Lost Planet 2 Review
This sci-fi sequel seems like it should have everything you need in a shooter, but a shocking number of design missteps suck out much of the fun.
- Fantastic production values
- Loads of gameplay variety
- A ton of online content
- Competitive play can be good fun.
- Abysmal friendly and enemy AI
- Awful mission design
- Relies too much on taking control away from the player
- All sorts of small, deadly flaws.
Feature-for-feature, Lost Planet 2 should be an improvement over the original. It sports four-player online co-op, a robust multiplayer mode complete with unlockable goodies, and impressive visual design with lots of variety and artistic flair. Yet amazingly, this third-person sci-fi shooter represents a major step backward for one important reason: It isn't much fun. Not only did developer Capcom not address the problems of the original, but it exacerbated them. Fundamental design flaws inhabit almost every gameplay mechanism. Awful mission design leaves you wondering how to proceed; abysmal AI makes playing on your own an exercise in masochism; and an overreliance on knockback attacks and other bizarre design choices are sure to inspire worldwide epidemics of controller-throwing rage. Not even replacing your three useless AI companions with real-life buddies alleviates all of the pain because the frustrations are woven into the very fabric of the experience. Entertaining multiplayer modes and some enjoyable, larger-than-life battles against looming insectoids lift Lost Planet 2 out of the abyss, though even those aspects aren't without their problems. This is a beautiful game you desperately want to like, yet it goes out of its way to punish you for it.
At least the sequel offers up a lot more variety than its predecessor. You'll sprint through a number of diverse locations, and fantastic visuals really bring the planet of E.D.N. III to life. Some frigid areas hark back to the original, including the prologue, which features great Lost Planet standbys: giant mechs known as vital suits (or VSs), enormous aliens called akrid with glowing orange spots (hint: shoot them!), and snow flying everywhere. In other levels, red light bathes industrial corridors, lightning flashes brightly above a turbulent sea, and cyclones sweep across the desert plains. There is a ton of eye candy to take in, and plenty of attempts to vary the pace. Over the course of the game, you will rush through the desert on a roaring speeder; defy gravity in the blackness of space; and bring down a giant akrid from the inside. Jungle shootouts, battles on conveyor belts, and a boss fight in a sandy ghost town--conceptually, the game's got all the elements of a full-featured, varied, and beautiful shooter.
Unfortunately, Lost Planet 2's scattershot mission design squanders the goodwill the early hours generate. Early levels take just a few minutes to complete, too often coming to an end just as things appear to be picking up. Later levels are brought down by abysmal signposting and other botched basics. One late-game chapter takes place within a towering tube in which you activate data posts located at various levels. But unlike in most games, Lost Planet 2's minimap doesn't indicate whether an objective is above or below you. (This is but one of the game's countless "Game Design 101" failures.) You might wander aimlessly, searching for those posts or the terminal you must reach to end the mission, simply due to the game's communication failures. A late boss fight is just an endlessly boring march through one linear corridor after another, composed mainly of firing at pulsing orange pustules, rather than the larger-than-life encounter you'd hope for at such a climactic moment.
But if there's one mission destined to be remembered as one of the worst shooter levels of all time, it's certainly one involving two speeding trains. The first two-thirds are mind-numbingly frustrating, particularly if you tackle the campaign on your own. A couple of enormous rocket turrets pummel you, easily knocking you off the train and wasting precious respawns, all while your AI companions run in place, stuck against doors that don't open. Many of Lost Planet 2's levels are designed to kill you should you get knocked out of them, which is a bizarre design choice considering the frequency with which you get knocked back, and the force with which it happens. But what makes this level worth special mention is its staggeringly awful final third. A giant worm akrid attacks the speeding locomotive, a diagram of the train you've never seen before appears on the screen, and you're told--absolutely nothing.
As it turns out, you need to do several things in this sequence: load ammo into the giant weapon up top, extinguish fires that erupt down below, use side turrets to whittle away at that akrid, and so on. But you're left to figure all this out on your own. Once you do, the tasks are at least manageable if you have co-op buddies along for the ride. If you're on your own, you get absolutely no help from the putrid AI, which might help load the giant cannon but will otherwise wander about as if dumbfounded by the whole scenario. They don't activate the extinguishers, man the turrets, or do anything else the mission desperately requires. And should you fail, you start the entire lengthy chapter from the beginning.
Unfortunately, Lost Planet 2 is loaded with even more baffling design choices that often make it anything but enjoyable. The game doesn't play by any consistent set of rules. Sometimes, falling into water means instant death, yet some chapters take place exclusively underwater. You get a grapple hook to pull you to higher ground, yet there's no rhyme or reason to what surfaces you can grapple to. Furthermore, the game goes out of its way to wrest control away from you. Tumbling akrid knock you back and send you flying--as do rockets, and shotguns, and big balls of goo that do incredible amounts of splash damage. Some akrid attacks freeze you in place and force you to wiggle an analog stick. It takes a long time for animations to finish, so you might find yourself in an inescapable knockback loop that's impossible to recover from. Yet while you can't interrupt a long knockback animation in progress, your humanoid foes can interrupt anything you do simply by shooting at you. Forget throwing a grenade or healing yourself while being shot at: a single bullet will interrupt the action. This is far from standard practice in shooters, and for very good reason: it isn't fun. Yet almost all of Lost Planet 2's challenge comes from the incredible cheapness that results from all of these factors. It certainly doesn't come from your brain-dead enemies, which are so dumb they might stand there and stare at you from 10 feet away, yet never take a shot.