Lost Planet 2 picks up where 2006's Lost Planet: Extreme Condition left off. Well, more or less. The game checks in on how the residents of E.D.N. III have been doing since the planetary thaw of the icy world began. This time out, the story switches perspective between a number of different human factions working to carve out an existence on the still-hostile world. The weather may be better, but the wildlife hasn't gotten any friendlier. The Akrid, the indigenous life-forms that were trying to kill you in the first game, are still around and are just as unpleasant. In fact, thanks to the tropical weather, they appear to have gotten bigger. We recently tried out a work-in-progress version of the game, which helped us get a better idea of what's happening in the game.
The opening level starts out on a still-icy section of E.D.N. III and eases you into the changes that have occurred in the game and on the planet. This area offers a quick primer on the controls, weapon usage, and vital suits--the large mechs you could use in the original game, which have been upgraded. There are also a few chances to try out working together to take down Akrid and discover the joys of hanging off of a mech.
The game's tone changes considerably once the story moves you to a tropical jungle location, where you'll have to contend with jungle pirates and Akrid. The second area focuses more on dealing with pirate enemies than Akrid. In one particular stretch, there was a sequence where we had to survive a few waves of jungle pirate attacks. Fortunately, Lost Planet 2's gameplay has been changed up to get you some support. Capcom apparently understands that taking on alien hordes all by your lonesome can be rough, so Lost Planet 2 makes sure you're never alone. The game drops you into a squad of four that can be a mix of AI-controlled players or real people via system link or Xbox Live. This new "buddy system" approach to the action helps keep the challenge manageable and adds a very cool layer of strategy. Besides the human or AI company, you'll have access to a vast array of weapons that are handy for dealing with Akrid.
The game's structure has also seen some changes to accommodate the new four-player system. The game is broken up into episodes made up of separate chapters. The result is smaller, bite-sized gameplay sections for you to run through that give Lost Planet 2 a different flow than its predecessor. The new structure also allows for a greater mix of boss encounters that include mid-bosses and massive end-boss fights.
Outside of the cooperative multiplayer gameplay, Lost Planet 2 will feature a competitive multiplayer mode for up to 16 players. Most of the popular match types from the original game have been brought across, including Team Elimination (a team deathmatch mode) and Post Grab, where each team tries to activate and defend data posts on the map. New match types are also being introduced, including a last-stand-style mode where players team up against a giant arachnid. Multiplayer matches are fully customizable, so you can choose the map, the match type, and weapon loadouts, such as power weapons or pistols, before jumping into a game. The character customization and leveling systems from the first game have also made their way into the sequel. The leveling system is standard fare: you level up by earning experience points in online matches. Reaching higher levels unlocks new items, including clothing and skins, which you can use to give your character a fresh new look.
The customization elements in Lost Planet 2 have been one of the highlights of our time with the game. Besides the cosmetic tweaks you can make to your character and the more vital changes you can make to your weapon loadout, the animations you can use to customize your character's taunts are hilarious.
Lost Planet 2 is slated to ship this May for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.