Lost Planet 2

So what can I really say about Lost Planet 2? The same developers from last title are here again, with the most noticeable change being the new composers, and its multiplayer-demo reached one million downloads by midnight Pacific Time on its launch. Other things made to stern up its release came in the form of Capcom donating 50.000 dollars to Music of Relief and held a contest for the members of the Lost Planet community before the game’s launch. I am sorry for this introduction coming of as shallow, but I have no idea how to start this intro out as I could not find any interesting trivia besides what I mentioned, and it just came and went with no impact on my part. 

When I did some research on its reception, reviewers were split between 4/10 to 8/10, making me wonder what caused this diversity of opinions. What I can tell from all the promotion, was that Capcom wanted this game to be huge and went all-in with a clear focus on multiplayer, with even the campaign supporting up to 4 players. This does sound interesting, so after a good time with the first installment, I was cautiously optimistic. I should probably also mention that there is a Blackberry-version but that left even less of an impact and I never saw the appeal in that device.

Here’s your next mission, move out!

We are set 10 years after the first game on the fictional planet E.D.N III. Compared to the cold ice-age it once was, it is now a planet with diverse areas, such as a windy desert, enormous seas, and a claustrophobic jungle, where your first mission will be. As a part of a group of soldiers, your first task is to destroy a mine in this area. However, as soon as that mission is done, your team is set up by an unknown caller and snow falls down on the hot jungle you traversed through. There is not much else to talk about sadly, as you are basically set on the next mission to stop the climatic threat NEVEC is causing. Sure, there are some minor elements about cloning one character from the previous game and a possible traitor, but neither adds anything to the overall plot and is simply mentioned for making two cutscenes longer with exposition that does not amount to anything.

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Actually, while there are plenty of cutscenes, they don’t tell anything worthwhile and are just there to give you a mission-briefing. The characters you control, are just as uninteresting as they are generic. In fact, I did not realize I was playing as different kinds of soldiers/mercenaries for each episode until the 5th out of 6, which is saying a lot. There is nothing in the game’s story that makes you care about the characters you play as, or even the events going on. Think about that, the threat of a new ice-age is not a bother, the story is that shallowly presented!

The lore is also poorly explained, and even if you are familiar with the previous game, it simply raises more questions that you honestly won’t get any answers for. How far in civilized society are we at this point, why is Thermal Energy so easy to use all of a sudden, why could I not hide in the gun-proof submarine that was literally beneath my feet until I was away from danger, and why doesn’t the new heatwave affect the monsters who are used to the cold settings? The story’s content overall is simply sloppy and on a level of completely uninteresting, which is impressive with so many cutscenes amounting to nothing. 

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That is, except for one minor, but good thing: The action-scenes. These are over-the-top with slow-mo, huge explosions, gunfights everywhere, and monsters that are intimidating and frightening just by their size. This might not make the story good, but at least make it entertaining when it knows it just wants to show you action. I just wish it did not try to use these scenes for uninteresting exposition and poorly paced plot, and just go dumb and extreme for the sake of providing good and unapologetic entertainment. Sadly, it just gets dumb with some glimmer of joy.

Story Score: 2/10

Monster Shooter

I want to first praise Lost Planet 2 for some technical updates from the last game, with clearly laid out controls for mouse and keyboard, and an optional training-session. Actually, right from the start, you can choose between multiple modes, but the meat of the game, is the campaign mode. Lost Planet 2 makes it clear from the start that it wants you to play with friends, either through LAN or over the internet, with up to four players. You can play co-op with one more player on the same screen, and while it is better than going in alone, friends are gonna be needed. The reason for this is something I will get back to later, but let’s look at what we are presented with here.

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The game follows the footsteps of its predecessor by being a third-person shooter, but that is almost the only thing they have in common. The game presents different missions to tackle in a linear fashion, all being broken up in 6 episodes, each containing a variety of missions. This is already a problem in itself, as missions range greatly in length and amount, taking between 3 minutes to beat, to half an hour. With such inconsistency, it is hard to get fully invested, especially as checkpoints again don’t save your progress. This is one thing when you can at least pause the game, but in this multiplayer shooter, you can’t and it can be tiresome when you want a stage to just end or you feel like literally nothing significant happened.

However, this problem has mostly to do with the game’s 2 biggest issues. The first is the level design. Most areas are corridors where you simply need to reach the end, making it claustrophobic and hard to really get much out of this team-based shooter. You have so many moves, such as dodgeroll, 90 degree turns, jumps that are significantly high, ducking for cover, and even a grappling-hook for dragging you towards vertical setpieces. With this amount of versatility, not to mention having teammates for making strategies with, it is strange that 70% of the game’s levels are hallways with only enemies filling them up.

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Speaking of, it is actually not the lack of varied enemies that is a bother, it is the fact that the AI is awful and will need a good amount of time before they spot you, or be completely aggressive with huge amounts of firepower. This makes the difficulty each area provides uneven, but this is not all. The game wants you to have three other teammates and those not represented by real players will be controlled by AI. These companions can be even worse than the enemies as they will take on suicidal activities, like jumping off a moving train, or beat the stage while you simply hang back and watch. This is probably the most inconsistent game when it comes to difficulty I have ever played.

This is an incredible shame, because when the game picks up with good level-designs, it can be severely engaging. The rest of the areas are huge with many vertical areas to jump on, giving plenty of possibilities to be creative. There are moving trains where you fight a huge sand-monster who will appear on different angles, a tower of data-posts you must activate and defend, and infiltrations that provide great ways to strategize an assault. All stages that have this kind of design, giving possibilities for making strategic decisions and use all your movesets. Also, small touches like how the grappling-hook will automatically be used when going of cliffs shine in these moments due to them being so significant thanks to the level-design. The variety these levels provide is strong and makes planning in co-op, engaging. While I am shocked that I used melee-attacks often for dealing with enemies, the game still shows that it knows how to be fun at times.

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Your character can pick and hold upwards to two guns and ten grenades, and still have to pick up ammo for each manually. While this is a design-choice I still don’t get to this day, it is not awful as they are at least easy to spot. The variety of guns is also serviceable, with Gatling-guns, shotguns, rifles, and plenty more giving you options on how to fight, with the assault-rifle being what you usually start out with. So far, it is not so bad. What is terrible though, is what they did with the Thermal Energy meter under your health. It is now only used for automatic healing and repairing tanks, which makes it worthwhile to have, but provides no tension. You can manually heal for boosting up the process, but since both the enemies and dataposts for providing maps will yield Thermal Energy, it never becomes a tense part and is never affected by energy-weapons or harsh maneuvers. 

It would have been okay if they made some changes to make this meter worthwhile, but they don’t. In fact, I simply ignored this meter and never got panned for it, as it is not required to stay alive like before. It is okay if they wanted to make this game more action-packed, but could they not then just remove this aspect if they had no idea how to use it? They even have no interesting mech-suits anymore. Instead, some can dash, some can hover, and others are more based on the weapons they have, and nothing else. Sure, they can pack a punch, but are slow, rare, and only makes the game easier. The only interesting additions are a helicopter, and a battle-armor for more defense, but neither was impactful as they were either simple in design, or rare.

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Enemies are quite uninteresting too, as while they had weaknesses that could affect their mobility, here they have simple clearly laid out weaknesses you have to shoot. Both humans and the huge monsters have these, and while the levels can make the combat engaging, it is not often that happens as stated. Should you bite the dust, your amount of battle-gauge located under your Thermal Energy-meter will lower and you must choose which data-post to respawn at, or at the beginning of the stage. This is a neat idea for making data-post important, as while the map and thermal energy can help, neither is needed. I also like that the battle-gauge refills any time something significant happens, like getting three headshots in a row. Though for every good idea or detail Lost Planet 2 gives, it provides two extra flaws. I, for example, love that I can shoot rockets if my aim is accurate, but why are there random and occasional QTEs, and ranking at the end of levels that feels bizarrely generous despite the fact that I did the bare minimum?

It is clear that Lost Planet 2 focuses on you playing with other people and that is fine. It even does some neat features, such as being able to throw Thermal Energy to other players with the press of a button, and you can even mount more people on the same vehicle. However, the game as a whole has an off structure of pleasing fans of the first one, and wanting to be something of a Monster Hunter game, with huge fights and enormous areas being engaging. Sadly, the AI is awful and makes every boss simple, the hallways are tedious, thermal energy is a waste, and it even has a level-up system that is simply just there. This game could have been good if they just stuck with their strongest concepts. Also, if you have the slightest interest, turn of auto-aim the second you start, as it is incredibly unreliable. 

Gameplay Score: 3.5/10

Different climates, but not worlds

We are traversing through many different environmental sceneries, which is understandable due to the new times E.D.N III is facing. The huge desert, deep seas, and intimidating jungles are all nice for providing different scenarios, and I do love the different weather-effects and lighting being both excellent in each area. Sadly, there is nothing remarkable about these locations and the facilities they have are uninteresting and as bleak as the metal they are made of. It all comes of as generic, despite being technically impressive, and the realistic effects immersive. The same goes for the design of the characters. The monsters (or Akrid as they are called) are varied in size and forms, with some being insects, others representing huge underwater sea-creatures, and some are best described as a pile of grotesque mass, and I love all of their creative looks. Though you do not get to see them often, that also makes them more impactful. 

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The human-characters are a mixed bag thanks to their costumes. Some are over-the-top with a safe for a helmet, some remind me of futuristic soldiers with biker-outfits, and then we have those that look like poorly-made grab-costumes. It is inconsistent, but definitely not on the verge of bad, just giving an unclear tone. Though the huge explosions, amount of bullets on screen, the enemies melting to their bones or turning into stones, and the simple animation of the high-tech shields being used are enough to take your eyes away and forget the silly getups for at least 30 minutes. The cutscenes use the in-game visuals, and are entertaining whenever actions are on the screen and provide huge amounts of enemies or soldiers on screen at once, giving some nice moments visually, especially when slow-mo is involved.

The visuals are good enough to be memorable and effective, though the best part is the audio. Hearing soldiers scream not just out of pain, but also comment on the situations, adds to the cheesy setting. My favorite is whenever someone shouts “you shot my brother” and while the voice-acting is solid overall, they all go try to sound more edgy, without really having a clue on what they are saying. Something as simple as a yes can sound overly enthusiastic and I enjoy it all for how silly it is. The sounds of weapons being fired, the huge mech-suits walking, monsters screaming, and the low sounds of creatures flying by you, adds so much to the atmosphere of the action.

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An impressive feat is the soundtrack, providing symphony and orchestrated tracks, with a focus on string and drums. The variety is at a high, and provides great tension and intense moments, making the game feel more alive and interesting than what it really is. I was shocked to find out that these were done by a new composer, but also that she too made tracks for some of the best Monster Hunter-games. It is incredible how much she did with something so small, and it makes every action, even the menu before starting the game, seems like an amazing event.

Presentation Score: 7.5/10

Did not quite hit the mark

For the lonely gamer, there is actually some good news here. There is a training-mode included, with both basic and advanced setups, as well as an enemy AI-multiplayer. The first two focus on some good obstacle-courses where you must use all your abilities to finish the stage as quickly as possible, which is nice, though they could use more variety as levels are often copy-pasted with more obstacles added in. While the third option is an underwhelming multiplayer-VS mode with only AIs to fight against. You will also get ranked in these modes for and it is, in general, a fun side-activity to try to beat, despite being more serviceable than anything significant. Replaying the missions is not interesting at all as I have already explained, so getting high ranks in them is not worth it for both the lackluster challenge and how most levels are designed.

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Multiplayer VS is not too bad either. There is robust customization, with 5 models where you can customize skins, emotes, weapon loadouts, perks and even be given a title. All are unlocked as you level up in campaign or in multiplayer, which is a great reward. The modes can support upwards to 16 players, with deathmatch and team deathmatch, capture the datapost and capture the flag being the traditional, but entertaining options. Some of these can be incredibly uneven, however, such as some modes where you play as an actual Akrid, but all are fun to try out and it is clear which is meant for competitive gaming and which are not.

What hurts the experience is that credits you earn in missions and by playing online, can only be used on a slot-machine for either getting new weapons or a dog-tag, for example. This is a terrible design choice, as it all comes down to luck and not actual skills for what weapons you can have. Leveling up should instead be used for acquiring new weapons for skillful play, or even be neglected if they could not balance this setup. The stages are varied in quality as well, with some being quite uninteresting with huge walls, and others having different constructions for more interesting variety and forcing you to be versatile. All in all, the extras are a mixed bag. Enough to be entertaining at times, but not a keeper.

Extra Score: 4.5/10

Verdict

This is incredibly frustrating. Lost Planet 2 has plenty of moments and details that show a good game is here somewhere, but is literally lost by many generic or downright poor design-choices. I would love to see the team revisit this game and take more inspiration from Monster Hunter’s setup, like they obviously tried with here to provide a fun, multiplayer-focused experience. As it is now, it is at best a mediocre distraction with friends, but alone, it can be a terrible and frustrating time. With this game, one is indeed the loneliest number.

45/100

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