Xbox 360 Review

Lost Planet 2

Is that the Akrid stench of success or failure?

You played the first Lost Planet over three years ago, right? Remember how annoyingly slow the movement was and how the irritating controls marred an otherwise enjoyable and action-packed game, yeah? You're probably hoping, nay, praying that Capcom has fixed all of these problems for the sequel if you're at all like us then, which is why you might find Lost Planet 2 a somewhat frustrating experience.

Returning to the hostile landscape of E.D.N. III, which is still inhabited by huge toothsome monsters that have been driven wild by an influx of T-Energy (T-ENG), Lost Planet 2 weaves a bitty, disjointed narrative that's almost impossible to follow, but you'll be too busy fighting monsters and wave after wave of samey human enemies to notice. This is perhaps the first and most severe of Lost Planet 2's crimes. The game promises enormous monster slaying by the barrel-load, and while it does deliver some truly epic and drawn out wars of attrition against immense beasties, there are simply too many grinding sections in-between where you're fighting off hordes of rag-tag human enemies.

Capcom has clearly designed Lost Planet 2 solely as a multiplayer game too, so in single-player the whole thing is a joyless slog, filled with tough bottlenecks where you're forced to repeat entire 40-odd minute sections due to a lack of mid-mission checkpoints. Early on, this isn't a problem as each mission only lasts between 10 and 15 minutes, but during the latter half of the game, this can prove a real headache. Ironically, it's during the closing sections of Lost Planet 2 that you'll encounter the majority of the good stuff, getting more of the criminally underused VS (Vital Suit) mech units to pilot rather than fight against, and a bunch of massive battles that really test your mettle.

Visually, Lost Planet 2 hasn't really moved on a vast amount since the first game either, although it is undeniably very pretty. There's a good overall variation to the game's environments too, taking in snowy tundra, lush jungle, sprawling desert and... We don't want to spoil the rest for you, but the locations are generally superb. Sadly, there are far too many rusting, orange-hued warehouse facilities to get through before you'll make it to the more interesting areas, and they're just unbelievably dull, especially compared to the rest of the game's rich backdrops.

The campaign structure is also incredibly piecemeal, which makes sense for multiplayer as it enables you to enjoy the game in short bursts, but it leaves Lost Planet 2 lacking in cohesion. It's a sporadic stop-start experience then, which can grow tiresome in single-player when all you want to do is be engaged by a good story. Again, it's great for multiplayer, just a real shame that more consideration hasn't been made for solitary players, even though the squad AI just about does the job. Nevertheless, this simply isn't a game to be played alone.

When you're not shooting repetitive enemies while yearning for more Akrid to destroy, you're wearing out the B or square button on your pad activating data posts or guarding a position while a timer elapses for 90 seconds or so. Hacking data posts and hoarding the glowing, orangey T-ENG goo will take up much of your time during the game's six huge episodes, which doesn't make for a whole lot of fun. T-ENG powers everything too, including piloting your VS mech, VS turrets, your Harmonizer (a health regenerator activated by holding the START button, bizarrely) and even your sprinting. Thankfully, you normally have an ample supply, but in the later stages of the game, you'll occasionally find yourself scraping around for the stuff, as failure to keep up a supply spits you out of a VS and leaves you helpless and vulnerable.

This is but one of many frustrations to be found in Lost Planet 2, which is so much more enjoyable with a group of friends. This might sound like an incredibly obvious thing to state, but it really is. In recent memory, LP2 is likely one of the most miserable single-player experiences we've had the misfortune of playing through. Conversely nothing beats assembling a team to overcome a towering Akrid menace, with all four of you tearing into the creature's weak points with glee. Playing with AI is relatively painful, as they never seem to do the right thing, like only hacking a data post so far, or collecting artillery shells for a cannon in one mission, when you clearly have dozens strewn all over the place.

Successfully completing mission objectives and 'good jobs' grants medals and an overall grade, and Lost Planet 2 liberally doles out the rewards with its hundreds of '?' boxes that dispense credits to spend on new character parts, weaponry and 'noms de guerre' (online name tags). The customisation interface might err a little on the scrappy side, but the glut of worthwhile secrets to unlock such as Dead Rising's Frank West and a host of other quirky bits and bobs that enable you to create a distinctive and daft-looking custom character if you so choose.

In the same vein as Lost Planet, the art style is appealingly unique throughout, which goes for the bestiary of spindly Akrid and the weird (though comparatively boring) human factions. The VS units are incredibly cool too, and come in transformer, flying and combining gestalt flavours, and some can accommodate up to three players, leaving one of your team crying on his own while the rest of you have a blast. Stupid design? Yes. That and you don't come across enough of them during the 12 hour+ campaign, which seems like an oversight as they're one of the best things in the game. On a side note, having the ability to hijack an enemy VS would have been hugely welcome too.

Still, Lost Planet 2 has a few choice moments that arise towards the latter half of the game, almost making it worth plodding through the hours of difficult gameplay. Fundamentally, LP2 is better played in small doses, though the competitive versus modes can draw you in for a good stretch if you manage to round up a decent group of players. Elimination and Team Elimination return, which also requires yet more hacking data posts alongside the standard free-for-all or team deathmatch chaos. Akrid Egg Grab and Post Grab fare a little better, and might make a claim on some of your online time, but it'll never be enough to keep you hooked for more than a few hours.

Lost Planet 2 is a visually accomplished game, and despite a lack of major evolution in the gameplay mechanics, it still plays adequately enough. It does have deep-running flaws however, some of which we thought might have died with the first game. Lost Planet 2 also seems to be blissfully unaware that it works best when you're bringing down an Akrid online with friends, or stomping around in a heavy VS, armed to the teeth as these scenarios don't occur nearly as often as they should.

Playing Lost Planet 2 on your own will test your patience so ought to be avoided, but things undoubtedly improve in multiplayer, where the dodgy controls and sluggish movement almost seem forgiveable. Ultimately though, Lost Planet 2 leaves a sour taste in the mouth as an immense disappointment, because it really should have been one of the year's biggest blockbuster action titles, yet it sadly falls some way short.

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