Lost Planet 2 finished its rental yesterday. I was originally going to write my thoughts on it and ultimately I was finding it hard to make notes, but then I went into town and got the first instalment and two other games as part of a three-for-£20 offer in GAME. I’ll largely be talking about the sequel since it’s the one I sunk three days into and the other I’ve barely dipped my toe into it, but heck, why not talk about ’em both and make things confusing?
Well, it’s a third-person shooter, and the primary gimmick is that everything runs on Thermal Energy – it refills your life when it’s slow, it powers your mechanical suits, it charges up a few gimmick weapons, and it’s also the lifeblood of every alien lifeform on the planet. The first game also has it slowly tick down, acting as a means of pressuring you into killing more dudes. Kind of morbid, actually. Lost Planet 2 is split into episodes containing chapters, which in turn can comprise of anything from one to five missions. Basic goal is to run around, shoot dudes, and activate data posts.
I suppose besides the Thermal Energy, the real draw of the series is the ability to commandeer a wide variety of mechanical suits and vehicles, or Vital Suits as the in-game lingo calls them. There’s a startling large variety – I had reached Episode 5 of the sequel and I don’t think I’d even seen them all, never mind gotten to grips with all their unique quirks. Some are small contraptions that are little more than hovering platforms, while some are hulking, gun-toting, blade-wielding, dash-boosting machines of explosive death. And some carry shotguns. Some of them are just too slow to be much fun, and admittedly the controls of the game are a bit clunky and awkward – Transformers: War For Cybertron had much smoother and fluid controls even when you ignore the whole turning-into-a-car part – but the wide variety of mechs is actually very fun when you get the good ones and can wrap your head around the sometimes confusing controls.
That ties in with an integral issue with Lost Planet 2. It’s explicitly a multi-player game. Yes, there is a story-based campaign mode, and yes, you can play it on your own, but even when you are, it’s never truly a single-player game. It’s about the same as hosting an online server and playing on your own with AI bots filling the other slots. Not only does this mean you can’t pause, but it’s designed for a multi-player mindset; if the game wants you to figure out where to go or what to do, you should be asking your human allies! What, you want the game to tell you what to do? Man up, son. The only times this really threw me were when getting to grips with a quirky VS, and during the train boss fight, where you’re meant to find shells, load them into a cannon, energize the shells, keep the cooling system operational, and then find time to actually shoot the humongous monster chasing your train. Took a bit of time to figure my way around, but I got past it.
The game is structured entirely for multi-player purposes, and in that context, it works very well. I’m sure playing this with three buddies would be a hoot; the levels are large with lots of enemies to fight, and the bosses are enormous, requiring some serious combined firepower to take them down. The problem is that, for the three nights I owned the game, I couldn’t find any other freakin’ players. I found two rooms for deathmatch, but much like the console versions of Halo, it doesn’t start until a certain number of players joins, and when the game’s population is so thinned out, an impediment like that kind of discourages people from taking part, I feel. There is an option to play multi-player via system link, but there’s no split-screen option at all… which is very disappointing, as the game kinda feels like a shooter version of Phantasy Star Online to me.
I haven’t played enough of the first game to get a good idea of what the story is, and the sequel is set ten years after. There’s something about a gigantic monster threatening the integrity of the planet and the bad guys plan to use a weapon against it that’ll prompt a second ice age, but every couple of episodes you seem to play as a different group of characters, none of whom have any means of identification, so it’s kinda hard to keep track. Episode 4 ends with your regular group of marines being sent into space, and just when I thought I was up for some intergalactic ass-kicking, I’m playing as some desert punks trying to steal a vessel that I think belonged to the guys I was playing as. It’s an engaging plot, but it seemed determined to put diversions in my way to stop me seeing the end in one rental.
I can’t really judge on the first game yet, but the second game has a really awesome aesthetic. Monsters range from humans-sized to train-sized and are incredibly alien, yet incredibly functional; the VS machines have a surprising range of looks when they’re mostly there to let you walk faster and shoot stronger; and every human character is decked out in whacked-out, gnarly, Jack Kirby-esque armour of all shapes and sizes. There’s a real comic book style to the game, at least in how whimsical and fantastic these landscapes of terror and machines of death can be. Some of the human costumes are a bit ridiculous, and not just because they like to put glowing lines on the player’s buttcrack; I don’t even know how the characters are meant to see out of those ridiculous helmets, never mind why they have so many prongs jutting out of them for unexplained reasons.
I’ll probably rent Lost Planet 2 a second time, though I’m unsure if I would buy it. It’s got some great setpieces and environments that make it worth playing just to see the pretty pictures, but the lack of players really sinks the game’s potential. If its userbase were as healthy as Left 4 Dead (or, heck, even War For Cybertron when I played it) I think the game would be a lot of fun, but when the game promotes multi-player so much and you’ve got no one to play it with, it’s rather hollow. The first one works better as a single-player game, though whether or not it’s a better game waits to be seen.
I also finished off the first series of Being Human. Really, really good. I’m itching to watch it again without having to wait a week between episodes, and I need to get my hands on the second series. George is just adorable.