2007's Lost Planet introduced players to the cold, troubled world of E.D.N. III and let them play as a member of a band of snow pirates fighting to make the planet safe for humans to colonize. In the game's interpretation of the future, humanity has finally had to look for some new digs because the earth has become an inhospitable place. The NEVEC Company helpfully went off to start colonizing E.D.N. III, but it hit a snag when an alien race known as the Akrid appeared and brought humanity's relocation to a screeching halt.
Although the first game ended on a high note, with your band of snow pirates managing to get the icy world defrosting, there was definitely room for a follow-up as humanity attempted to continue its relocation. We had the chance to sit through a presentation from producer Jun Takeuchi and some members of the development team to show off the ambitious sequel, which is taking a decidedly different approach to continuing the game's narrative.
The presentation began with Takeuchi bringing people up to speed on Lost Planet 2's story, which picks up several years after the end of the original game. The resulting environmental change and its effect on the population of E.D.N. III have impacted the dynamics of the ice-pirate groups. The planetary defrosting has apparently done away with the snow that blanketed the world, and has revealed lush jungles. However, despite the extreme tropical makeover, thermal energy is still a source of conflict for all of the pirate bands on the world. Though Takeuchi kept specific details of the story under wraps, he mentioned that the game's narrative would differ in scope from the original game. Rather than focusing on a single character, Lost Planet 2's narrative is being expanded to tell the stories of several different groups on E.D.N. III, offering you the chance to see a variety of perspectives on events in the game.
One of the unique angles to this approach is the ability to create your own custom character to play as in the game. Takeuchi showed off a robust character-customization system that let you create a male or female character with five main parts to tweak: head, torso, backpack, and legs. Each section will have dozens of options to choose from, including color. One thing to note is that you'll start out with what sounds like a decent amount of part options, but you'll gain new parts by finding them in the game or completing specific goals during the course of your missions. It also sounds like Capcom will be releasing additional parts as downloadable content. However, there's more to the character customization than your physical appearance; you'll be able to switch up the weapons that your character uses and even adjust the emote animations that you'll perform.
The weapon customization lets you adjust which weapons your character is holding. Your character's right hand can be equipped with weapons from one of four self-explanatory classes: standard, short, long, attack, and support. One of the additions to the weapon mix that we're pleased to see is a handgun. Your left hand will hold one of four grenade types: normal, gum, disk release, and support. Finally, the demo of the various appeal animations showed that they should add plenty of personality to your character. We got a chance to see a variety of different options, ranging from the standard waving to more-intricate dance moves and other actions that should be perfect for sending a message to those around you.
Once you've created your character, you'll be able to take it into any of the modes in the game. The demo being shown, which was running from laptops, let us get a peek at a work-in-progress menu screen that included several different options. We saw options for Campaign, Multibattle, and Training modes alongside more-functional options such as My Page, a custom start page, a DLC submenu, and two others, Guide and Diviner, which will tie into information on the game and its world. Lastly, the title screen featured a running information feed in the form of a ticker at the bottom of the screen, which will be used to give players news on activities or events.
The live demo was made up of two chunks, a basic mission and a boss battle. The mission demo showed off the big addition to the Lost Planet 2 experience, four player co-op, and showcased just how you'll be able to play through the game with three other friends. The mission kicked off with the squad moving across a swampy area in a boat that parked at a nearby shore. The group hopped off and proceeded to move through the forest area, picking off assorted Akrid--yep, they're still around. New features on display were the dash ability which lets you run and is handy when avoiding trouble, and a massive new melee weapon, the gunsword, which was added based on user feedback.
The mission was fairly straightforward and focused on the team moving through the jungle and reaching a set point. Takeuchi noted that the jungle setting shown was just one of many different environments in which the levels will be set. As the team moved to the target area, Takeuchi also mentioned that the game's story mode can be played alone or cooperatively with one to three other players and the AI standing in for any open slots. As the Akrid were taken out, the team members collected the thermal energy left behind. The unique energy will once again figure prominently in the game but, due to the new team mechanic, you'll be able to share among your teammates if someone is in need. As the team neared the end of the jungle level, maneuvering through massive trees and foliage, it was noted that the anchor line will be back in LP2.
The stage ended when the group finally reached the checkpoint, which served as a good showcase for the game's new structure. The various stages that you'll play will be broken up into smaller chapters that will be split up using the checkpoint system. Although this appears to make for shorter individual chapters, it will also let friends join more frequently; players will be able to join your game only at checkpoints. The chapters themselves will all make up different, larger scenarios that will tell LP2's story. One thing to note is that, given the scope we mentioned earlier, the scenarios will find your custom character playing with different groups on E.D.N. III which that a different perspective on events in the game. The game is still in development, but it sounds like it might be a bit shorter than the last game. Nevertheless, the increased number of collectibles indicates that there will be much more in this game to encourage multiple play-throughs.
Although the basic mission demo was nice, the real bang came from the boss fight. The squad of four was shown in a grassy, cliff-lined valley dealing with a massive salamander-like creature that came packing a deadly tongue, powerful electric charges, and a whole lot of legs. As with the previous game, the creature's weak spots were clearly marked by glowing red coloration. As the team tackled the beast, Takeuchi noted that the plan is to have there be roughly three ways to deal with bosses: ranged, up close, and from the inside out. The ranged style was obvious because the team was shown using long-range weapons and grenades to plug away at the monster. Another option was using the vital suits (power-mech-style exoskeletons), which will be back in a big way. Besides increasing the number of mech types, the team is also increasing their functionality. You can expect to see many more specialized units that you'll be able to use. However, our favorite new aspect to the rigs is the ability to have members of your team hang off of them as you fly around. Not only does this add to your firepower, but it looks cool too.
The up-close option was also easy to grasp. We saw the squad hop up on top of the creature and start plugging at the brightly colored scales on its back. Although the demo didn't show just how you'll be taking on a boss from the inside out, Takeuchi noted that it will amount to you being inside the enemy, possibly by hopping in its mouth or letting yourself be swallowed, and then shooting everything around you. From the sound of it, you won't be able to camp inside of an enemy for too long; you'll eventually be expelled one way or another--and we shudder to see how that's going to work if you're not getting spit out of its mouth. As you'd expect, there was a fair amount of player death during the fight, which resulted in the stomped player respawning at a nearby data post that was activated prior to the battle. Once the creature was downed and the loot collected, the level ended and the team was awarded a rating based on its performance.
The visuals in the game made quite an impression on us thanks to the flashy demo. The impressive sense of scale, both in the environment and the massive boss, worked really well. The level of detail and special effects on just about everything onscreen were a good bump over the first game's graphics. Takeuchi was quick to point out the level's movement of grass, which reacted to motion. Probably the most impressive thing about the visuals in the game was how smooth everything was running during all of the action. We're curious to see if the game runs this well on the 360 but, given what the first game was like, we're hopeful that it should come close or match what we saw.
From the looks of the demo, Lost Planet 2 is shaping up to be an impressive follow-up to the original. The game is going in a very different direction from its predecessor, but that doesn't appear to be a bad thing. The game's large sense of scale and cooperative gameplay seem to be a very good combo. We're getting a Monster Hunter and Dreamcast-era Phantasy Star Online vibe going on, which sits very well with us. If the game's camera and control are tightened up compared to its predecessor, and enough content is packed into the experience, this could be one addictive game when it ships next year. At the moment, the only platform that's been officially confirmed is the Xbox 360. From the sound of it, there should be more information given out at E3 in June. Look for more on the game, including an XBL demo, then.