Capcom strikes again with Lost Planet, giving us loads of old school action in a next-gen package. In-depth review.
One of the things that tilted me towards the purchase of an Xbox 360 console was playing the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition single-player demo. For me, the game lived up to its hype and taps straight into my early NES and SNES gaming experiences by offering old school arcade-like action.
First things first, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a game developed by Capcom, a company who needs no further introduction by now. Since the early days of console gaming, their titles have set a standard for both platforming and action-adventure games. In fact, Lost Planet was produced by Mr. Mega Man himself, Keiji Inafune (Mega Man series, Mega Man X series, Onimusha series and most recently Dead Rising), and Jun Takeuchi (Street Fighter 2, Resident Evil, Onimusha) under the direction of Kenji Oguro.
STORY & SETTING
The setting is simple: you're on E.D.N. III, a hostile planet full of snow, ice, mountains, canyons and a nasty insect-like alien race dubbed the "Akrid". The human race wants to colonize this planet because Earth has become too polluted to support mankind. The first attempt at colonization failed, but some humans stayed on E.D.N. III instead of leaving, thus becoming "Snow Pirates". Insert an evil megacorp called NEVEC and some mechs called Vital Suits (VS) and you're in for a whole bunch of treats. You'll play the role of Wayne Holden (popular South Korean actor Lee Byung-Hun serves as model for the character), the son of Gale Holden, a legendary VS pilot. After witnessing your father's death to a disgustingly huge Akrid called "Green Eye", you get stuck in the ice for a long time before being rescued by a band of jolly Snow Pirates. Hell-bent on avenging your father and finding out more about NEVEC's plans, you decide to join forces with your new friends.
The control mechanics take a bit of getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it, it all comes together as a set of very tight and responsive commands that feel quite natural. You run using the left analog stick and you move your aiming reticule with the right one, which also moves the camera. The left and right shoulder buttons enable you to make a quick 90 degrees turn, so turning around only takes a second which is quite useful on the battlefield. Pushing up and down on the D-Pad enables you to change the camera distance, and left/right is used to turn on/off your flashlight. The right trigger fires your equipped weapon, the left trigger throws a grenade and reloading is done by simply clicking the right stick. The A button is used to jump but also to make an evasive roll manoeuvre while crouching, which is done by clicking the left stick. The X button fires your grappling hook, a nice little addition that can help you reach higher places, vantage points and swiftly evade sticky situations. Switching weapons is done with the Y button while the B button performs a melee attack as well as other actions like entering a VS.
Speaking of Vital suits, they all rely on the same basic control scheme with some variations depending on the model you're driving. You'll be briefed in-game every time you encounter a new kind and they're all as responsive as the main character.
On E.D.N. III, all you need is love... and Thermal Energy, or T-ENG for that matter. T-ENG is your life support, your VS fuel, your energy weapon ammo, so if you run out of it, you're in trouble. Luckily, it seems there's enough of this gelatinous orange goodness for everyone: tanks of T-ENG are lying around here and there, the Akrid leave some behind when defeated, and mostly anything that can explode is a source of T-ENG. Wayne is fitted with a device called a Harmonizer on his right arm which kicks in everytime he is injured, using T-ENG to heal his wounds and refill the Health Gauge. There is regular machine gun/ shotgun ammo to keep an eye on too, as well as grenades. You can only wield two weapons at any given time, so which guns you'll choose to carry may have some impact on the battles ahead. You can even customize the weapons on the VS you're riding or use VS weapons on foot. Ever wanted to blast alien bugs on foot with a 7 feet long 150 pound shotgun with slugs the size of your fist? Well now you can. Finally, you need not worry about ammo or T-ENG scarcity though, there's enough weapons lying around to wage a war and, well, wage a war you will.
Explosions, everywhere, all the time. Smoke, snow, wind, fire, the visual effects are stunning. Everything from the main character to the NEVEC troops, Snow Pirates or the Akrid is generously detailed. I want to add a special mention to the VS animations and details that are particularly well pictured. Piloting a big robot never looked so good. The Akrid are as you expect them too; grotesque and menacing with insect-like behaviour.
The environments are vast and the draw distance is so large that you won't ever see anything popping in or out of the screen for no reason. The framerate stays smooth all game long, I noticed slowdown only twice during the single-player campaign. Continuing what was done in Dead Rising, there can be a huge number of foes at once on screen without any slowdown.
SOUND & MUSIC
My favorite aspect of the game is the sound because it feels so real. I can't really describe it with precise words without falling into an array of details like how the VS make clanking noises or the outer worldy screams of the Akrid. Every sound is spot on, making the noise you'd expect, from the heavy breathing of Wayne running in two feet of snow to the cheesy sound of firing a laser. Voice acting is also well done, though nothing special, it works fine.
The music was composed by Jamie Christopherson who gave us the soundtrack of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams in 2005. Those who played the game might remember its amazing Asian soundscapes. Lost Planet's music leans more towards the symphonic / epic movie soundtrack category, with horns and strings striking urgent notes to the battles. However it's varied enough to suit every moment of the game very well with a more ambient and eerie tone in certain areas.
A nice addition is the Online Battle portion of the game over Xbox Live. You can duke it out on several maps and it supports up to 16 players in 4 game modes like Team Battle and Data Post Grab (capture the flag). Respawning time is short and with plenty of VS, guns and grenades lying around, the action never stops.
PROS & CONS AND FINAL WORD
- Beautiful graphics & sound + smooth framerate
- Varied weapons, from shotguns to homing lasers to frisbee grenades
- You know you want to ride a VS. Admit it
- Many pieces of destructible environment
- Loading times from short to none.
- MASSIVE boss battles
- Replayability (Four difficulty levels, hidden "Target Marks" to find in every level, two optional boss battles)
- Fun and simple Online Battle system
- Cool Xbox Live Achievements to get
- Story is okay... if you like reading between the lines...
- Redundant locations (if you hate snow, stay away from this game)
- Some frustrating moments
- Online lacks tactical depth
- Some may find the campaign mode a bit short
- Characters run a bit too slow
Thank you for taking the time to read this in-depth review of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. I enjoyed the game enough to make it my very first review and I'd like to dedicate it to all my Gamespot buddies.