Lost Planet: Extreme Condition - Colonies Edition
Just six months after the release of the original, Capcom have released a special edition of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition - with one of the most ridiculous titles I've heard of ... this month. Boasting new weapons, new multiplayer modes, cross-platform play, new playable characters and new enemies, Colonies Edition has all the aesthetic beauty of the original game at a budget price.
Basically a third-person shooter, Lost Planet focuses on snow-based environments and mech-orientated continuous blasting-style gameplay. By continuous blasting I mean you are literally dying second by second as your T-ENG (thermal energy) constantly depletes due to the sub-zero atmospheric temperatures. There are only two ways to regenerate it, kill stuff and harvest the glowing orange blobs they deposit, or activate Data Posts and stand in their immediate vicinity.
By continuous blasting I also mean that you don't do much else. There is a very noticeable lack of mini-objectives and puzzle solving in this game. Aside from picking up weapons, getting in/out of mechs, opening doors - which is a rare occurrence anyway - and, if you can be bothered, shooting the bonus hidden coins for achievement points, you literally don't do anything other than blast away.
A particularly cool element to the game's shooting play is the use of mech-suits (called VS - Vital Suits) which can be utilised for higher damage and faster movement. Furthermore Wayne can detach and attach large weapons to the suit's arm turret fixtures, allowing you to real-time pre-customise your VS for upcoming battles. There's no special pre-mission menu to do this sort of thing, you have to do it in-game by literally carrying, say, a huge laser cannon over to a vacant VS. Since the suits have two weapon slots this also allows you to go in with weapons akimbo, always a welcome touch. You'll also find yourself swapping suits fairly often throughout the game, either because you literally can't fit through a doorway with your current one on, or because it's heavily damaged and needs replacing.
Often your enemies are respawning alien creatures emerging from organic nests clamped to the scenery, destroy the nest and stop the spawn. Or just run through it all once you realise the distinct lack of a reward for the mass-killing you do. This kind of stance could have been avoided with various gameplay features, such as an RPG style levelling-up system or some sort of end-of-level shop where you can exchange alien heads for exotic weapons, but for some reason Capcom didn't decide to employ any of this.
Eventually you'll get to fight other humans and get a slight change of scenery too. It's a welcome section of gameplay diversity which also aids to promote some interest in the on-going story.
And of course there's the traditional Capcom style end of level bosses. These are the real saviours of Lost Planet's gameplay. The bosses are massive and lumbering, with arcade-like learnable routines and weaknesses which the player must interpret to defeat them. In some ways, especially with the style of the environments and the third-person nature of the game, the bosses are reminiscent of those from Metroid Prime. Without them this is a sub-standard shooter with impressive visuals, but with them we actually get some motivation to play on and "see what the next boss is like".
In-fact if anything, your only real objective level-by-level is to get to the boss and kill it. If that means simply running by the hoards of insectoid minions you're bored of killing then so be it - as long as there's a data post on the way to recharge your T-ENG then there's little reason not to. For all the detailed model design and pretty snowy environments, Lost Planet doesn't do much to really drag the player into the world. I cared about as much for Wayne, the protagonist you play as, by the end of the game as I did before I knew who he was, and, for that matter, could recall about the same amount of story-line as I read from the back of the box.
Speaking of story, Capcom have decided to go for the old "humans trying to colonise an alien world" chestnut. The resident inhabitants, the aforementioned giant insects called the Akrid, are proving to be unwelcoming hosts. Foolishly they killed Wayne's father, an event which actually takes place in the first playable mission, and now he's set on revenge. Specifically he's going after a giant bug nicknamed Green Eye. As the game moves on this intent is over-shadowed by a much more important objective.
Graphics wise Lost Planet receives a firm pat on the back. The game has a distinctly rich next-gen feel and the character models are realistically graceful. Environments are vast, beautiful and detailed. The misty snowy plains look great in the variety of natural light which they are presented, particularly during sunset. Shadows, explosions, and flame all look above the grade, and the structural and textured detail which has been painted into the game is commendable.
Split-screen multiplayer is another ominously absent guest from the Lost Planet party; instead we're offered only play over Xbox Live where it doesn't really stand up to the likes of Gears of War anyway. But there is at least an array of multiplayer options, particularly in the Colonies Edition which features the addition of a Human vs. Akrid mode. It's interesting that in such a short time Capcom saw to build the playability of aliens into the game engine, one might suspect this was in-fact a planned feature dropped from the first release of the game. Either way, it's rather nice.
One very welcome addition in Colonies Edition is Trial Battle mode in which you get to play through the game's bosses and are rewarded with weapons based on your performance. Other extras include new multiplayer-only weapons such as the flamethrower, which blazes quite gloriously in Capcom's pretty game engine; and there is a new selection of multiplayer maps.
This is one just for the blasting fans though, game objectives are clear at all times and there's no "pesky" things like immersive storyline or challenging puzzles to "get in the way" of mowing down enemies. Bizarrely enough, Colonies Edition is incompatible with the original game in online play so you can only play with other purchasers of the re-release; make what you will of that. Lost Planet is far from a gaming classic, but at the new budget price for the shooter addict it's worth picking up, especially considering this game is only half a year old.