Lost Planet 2 is like a cute, eager-to-please puppy with horrible breath. It’s giddy, silly, enthusiastic, and really really wants you to be happy, but alas, it comes with an inherent flaw which makes the good times a bit of a slog to get to. But we’ll come to that soon enough. First up, the basics.
Lost Planet 2 is a Big Dumb Action Game, with a major focus on multiplayer co-op. If it had been released in the ‘80s it would be Contra. If it was a movie, it would be Predator. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. BDAGs are what gaming was built upon, and it’s actually bloody refreshing to play one as balls-out dedicated to the cause as LP2.
Above: If you respond well to this image, please read on
If the idea of standing on the roof of a speeding train, blasting the living crap out of mechs and rocket turrets using a hand-held Gatling gun big enough to make Jesse Ventura feel like half a man is appealing, then there are some truly awesome times to be had in Lost Planet 2. If it doesn’t, you probably won’t enjoy it at all. But then again, you probably don’t enjoy life either.
It’s the third-person shooter in its purest form. No lock-to-cover system, no stealth kills, no moral choices. Just big guns, big explosions and enemies so big that they’re not far off having their own gravitational pull. Spare weapons of every shape and size (though usually huge) litter every square inch of the game, giving its levels the look of the morning after a piss-up in a munitions factory. You’ll rarely walk three feet without finding a mech, flying machine or set of power armour you can pilot if the need takes you, and all handle with enjoyably deft slickness, meaning that destruction and the variety of ways you can unleash it are in constantly high supply.
Above; A genuine Capcom LP2 design note that we didn't make up
Lost Planet 2’s one concession to anything other than pure killing is its grappling hook system. Here, you simply aim and tap X or Square (depending on your console of choice) to zip up to higher areas and flanking routes at multiple levels of verticality.
It’s a simple, one-shot trick, with absolutely zero potential for comboing (you can’t even grapple mid-jump) but regardless it’s a cool and satisfying tool to use, and one that opens up a great deal of smooth, on-the-fly tactical play once you get up to speed on manoeuvring with it during combat. And you’ll need to master that verticality if you’re really going to get the best out of Lost Planet 2. Make no mistake, this game’s main reasons to be are vast spectacle and massive set-pieces, in a very literal sense. As shown below...
Above: The Akrid bosses are frigging huge, and yes, you have to kill them all
For what is essentially a linear, A-to-B shooter, Lost Planet 2 is actually a pleasingly open experience. Surprisingly so, in fact. While the core gameplay is usually a straightforward kill-fest, LP2’s levels frequently make use of branching routes, and even sometimes completely different paths to a main objective, in order to provide different members of co-op teams with completely different experiences.
And beyond that, certain end-of-level set-pieces are built entirely with non-linear squad-play in mind, playing more like pure multiplayer deathmatch arenas than traditional campaign events. An early assault on an enemy mine, for instance, actually plays out as an objective-based team game, as your squad blitzes AI soldier after AI solider in a multi-levelled circular arena while trying to lock down and hold certain key control points for a set period of time.
It’s spontaneous, it’s exciting, it’s totally open to player-interpretation and it never plays out the same way twice. At their best, these sections really elevate Lost Planet 2 beyond the completely funneled experiences most other shooters are offering right now.
Unfortunately though, it’s certainly not all like that. For every great slice of tasty set-piece pie, there’s a bitter, bland run-and-gun slog, so devoid of flair that not even the huge weaponry can keep it exciting. The corridor-fest in the above video is a particularly moribund experience. These sections are dull at best and frequently infuriating. And the thing that makes them the most infuriating? The fact that by trying so hard to become the new darling of the Gears of Halo: Army Among Thieves crowd, Capcom has taken things way too far.
Above: The good and the bad. Compare and contrast...
In terms of its scale, borderline unhealthy explosions-per-second ratio and sheer delight in sweet, blissful carnage, Lost Planet 2 is every bit the modern day 3D Contra. But it misses one vital lesson that Contra’s basic design taught us. Namely that…
Above: The first commandment of co-op
Lost Planet 2’s design relies far too much on the assumption of multiple players, and the balancing is often a mess for only one player. Sometimes you’ll find yourself ploughing through waves of stupid grunts like a lightsaber through already-melted butter, while at other times it will feel like you’re smashing your face into a wall of bricks sculpted from pure death, and cemented together with anguish.
Those sections, usually the ones packed with enemy mechs, automated gun turrets or mega-sized bosses, are clearly designed or a co-op team to take on together via flanking tactics and diversionary play. And in that respect, they’re often brilliantly designed.
But with only yourself and the rather ineffectual squad AI at hand, they’re frequently an un-fun nightmare of a grind, particularly given that they often come at the end of multi-section levels (often dull ones) which have to be completely restarted if you run out of continues during the finale. And although you can increase your number of lives by manually securing Data Posts (read: restart points) along the way, there are times in single-player when you’ll pray for the 30 lives bestowed by Contra’s legendary Konami code. Scream for it, in fact.
How about a boss fight in which you have to maintain and fire a colossal railway gun? Sound awesome? What if that means manually loading the beer barrel-sized ammo, manually charging up that ammo to make it more powerful, manually operating controls at either side of the gun to rotate it quickly left and right (it absolutely crawls when controlled using just the gun sights), manually aiming, manually firing, and sporadically running below deck to manually repair damage before the train blows up? While being attacked by a monster the size of Wales? As a team, kick-ass. On your own, balls.
That much-vaunted, multi-stage battle with the giant salamander Akrid? The one where you can shoot its legs out, climb up on its back, and eventually get inside its mouth and kill it from the inside? As a co-ordinated team, you’ve got the tactical ability to pull that off. As one man and a bunch of aimless AI, you’ll probably just end up spamming it with rockets for a very long time.
And don’t expect an epic or affecting story to pull you through the crap bits if you’re playing on your own. The (often literally) faceless cast, stiff acting and muddled genero-story will leave you with little idea of who you’re playing, what you’re doing, or why. And even less ability to care.
Above: Lost Planet 2's storytelling is little more engaging than this
Still though, the action never stops, the mechs are brilliant fun, and shit blows up real good. If that’s enough for you, you can handle sporadic boredom and frustration, or you can guarantee a full co-op team every time you play, Lost Planet 2 is ready and waiting for you.
Lost Planet? Yes. Both games offer balls-out action, huge mechs, bigger beasties and explosion upon glorious explosion, but the sequel's break away from consistent snowbound wastelands gives it the edge in terms of level variety, and if you're playing in co-op, it offers even more.
Gears of War 2? Absolutely not. Although not as frequent, Gears 2 throws up equally scaled-up spectacle, but it's shooting is tighter, it's AI cleverer and its level design tighter all round. Also, you can happily play Gears 2 on your own without any hassle.
Uncharted 2? No. The PS3's premier third-person actioner is a much slicker and consistently more inventive blockbuster. There's more variety, more personality, greater flair, and it goes without saying that Uncharted's cast and story will engage you a million times more than LP2's mumbling dullards.
Fast, frenetic, and frequently spectacular in scale, Lost Planet 2 will do the job if you have an itchy destruction finger, and provides some fun and well thought-out times in co-op. But ultimately, it's just all about the carnage, and frequently seems to have no care for the needs of the solo player.
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