Lost Planet: Extreme Condition - Colonies Edition is an updated version of Capcom's icy shooter released on the Xbox 360 and PC last year (and on the PlayStation 3 earlier this year). Colonies doesn't bring any new single-player missions to the table, but it does come with a load of new multiplayer game modes and maps, and a few single-player additions. It's the most complete Lost Planet experience thus far, and its bargain price should prove appealing to gamers who are curious about the game. But for those who already own the original, there's really not enough here to warrant a second look unless you're a Lost Planet multiplayer junkie.
Colonies Edition features exactly the same single-player campaign as the original Lost Planet (you can read our review of the 360 version here) and as such features the same pros (good arcade shooting fun, strong multiplayer) and cons (sometimes-clunky controls, short campaign length) as that game. The plot follows the adventures of snow pirate Wayne as he takes on a frozen world full of gigantic bugs Starship Troopers-style. What Colonies adds is new modes. Score Attack tasks you with grabbing as high a score as possible through the game's 11 missions, with each enemy or object destroyed adding to a combo meter; Trial Battle is essentially a boss showdown mode; and Off Limit mode increases your speed and firepower for a Lost Planet-on-steroids experience. The Trial Battle mode is the most fun of the three, pitting you against a range of Lost Planet's hulking bosses in a five-round deathmatch. Health and ammo are carried over between battles, with how quickly you dispose of an opponent determining what your next target will be. Colonies also features a new first-person view, although it's poorly implemented. There are no weapon models visible while in first-person, and the view defaults back to third-person every time you pilot a vital-suit mech, which is something you do quite a lot in Lost Planet. The perspective switches back to first-person once you're out of a mech, however.
Although these single-player additions don't really add anything compelling to the game, Colonies significantly ramps up the multiplayer aspect of Lost Planet with several new game modes, including the ability to compete as one of the giant bugs, the akrid. In Akrid Hunter mode, a small number of competitors (up to four in a full 16-player match) play as one of three akrid types, while the rest play as snow pirates trying to take them down. The akrid are big, strong, and tough to kill, but the sheer number of smaller and more agile pirate opponents means that the mode is, surprisingly, quite balanced. Another fun new multiplayer mode is VS Annihilator, in which each team has one vital suit each, with the goal being to destroy the opposing mech. Akrid Egg Battle, which has both team and free-for-all modes, is a capture-the-flag variant, whereas Counter Grab is Colonies' hectic version of king of the hill.
Colonies also features all of the maps previously released on the 360, PC, and PS3 versions, along with four new maps to take the total to 20. There are also 10 new weapons available only in multiplayer for both humans and VS mechs, and four new character models to select.
Lost Planet already had a fairly strong online community, and ordinarily, the addition of new modes and maps such as those featured in Colonies would result in even more activity. But strangely, Capcom has made Colonies completely incompatible with previous 360 or PC versions. Consequently, saved games and online rankings don't transfer across, and multiplayer matches are kept separate too. This will probably irk long-time fans of Lost Planet's multiplayer, and could split the community instead of increasing it. However, we had little difficulty finding matches, particularly in the new play modes. On the plus side, the game's feature set claims cross-platform compatibility between PC and 360 players through the Live service, although we're yet to test out how smooth the experience is for PC gamers.
The 18 months between the initial 360 release and the Colonies Edition hasn't resulted in any noticeable improvements in Lost Planet's graphics. In other words, the game still looks good but isn't in the same league as more-recent shooters. Audio still sounds crisp, with a well-fitting, bombastic orchestral soundtrack that helps elevate the mood.
With all of the content previously released in Lost Planet's various versions plus its enhanced multiplayer suite, Colonies is a strong offering for those who've sat on the Lost Planet fence thus far. Its bargain price (about half of what new full retail games cost) should make it even more tempting for newcomers, but akrid vets probably don't need to bother.