9

Damn close to perfect. One of the signature XBOX 360 experiences.

Reviewing an old game here, but I've been trying to give credit where it's due. Lost Planet was a peculiar third-person shooter, brimming with interesting gameplay ideas and graphical flourishes, and yet hampered by a mostly awful storyline and some wavering difficulty. It's primed to be a worthwhile franchise, and in action it proves itself to be one of the must unique shooter experiences available on a console.

The storyline should be initially mentioned: it's primarily badly written melodrama that is, in turn, badly translated. I can often intuit a bad Japanese translation with a few key giveaways: the nauseating repetition of character names (you will hear the word "Wayne" to the point of indigestion in this game), awkward pauses in the dialog, and wavering emphases in the voices that don't click with the flow of the script. So I'm willing to bet that there's a better story in Japanese underneath this translated murk. What's beneficial is that although the script is a kind of mess, the grand drama of the story is well demonstrated. The first level is beautifully grandiose, and there are various surprises that, although really just set dressing, do well enough to frame the game's exciting set pieces. You'll probably watch every cutscene at least once, to get an idea of why you're accomplishing the next level.

I found parts of this game easy, and parts of it brutal. I've read reviews where other people consider this game a cakewalk, and I don't see it. I suppose you could really dash through every level and complete this game quickly and with less destruction, but I enjoyed taking my time with it and vanquishing the enemies piecemeal. Everything just "feels right" as far as the controls go, and after playing a while you realize you're juggling a healthy number of buttons with ease (Grenade, hook, gun, perspective change). Even your crosshairs feel right, as they never do in games of this nature; others have described them as "wavery," but instead of feeling like a flash-game point-and-click it feels like a true extension of your character's weapon.

The levels (and several impressive enemies and bosses) are enormous - you are slow. This has been another annoyance among gamers, but I find that it adds to the game's epic feel. When fighting a monster that is literally 15 or more stories tall, it makes sense that you can't jitterbug around it. Otherwise, when you are trudging your way through a desolate landscape or a beautifully rendered post-apocalyptic cityscape, you feel appropriately small. I find this an impressive aspect of the game, reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus and sometimes equally haunted. The sounds of the wind rushing over the snow, the crunch of it under your boots, and the distant call of some strange alien species before a furious firefight - these are all party to the Lost Planet experience, and many levels like to shift in tone between the busier parts and this grand feeling of melancholy.

The enemy set is robust. You'll often have more trouble fighting off the myriad alien species than you will your human aggressors - they are often little more than fodder - but they mix and match well enough. The game will often put you in well-designed battles of attrition, where it's you against a hundred, but some careful planning, quick reflexes, and use of cover and the grapple will win out in the end. Some of the very best fights involve the mech-suits, and the game eases you into their use nicely.

Without the suits, Lost Planet would still be an excellent experience. However, their inclusion does elevate this game to warrant its high score. Quite simply, they're a fantastic addition to the action. The levels are often balanced towards their usage (meaning: certain areas are all but impossible without them), but you could try your luck without them for a challenge. There's a rich variety, and the ability to mix and match their armaments is clever. I definitely had an "oh #$!@" moment the first time I tore a weapon off a destroyed mech and lugged it around, or when I realized that one of them transformed into a bike reminiscent of the "Venus Wars" anime. Overall, rather than afterthought, the mechs are essential to the game and really affect its mechanics in a meaningful way.

All to be said about the bosses is that they're excellent and cap off each level nicely. The levels are long, and sometimes you fool yourself into thinking a challenging set piece actually WAS the boss, and find yourself surprised to find something even more imposing at the end. Certain moments, which I won't describe too much at the risk of spoiling, are inspiring (fighting Greeneye the second time is one of many levels where you get your money's worth).

Overall, this game is your best bargain-bin find. I purchased it late and in turn paid very little for it, but it's easy to see why there is a rich community built around it. Games like this make Halo feel like a dull high school class. A plethora of game mechanics and interesting ideas, wrapped up with a thin story that at least serves to move the action. If this game had a sharp plot with characters a little less cookie-cutter, you would have one of the 360's perfect games.

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