Lost Planet 2
When the biggest selling action games of recent memory include lengthy solo-campaign and expansive multiplayer experiences, the pressure on developers to release similarly well featured packages must be huge. Is it still enough for a game to simply offer a 10 hour single player experiences, or are such titles doomed to be criticised for a perceived lack of replayability and value for money? Such a concept is, of course, something of a nonsense, but one that nevertheless muddies the waters for developers who are ultimately in the games industry to provide entertainment and to satisfy their fan-base. With Lost Planet 2, Capcom has striven to satisfy every corner of the action game market, but has it spread itself too thinly?
Lost Planet 2’s feature list is, on paper, undeniably impressive and seems to cover all bases with a play mode for any and every occasion – there’s a campaign that supports two-player split screen or (up to) 4 players online, RPG-esque character levelling and customisation and competitive online modes – whatever your third person shooter itch may be, Lost Planet 2 is hoping to have the right tool too scratch it. As well as expanding on the original in terms of play modes, Capcom has also clearly been listening to the criticism levied at it. Most significantly, the constantly depleting thermal energy levels that harangued the original have been removed, allowing for more free-flowing play; though it’s always good to see a developer trying something new, the omission of this quirk in the sequel is definitely a welcome development. Aiming has also been greatly improved, with the floaty reticule being replaced with a far more robust mechanic, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the camera, which at times feels woefully inadequate.
The degree of entertainment that Lost Planet 2’s campaign provides is generally dependent on how many human team-mates you can gather around you, as the three AI team members that accompany the solo player do little to embellish the experience. While that isn’t to say the game can’t be enjoyed on your own but, as was the case with Sheva in Resident Evil 5, the AI controlled characters fail to imbue a feeling of teamwork into the proceedings, often feeling like ethereal place-holders that wander aimlessly through the world in the desperate hope that a human player will jump in to provide them with a sense of purpose. That they can frequently be more of a hindrance than a help further negates their relevance.
Another criticism that can be levelled at Lost Planet 2’s campaign is that it fails to craft an engaging narrative, largely playing out as a series of loosely related confrontations. Possibly in reflection of its focus of cooperative play, characterisation is minimal with the four members of your team being empty vessels onto which players can project their own personalities. Though this is a perfectly reasonable concept, it nevertheless proves to be restrictive as the game struggles to tie the onscreen action to a satisfying plot that, in a nutshell, it goes something like this: the once frozen wasteland of E.D.N. III is starting the thaw as a result of category G Akrids (the same huge insectoids that took a starring role in Lost Planet: Extreme Condition), and a conflict over thermal energy between disparate groups of humans rages. That’s about all you need to know, but in honesty, it could just as easily be encapsulated with: shoot the bad guys, shoot the monsters, and don’t get shot yourself. The lack of strong storytelling is doubly disappointing as the world of Lost Planet has huge narrative potential, with some rich visual and character design and nods to classic sci-fi such as Star Wars and Dune, but sadly the potential is largely squandered.
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