Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
At this time of year the thought "just how much colder can it get?" often springs to mind. Office day dreams of the lazy summer days seem improbable but the situation could be much worse as the main protagonist of Lost Planet, Wayne, will testify. Try living on a desolate snowy desert of a planet that your mere existence relies on fuel cells to keep your blood from turning to icy veins. Add to that a giant alien species that is not particular neighbourly and things suddenly seem a lot better. Lost Planet is by no means a new game, with a hopefully decreasing trend this was one of the early Xbox 360 releases that has been coupled up with any additional downloads to hand and sent to milk the cash cow.
The title is set at an indeterminate time in the future when the human race has decided to settle on a completely arctic planet, E.D.N III. Deciding that the cold and snow was too much to bear along with the deadly Akrid alien species the humans decide to jump ship or planet as it may be. This is until the discovery of Thermal Energy (T-Eng) that the alien species oozes from various cavities. The need for the T-Eng is vitally important as life depends upon it, whilst playing you must always have a supply of it collected from fallen foes or retrieved from containers or posts. The health bar is linked to the T-Eng and will drain supplies in order to restore health unless a great impact is taken. This initiates the start of a major conflict between the competing races. In one such early battle a father and son team are ultimately torn apart by a giant caterpillar-esque creature called the green eye with the son, Wayne swearing vengeance on the slug before being tossed out into the frozen waste lands. With the help of some trusty side-kicks Wayne sets off on his mission but gets entangled into a plot by the evil NEVEC corporation complete with their 'sinister' leaders and plans for E.D.N III.
Unfortunately as with many ports nothing has been done to improve the gameplay from the last outing. You will experience the same, annoying at times, control system. A few tweaks from lessons learned could have greatly improved this title and increased the enjoyment value but sadly the developers sat back and twiddled their thumbs. There are two basic control systems, one for when you are on foot and the other when you are wielding the vital suit mechs. Action is viewed from a primarily third-person perspective with the option to 'zoom' in which has little effect on aiding accuracy. The main buzz kill of the game is the odd choice of displaying cross hairs at all times. The cross hairs can be moved in a certain field on the screen without the character moving off course but outside this, the view pans with wearisome speed. Faster turning can be achieved with the use of the L1 and R1 buttons enabling a quick turn left or right by about 90 degrees. So sudden though is this that you are likely to lose focus on the attacker and return to the tediously slow turns. Sadly the turning aspect is not the only downside of the control system. You will frequently stumble across many airbourne creatures, but the aim will only allow a vertical scroll of about 75-80 degrees resulting in the need to walk backwards until the angle has been reduced and you can finally snag the creature.
On foot or by mech you can only carry a maximum of two weapons and a choice of grenade. Surprisingly for the year of the setting these weapons are initially fairly low-tech with the trusty machine gun seeing most of the action. Further on superior weapons are available in the form of energy guns or my personal favourite, the plasma weapon with scope. The effectiveness of the shotgun against numerous creepy creatures is deeply satisfying. The same can be said for the mechs, depending on the VS they range from agonisingly slow to epically powerful, the majority are slow and take a while to walk anywhere; slowing the pace of the game. Although more sophisticated weapons are available as the action pans out, familiar gatling guns, shotguns and rocket launchers are the preferred weapon of choice generally.
Accompanying Wayne on his quest for revenge is seen out in 12 missions through the various icy landscapes and industrial lava flowing complexes. Each mission will end with Wayne being pitted against a boss of some sort whether alien or not. For the most part these will take the form of giant incredibly detailed monsters completely filling the screen. Alas, as large as the creatures are, is it is not overly difficult to take them down. Every alien in the game has a weak spot and this will be in the form of a large orange segment, pump enough ammunition into these areas and they will be duly turned to ice. These boss levels are one of the highlights of the game as they completely dwarf poor Wayne but nevertheless he seems to prevail. These demons being realised in high-def is quite a sight and what we have come to expect of the current generation of consoles; the title originally being somewhat a poster child for the 360's processing abilities.
The main failure of the game, along with the controls, is the repetitive nature of the action; early missions will see Wayne sent out into the wilderness to investigate heat spots that invariably involve the death of many alien species along the way to then return to base only to be sent out again. The recipe of "kill lots of little aliens and then one big one" is sometimes monotonous. The cut-scene action, although well rendered, does little to inspire the story and gets to the point of the dramatically laughable in the closing scenes. It would also seem strange that on a planet that is so cold a heat source must be pumped through a suit worn to continue living, the females have a fondness for exposing their cleavage.
In addition to the single player campaign there is a multiplayer online mode with support of up to 16 players. Seemingly something of an after-thought, there are only four types of game that can be played: Elimination, Team Elimination, Fugitive and Post Grab. With the advent of superb online experiences in the form of WarHawk and CoD4, Lost Planet will rarely inspire the gamer for long; and even what is occurring at times can be confusing. If you do venture online then there is a wide selection of maps that have been included from PC and 360 downloads, most of a decent size.
Although it may seem that I have been nit-picking, Lost Planet is a solid shooter. Its visual style at times is stunning, and coupled with the Godzilla-sized enemies remains a challenge throughout. With a control system akin to superior combat games like Rainbow Six the title could have been more enjoyable but if you like your games with Rambo-esque body counts then you will see plenty of enjoyment here. For others this may become tiresome, and the single player can be seen-off in less than 10 hours depending on difficulty. With news that a sequel is rumoured we can only hope that Capcom have taken on-board the lessons learned from this title and deliver something as epic as the alien monsters it so wonderfully creates next time around.