Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Updated Hands-On: Multiplayer

We get a look at the multiplayer component of Capcom's promising Xbox 360 game.

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Capcom's Lost Planet has been making us jump in all the right places since the game first surfaced late last year. The original third-person action game, which features stunning visuals and, as evidenced by its Xbox Live Marketplace demo, solid gameplay, has definitely got us excited to explore new icy worlds and blow things up. Our anticipation has spiked some after having the chance to try out the game's multiplayer component, which is debuting at this year's German Games Conference. We were able to spend some quality time with a demo of the multiplayer mode and have come away pleased by what it offers.

Useful tip: You'll want to work with your friends in multiplayer as opposed to shooting them in the back.
Useful tip: You'll want to work with your friends in multiplayer as opposed to shooting them in the back.

The work-in-progress multiplayer demo we tried kept it simple and let us host or join a match. The player hosting will let you set a number of parameters for the match, including the match time limit, the starting weapon, win conditions, and the map you'll play on. For the demo, the map was limited to a locale based on the ice pirate area in the single-player Marketplace demo. We were able to try out four game types: elimination, team elimination, capture the pole, and foxhunt. The two elimination games are just what they sound like, individual and team contests to see who can rack up the most kills before time runs out. Capture the pole is a race for teams to capture the telescoping units seen in the demo as continue points. Your goal is to find them, activate them (which flags them as yours), and hold as many as you can until time runs out. Your foes can take any of your units, so you'll have to manage and coordinate with your team to ensure that doesn't happen. To take a unit, you just stand next to it and rapidly press the B button until its antenna extends. Though the action is a bit tedious, it adds a good layer of tension, since you'll find yourself madly pressing B as your foes close in on you. Finally, foxhunt is a race to fill up an onscreen energy meter before your competition does by taking out enemies.

He who nabs the vital suit first will kick much ass.
He who nabs the vital suit first will kick much ass.

Each of the matches played well and had a lot of charm. There was an appealing amount of tension in the different matches, thanks to the weapons scattered throughout the level. More importantly, the presence of a vital suit equipped with a deadly complement of rockets kept things interesting. We were especially pleased by the balance. The weapons in the match--shotguns, plasma rifles, vital suit machine guns, and assorted grenade types--all felt balanced, even against a suit-wearing player. Though we'll admit that being in the suit is a big advantage, it's not a ticket to domination. While the vital suit clearly has the edge in firepower, mowing down enemies in seconds, it's not the fastest thing in the world, and the weapons are about as deliberate. So if you're careful about how you deal with one, it's entirely possible to defeat one. Better still is how items like your grapple come into play when it comes to dealing with enemies. If you're near a player, you can use the grapple to get up close and personal or to quickly get out of the way of incoming trouble. Jumping is, unsurprisingly, a vital part of not being blown away. Should you get killed, you'll have to hit the fire button to respawn a few seconds later, which lets you swear bloody vengeance while you wait.

Come Out Where I Can See You!

One of the interesting wrinkles in the game is the way your radar is handled. When you start a match, it doesn't tell you anything about where your enemies are. To kick-start the radar, you need to capture and hold at least one station for as long as you want to use your radar. The other thing we should note, although it looks like it can be disabled, is friendly fire. Given how hectic the matches can get, especially when dealing with a timer that's running down while you're trying to snag the most kills or get that one last post, you may find yourself plugging unsuspecting teammates. We're ashamed to admit to getting a bit bloodlusty and accidentally working for the opposition, but such is multiplayer combat.

Your radar will be vital to ensuring you don't walk into an ambush.
Your radar will be vital to ensuring you don't walk into an ambush.

Control in the game handled like it did in the demo, and once you get used to the feel, it works well. You'll be able to run, gun, fling grenades, and zipline your way around quite easily. The camera and aiming system takes a bit of getting used to because the more twitch-centric aspects of the multiplayer games require you to be more nimble than in the single-player game. Human opponents don't hang out while you line up a shot.

The visuals in the multiplayer game continue to make a good impression, thanks to their high level of detail. The character models for the soldiers all currently look the same, albeit with variations in their uniform color. The environment itself is detailed, although not as interactive as we would have hoped. The area was a smart mix of structures in varying states--ranging from intact to slightly mashed up--and assorted objects you could hide behind. Though you can cause a fair amount of damage to the area while in a suit or when using certain weapons, you can't cause the kind of wholesale damage we were hoping for. For example, though the vital suits are tricked out with powerful weapons, you can't take out a building à la Mech Assault, which is kind of a bummer. Still, there's enough stuff to blow up to give you a sense of satisfaction. As in the single-player game, explosions and weapon fire are looking cool, so fans of spectacle will be pleased. One of the nice, subtle touches in the level is its design, which incorporates a respectable amount of horizontal and vertical space for you to maneuver in during the different matches. We especially like the way certain weapons are placed in high areas that require you to use your grappling hook to get to. The variety in height helped give the level a nice open feel that worked well.

Insert sound of maniacal laughter here.
Insert sound of maniacal laughter here.

The audio was on par with that in the single-player demo and featured a good blend of ambient effects and impressive explosions and weapon fire. We're especially pleased by the distinctive effects used for the different weapons. The beefy shotgun sounds and the chilling clank of a mech-like vital suit being brought online are great audio cues that add to the experience. After a bit of playtime we were able to distinguish what was going on around us even if we couldn't see what was happening. We reckon the sound of a vital suit firing up will be one of the key "Oh crap" moments during a multiplayer match.

Based on what we played, Lost Planet's multiplayer should serve as a good companion to its single-player experience. The match types are fun and accessible, which is what you'd want out of a multiplayer mode. Though we were able to try out only two-on-two matches, the game will support up to four-on-four, which should enhance the experience, as more people to shoot almost always equals more fun. Lost Planet is currently slated to ship early next year. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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