We’ve known for a while that Lost Planet 2 is going to be a pretty big departure from its predecessor thanks to the inclusion of four-player co-op, which is an ambitious feature that Capcom has built into the entire story campaign of this sci-fi shooter. But, here, on the first day of Tokyo Game Show 2009, we’ve been able to play a new demo from Lost Planet 2, and it looks like the number of players isn’t the only thing differentiating Lost Planet 2 from the original.
Fans of the first game will recall that the entire campaign took place on a frozen, snowy wasteland--give or take a few jaunts into some dark caves. Though the environment was well done, it was something that remained pretty much the same from start to finish. Lost Planet 2 won’t be quite as predictable. Since this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, Capcom has been showing off a demo that pits players in a lush, rainy jungle environment against a giant salamander boss, which is a creature belonging to the Akrid family of massive enemies. The demo Capcom is showing here at TGS 09, on the other hand, takes place in an arid desert and introduces a few new Akrid to go alongside a very interesting train sequence.
The demo is taken from Stage 3-2, which is the third chapter out of six in the entire game. Each of these tells the story of various wasteland pirate factions, and the ones in our demo were on a quest to steal a train from a rival group. It began with four characters conversing in a futuristic helicopter before running into an enemy chopper and getting into a midair tussle that ultimately sent them crashing down to the sandy earth below. The group came to on the outskirts of a desert village with sand houses and violent, sweeping wind blowing dirt and debris all over the place.
It turns out that the village was filled with pirates eager to take out our group of four survivors. The level design in this village allowed for a wide variety of tactics, whether it was charging at them as a full squad, having everyone sneak off to the side to flank them, or just grabbing any scattered rifles and blasting them from afar. Our personal favorite strategy was getting hold of the cross-battle suit--a lighter and more nimble take on the mech-like VS suits that serve as one of the trademark elements of the series--and pretending to be a futuristic desert wasteland Robocop. The battle suit is great in the way it allows you to continue doing all the same jumps, rolls, and grapples that you would normally do but with a powerful suit of armor saving your skin. What made us feel like even more of a force of nature was the fact that the brittle sand structures in this village were all destructible, so we went to town throwing plasma grenades into hovels to smoke out enemies and wasting them with the one-shot kill VS rifle when they’d flee in terror.
This village level was capped off with a boss battle against a pair of Akrid that looked like a cross between a four-legged dinosaur and Jar Jar Binks. But trust us, they were a lot more intimidating than that description might suggest. Holding down on the D pad locks you into the cinematic camera, which gives you the ability to see them rise ominously out of the sand. The two Akrid are blind, but they’re very sensitive to sound, so they’ll charge at you when you unload your weapons on them. The moments in between those charges were very tense, though, as we tried to stand still so that they wouldn’t charge at us, giving us enough time to line up a shot on their glowing orange weak spots with a sniper rifle.
In the end, killing these Akrid bosses produces not only thermal energy but also boxes that house special items you can use to customize the look of your character. (Each time you play a chapter, you’ll play as the story character, but returning to those chapters after you’ve beaten them allows you to play as characters you’ve customized in appearance to be as tough or as ridiculous as you want.)
After taking over the village, our group was able to steal the train and get on the road. So naturally, the next stage took place entirely on a speeding train. Well, two speeding trains to be specific. You and your three teammates start on the back of the train as you seek to make your way to the front and take over the powerful cannon gun and defeat an wormlike Akrid following you. The cool part is that these two trains run on tracks parallel to each other, so you can not only move forward on one, but you can also grapple onto the one next to it for an alternate path. The trick, though, is to not fall onto the ground in between, which will kill you and send your body rolling back into the abyss.
There were a number of enemy pirates standing in our way, and though the design of the level was the very definition of linear (that is, get from the back of the train to the front of the train), there were a number of ways we could forge our own path. There was climbing on top of the train cars, walking through them, jumping into a walking VS that could leap from car to car, or--and this was our personal favorite--hopping into a flying VS that let us hover above the action and shoot down any enemies from above and pave a safer path for our teammates. The flying VS even has room for two extra gunners if they wanted to tag along with us.
The climax of this train level came once we got to the giant cannon at the front. This is when the worm Akrid appeared from beneath the sand and started picking a fight with us. To kill this thing, we had to have one teammate jump into the cannon operator’s seat and have the others run around picking up the giant munitions shells and loading them into the equally giant chamber. There was also a crane that one of the teammates could jump into to pick up more powerful shells and an energizing station that let you pump each shell with thermal energy before chambering it for added effectiveness. But the means of dealing damage to the Akrid was pure Lost Planet: Look for the glowing orange weak spots, shoot the glowing orange weak spots, and celebrate victory. It wasn’t quite that easy, of course, but you get the idea.
All in all, we had a terrific time with Lost Planet 2. It’s hard to state just how much fun the four-player co-op adds to the experience. There’s still a lot to take in just as there was with the original, with a control scheme that can easily be described as daunting and a heads-up display packed to the brim with points, stats, and gauges. But if you’re willing to put the time in to learn how it all works--including all the various new weapons and equipment the team has added into the game--there’s a very fun and frantic action experience waiting to be enjoyed underneath it all. You can expect to see Lost Planet 2 arrive this winter.