more clothing though. It is a subtle way to show off their figure, though it is not to the point of offensive as their attires are not overly sexualized.
As an action B-movie game, the huge fights will be one of the most important parts to get right and this is something Lost Planet does fantastically. Huge explosions, monsters freezing upon death before shattering into pieces, and the over-the-top physics of soldiers flying when getting shot, is just engaging and amazing to look at. The cutscenes follow this with dramatic zooming, slow-mo, and huge amount of fights on the screen that are so absurd it is hard to not smile at them. The facial-animations of our characters are also impressive with believable lip-syncing and eyes that emote clearly.
Though speaking of which, while the voice-actors are good and provide solid personalities, their directions can be silly. Their dramatic tone combined with writing that can be cheesy provides great fun, but not quality. Thankfully this is the only complaint I have for the sound effects, as the rest is fantastic such as the huge screams from monsters, the overdone performances of the enemies shouting, and the huge impacts of any weapon being fired.
I love the intense action the audio alone can provide and it is enhanced by the fantastic symphony and orchestrated soundtrack. Akihiko Narita is responsible for these amazing scores with a huge focus on drums, string-instruments and strong choirs that can overgo the trumpets. All have subtle moments that simply build upwards as the huge fights go on. Though it is easy to expect this much as Narita has previously composed music for the Monster Hunter games, Devil May Cry 4, and even a couple of the Resident Evil titles. Shuji Uchiyama also helped with the music, but I could unfortunately not find much info about this person. Although these grand pieces are wonderful, they are only used for the impactful and heavy moments, as most of the game only has ambient sounds or even silence, enhancing the lonely and hostile environment. This fantastic balance provides an apocalyptic world I want to be invested in.
Presentation Score: 9/10
The problems of achievements, but not the dealbreaker
Throughout every mission, you can search out for medals to shoot for collecting. While this gives some fun additions to the exploration, they don’t provide anything special except for a skin in the PS3 version. This I believe was because of how new and exciting achievements were in the beginning of its lifetime, as that is basically what you get for doing this huge task, making it lack any worthwhile reward. The other modes fare a bit better, but not by much. You are ranked by each mission, though a scoring-mode provides more focus on having an accurate aim, the time-trial is an interesting change, but neither is anything spectacular, especially when levels can be quite long to beat. The only really worthwhile addition to the single-player mode is the unlimited mode where you get invincibility and can cause chaos as your desire, and an extreme mode, which is a joy to tackle and makes it incredibly intense.
Multiplayer fares way better though. While the skins and models are few, more can be added by going against other people, and there are a bunch of options for a good time. You can choose between ranked or unranked matches, go for deathmatch, capture base or flag, team or all on all. These are standard, but well-implemented thanks to a bunch of customization and maps that bases itself on the singleplayer-maps, with plenty of high and low-altitudes, and the weapons and the thermal-part makes these even more intense. New modes that were added in with Colonies Edition are Akrid Hunter where you play as the monster to kill as many humans as possible, and Fugitive where one player fights against all others players and has to fill his victory gauge until it’s full Both are fun additions, but you do not need the extensive modes of the Colonies Edition to come back to Lost Planet for a good time
Extra score: 7/10
By focusing on being fun and diversity within its concept, Lost Planet provides an entertaining experience with many unique mechanics that are engaging and solid. The tension it could have had is lessened by being more approachable for newcomers, and the story is more generic than good, but it knows its limitations and provides an incredible atmosphere enhanced by the visuals and audio. The fights are always fun thanks to the level design, even if the enemies are more aggressive than intelligent, and the additions like mech-suits, grappling-hook, and thermal-energy, make this a game worth a playthrough. Having friends along for some matches simply sweetens the deal.