Xbox 360 Preview

Lost Planet 2 (multiplayer)

Lost: One jungle-filled, monster-infested Planet

Plodding through driving snowstorms and being relentlessly bombarded by malicious space pirates and primal, insectoid monsters are the two most prominent memories that have stuck with us since last playing Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. A Japanese-produced third-person adventure that appealed to our Westernised action hungry palette, Lost Planet struck us as a game with great potential that was hampered only by clunky controls and the protagonist's (the bland and dour Wayne) treacly, shambling pace. Nonetheless, this glacial motion somehow translated rather well to the game's multiplayer, providing a level playing field where LP hit mostly the right notes where the core single-player stuff otherwise failed to.

Lost Planet's single-player was by no means bad, but the sequel's narrative component now comes with added co-op support for four-players, signifying that Capcom has clearly focused a great deal of their attention on the multiplayer aspect for the LP2 and this is something that stretches into the online competitive aspect, which takes the first game's already quite solid foundations and builds upon the inherent potential with all manner of new and exciting features.

LP 2's multiplayer has been expanded in almost every department, from the wealth of customisation options on show, to the new bipedal mechanoid Vital Suits and improved fluidity in player movement. On a side-note, it certainly looks a lot slicker too, although Extreme Condition was no slouch in the visuals department, rendering its own brand of inhospitable snowy tundra impeccably well.

This time around, that snow has melted, revealing lush jungle foliage beneath Lost Planet 2's alien world known as E.D.N III. Who knew? Acres of white stuff is replaced by dense leaves, hanging vines and other wild greenery, making what was already an incredibly appealing game look even prettier. But there are no trees or overgrowth in the first of several multiplayer arenas that we sample during our hands-on session with the game at a London nightclub, although there were plenty to be found amongst the many other exotic locations on offer during our extended play time.

Instead, our first round of Team Elimination begins in the Cube stage - a relatively confined space made up of stacked (you guessed it) cubes. It's a stadium surrounded by a baying audience and with 16-players shooting the hell out of one another all at once, simultaneously stomping around in huge Vital Suits and manning huge dual-firing turrets, things can get very chaotic, very quickly indeed. And if we're not particularly good at surviving said chaos to begin with, that could be down to the weighty character animations, which have been greatly improved since the previous game, meaning that if you drop from height for instance, you'll need to take into account a brief moment of vulnerability as your character stumbles and regains balance in a startlingly well-realised and authentic manner.

Much like Lost Planet 1, normal movement is still moderately slow, though the inclusion of a fast roadie run mapped to the Xbox 360's B button is enormously useful if you find yourself having to quickly cover ground or evade a sticky situation. Your grappling hook is also on the X button for effectively scaling vantage points, but you're still unable to latch onto scenery should you fall or jump, which can be a real pain at times. Still, there are enough improvements to make Lost Planet's under appreciated multiplayer something more palatable for Western tastes, which is a blueprint that Lost Planet 2 knowingly adheres to - as illustrated in the inclusion of Gears of War characters for the Xbox 360 version. Oh, and let's not forget that you'll also be able to play as Resident Evil's Albert Wesker and Dead Rising's Frank West too.

In other modes, Akrid Egg Battle brings back the capture-the-flag style gameplay from the Colonies expansion, while Post Grab also makes a comeback for Lost Planet 2, tasking players to hack data posts by rapidly hammering the B button to change it to your team's colour. Perks such as the ability to reduce your hacking time or limit the usage of the game's ubiquitous 'T-ENG' (Thermal Energy depleted by actions like sprinting) make an appearance, showing that Capcom has been paying close attention to its multiplayer competition. Additionally, the wealth of character customisation options on offer are simply staggering and enable you to concoct a range of freaks from the hundreds of parts, which can be tweaked and changed to a variety of colours and styles. Lovely.

But it's the little touches that really make Lost Planet 2's multiplayer stand out. Switching sides on the map between rounds ensures that matches are always fair and balanced. Weaponry is every bit as meaty and impactful as Lost Planet's - if not more so - with shotguns and machine guns sitting happily beside enormous heavy VS weapon attachments like miniguns and rocket cannons. The bipedal Vital Suits themselves see the introduction of new models and the return of old favourites too, all of which boast satisfyingly chunky attachments like an awesome melee laser sword and the aforementioned, detachable chaingun and missile-launching appendages. Some even possess the ability to transform, combine or boost to advantageous heights at the touch of a button.

Other mechanical augmentations include the ability to control Akrid with the aid of control mechanisms while donning bulky Battle Armour allows you to remain relatively mobile and swifter on your feet than at the helm of a VS. Capcom has implemented a massive range of offensive and defensive choices for you to experiment with, including a Gears 2-style shield you can carry and deploy whenever necessary. There are more than enough awe-inspiring, gear-grinding wonders here to ensure you keep switching tactics in a search for your favourite hunk of machinery to take into battle. For us, the more Transformer-like, the better.

Lost Planet's multiplayer was good, but largely overlooked by most players, which is why we hope that Capcom's considerable efforts to inject the sequel's mode with added depth and playability pays off when the it releases this May. There's a slew of new content and gameplay features that should succeed in keeping you hooked, and if our hands-on time with the game is any kind of indication, then Lost Planet 2's multiplayer will prove to be something very special.

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