Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Preview

We get an exclusive look at the first four missions in Capcom's wicked Xbox 360 game.

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Capcom's upcoming Lost Planet: Extreme Condition has been making us jump in all the right places since we got our first look at it earlier this year at the company's Las Vegas press event. The gorgeous action game offers a shiny helping of third-person shooting, exploration, combat, and mission-based gameplay wrapped in stunning visuals. We recently had the chance to log in some time with a work-in-progress version of the game to check out the first four missions, two of which included some of the content from the Marketplace demo, and had ourselves a good old time.

We have seen the future, and it's cold.
We have seen the future, and it's cold.

If you've not been following Lost Planet, here's the deal: The game is set in a chilly, postapocalyptic-ish future wherein mankind has gone all Star Trek-y and ventured out to the stars in search of new life. The good news is they found some (or rather, it found them). The bad news is said life kind of wants to kill them. You'll play as Wayne, a young man with a hefty air of mystery around him, who has mad beef with the aliens known as the Akrid. The grumpy insectlike race has gotten Wayne bent out of shape when one of its larger members, known as Green Eye, murdered his dad right in front of him. After something like that happens to you, you only have one option, really: murderous revenge! While this is all a bummer for Wayne, it's a perfectly fine setup for a game.

When you first fire up Lost Planet, you'll find several different options to choose from: campaign, online battle, options and records. Campaign lets you start a new game, continue lets you pick up from a previous save or replay a specific mission, online battle lets you play the game's online mode, options lets you adjust the game's settings and access Xbox Live Marketplace, and finally records lets you review your stats in campaign and online games, as well as check out the game's achievements (which we're not allowed to talk about yet).

When you start a new game, you'll get brought up to speed on current events courtesy of an opening cinematic that introduces you to what's been going on for mankind. After some broad talk about the storyline, it segues into a tighter focus on Wayne's situation, and we meet his dad, Gayle, who is leading a team of soldiers facing off against the Akrid. The real-time intro slips smoothly into a Halo-esque "welcome to hell" sequence, wherein you take control of Wayne as he's running through a city under siege with a group of soldiers. The dramatic sequence provides a good setup for the forthcoming chaos in the game and works just dandy as a tutorial. Once you've run a ways and gotten the basics for your on-foot controls, you'll hop into the game's mechlike Vital Suits, called VSs, and move deeper into the city, where you'll confront a massive, and totally unpleasant, Akrid dubbed Green Eye. The pitched battle between man and bug doesn't go terribly well, and Gayle goes down in spectacularly traumatic fashion before Wayne's eyes. The situation goes a bit odd, and the next thing you know, you're waking up surrounded by strangers who say they found you in your VS. You're a bit disoriented, as all you really remember is seeing dear-old dad get stomped. Your new friends, a band of apparently friendly snow pirates, offer to let you hang with them while you get your bearings. Their leader is Yuri, a Sephiroth-looking guy who's just a touch on the creepy side. Your two other new friends are Rick, a dreadlocked dude who sports sunglasses, and Luka, a busty lass who, despite the freezing conditions, is showing off a surprising amount of cleavage.

The mechlike Vital Suits are appropriately named.
The mechlike Vital Suits are appropriately named.

Once the setup is out of the way, you'll head out on your first mission, whose particulars are outlined on an intro screen that lists out vital info for you. Your first order of business is to work off some of that disoriented amnesiac aggression and take out an Akrid hive. The level should be familiar to those of you who've tried out the Marketplace demo, as it's made up of the first part of the demo, wherein Wayne makes his way through icy ruins into an Akrid hive and blows it up. Quite a bit's changed since the demo, namely weapon and enemy placement, the presence of a VS as soon as you start the level, audio tips from your crew, and a brutal boss fight at the end. The boss battle is tough, but like the other Akrid you face in the level, if you keep a level head and target his conveniently color-coded weak point, you can take him out in no time. Once you finish the mission, you'll come to a tally screen that keeps track of various stats. You'll see how much thermal energy you had left, how long you played, your different types of kills, and how many target marks you hit. Target marks are basically small coins spread out through the level that you'll have to find and shoot. Unfortunately, since we were running and gunning for our lives, we didn't find and shoot them all, but we like the "leet" feel of getting them all and expect it should be a feature that connects with hardcore players.

The second mission should be partially familiar to players, as part of it is in the Marketplace. You're tasked with taking out Crimson Unity, a rival faction of snow pirates who's set up camp in the middle of Akrid territory. It turns out the crimson jerks have taken a trailer containing equipment your peeps need to keep their VSs in running order. Your goal is to go smack some fools up and take the trailer back. The base's placement in Akrid territory also provides ample opportunity to kill aliens. The run to the base is all new and has you making your way through more of the icy, ruined city, dealing with the various Akrid hazards that pop up. Your primary foes are the flying critters shown in trailers and the previous level, rolling enemies that pop out of the ice and spin at you, and massive Akrid who try to stomp you with their long, spiny feet. On top of all that, you'll have to contend with a surly pack of snow pirates who are all too eager to blow you up, Akrid threat be damned. When you finally get to the base itself, you'll be on familiar territory, as the last part of the level is in the Marketplace demo. As with the first mission, quite a bit's changed in terms of item placement and, to a lesser degree, level layout. When you finally make it to the inside of the fortress, you'll face off against a jump-happy mech that's armed to the teeth.

Once you've cleared the second mission, you'll get sent right out on your third, which finally shows off a new locale, albeit a snowy one. Your main goal is to investigate the source of thermal energy your team is picking up in the area. This takes a back seat once you start making your way around the area. Your search will send you running across a vast, snowy plain. The journey seems as though it's going to be difficult on foot, but after just a bit of hoofing it, you'll find a VS that's secondary function is to transform into a snowmobile (convenient!). Unfortunately, just when you think the mission should be a snap, your bigger concern appears: a massive wormlike Akrid the wants you dead. The scary critter makes itself known by smashing your ride and sending you skittering like a roach for any kind of cover. Once you get over the initial shock of its appearance, you'll realize it has the same color-coded weak spots as all of its smaller brethren. Of course, hitting those weak spots while avoiding a painful demise is another matter entirely. You'll find weapons and a VS, which will help you deal some damage and stay alive in your mad dash across the icy tundra. Eventually, you'll murder the enormous worm and find the source of the thermal energy you'd been sent out for. Unfortunately, it's the ruins of a snow-pirate base that's been assaulted by some unfriendly forces who take notice of you, resulting in a boss fight against an ornately detailed pink mech.

This giant worm isn't interested in befriending humankind.
This giant worm isn't interested in befriending humankind.

The fourth and final mission we tried sends Wayne on a perilous climb to a mountain peak. As you'd expect, the path is crawling with Akrid, and there's some new pains to contend with in your journey, namely a giant moth dive-bombing your route with explosives and a new type of exploding Akrid. You'll eventually make your way into a facility and have to use a mech to hop your way to the top, and then you'll have to ride a wooden platform up to the path you need to ascend. We note the platform's construction as, if you'll recall, there's exploding Akrid prowling about, so you can imagine what effect fire has on what's keeping you from plunging to your death. Once you get near the top of the peak, you'll have to blow a few objects up to make a path for the VS that you'll need to get up to the very top. As with every level, there's a very special murderous surprise waiting for you--this time it's your friend who was trying to stop your ascent, the giant moth.

Overall, we have to say we dug how the levels played out. The game made a slick first impression and has maintained that level of appeal now that we've played more. We have to note that there were a number of times where we were stopped dead in our tracks and just said "oh crap" as we saw what lay before us, much like we did in Shadow of the Colossus. The boss fights also called to mind Colossus', as you'll have to figure out how to take out these massive critters. The big differentiator here is that Lost Planet's much more action-oriented gameplay feels like a better fit for that kind of spectacle. Plus, you have more death-dealing options--think about how easier it would have been to take down a colossus if you could have just shot it in the face with a rocket launcher. At the moment, the missions have scaled up in challenge pretty well, but there are still some balancing issues that need to be sorted out in some spots. We're wondering how much variety in the missions there'll be in the final game on top of what we've seen, as the action is straightforward in many ways. But so far, so good.

Control in the game worked well for the most part and should be easy for anyone who played the demo to dive right into. There have been a few tweaks, such as your ability to raise and lower yourself with your grappling hook, which worked to great fashion in the last mission, as we had to lower ourselves into a room chock-full of Akrid and Akrid-spewing nests. Thankfully, we were able to fire on everything around us to clear the room as much as we could before dropping down. Weapon selection was easy and camera control worked reasonably well, although, as you'd expect, it wasn't quite perfect due to the game's work-in-progress nature. The thermal-energy mechanic has been made a bit more forgiving, although you'll find if you're not careful, you'll still wind up dead pretty fast.

The visuals in the game improve on what was seen in the Xbox Live Marketplace demo released this past May. The game still remains one of the sharpest 360 games around, and the new layer of polish only makes it look better. The massive environments are detailed and offer useful bits of interaction, such as explosive objects as well as destructible rocks that can rain down on your foes (and you, if you're not careful). The Akrid are a crazy-looking lot that feature creepy animation and come in all manner of sizes. We're especially impressed by the design of the larger creatures, as they're a sight to see. So far, their weak spots have been smartly incorporated into their look, which makes it easy to be shocked but still be able to call out where you need to shoot. The human characters are detailed and expressive. Korean star Byung Hun Lee is nicely rendered in the role of Wayne. Most importantly, the game's ambitious sense of scale is very cool. You'll truly feel like an insect at times as you're dwarfed by massive Akrid, even when you're in a VS. All is not perfect, though--the game's frame rate takes some significant hits when the action gets crazy, and there is the aforementioned problematic camera. We're hoping these elements will be tightened up by the time the game ships.

The Akrid come at you in many different shapes and sizes.
The Akrid come at you in many different shapes and sizes.

The audio in the game is coming along well, with beefy sound effects standing out as one of the highlights. The roar of weapons fire and the hard clanks from the VSs you'll find yourself in have proven to be a good complement to the action. In addition, you'll hear a varied array of voice acting during the cutscenes and during the game as your pirate homies check in with you via radio or when you hear rival pirates yelling to each other during battle. The Akrid also benefit from audio in the game, leaning more toward the sound effects side of things rather than actual voice. We've heard a good array of chittering and screeching from the various Akrid we've encountered, which has been apropos for their size. Beyond the effects and voice, Lost Planet's soundtrack has a weighty feel to it thanks to orchestrated tunes that accompany the action well.

Based on what we've played so far, Lost Planet is looking like another tasty Xbox title from Capcom, who currently appears to be in the zone when it comes to Xbox 360 development. The game is gorgeous to look at and has solid gameplay mechanics. Though we've noted some rough spots in the work-in-progress version of the game, we're hoping they'll be cleaned up. All told, Lost Planet is shaping up to kick off 2007 with a fiery bang if the game lives up to its promise. If you're fiending for a play, check out the demo currently on Xbox Live Marketplace, and keep a sharp eye out for a brand-new multiplayer demo set to hit Xbox Live later this year. Look for more on the game in the weeks to come.

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