by Bane Williams
reviewed on PS3
Big Monsters destroyed different ways
As we mount our Vital Suits (specialized mechanized suits) to travel on through the snow we are rewarded with the whirring sound of the motor coming to life. Considering the over-dependence of the VS for Thermal Energy, traveling in the snow is always quite dangerous. Just how dangerous becomes apparent as the VS of one of my comrades breaks down in front of me. He latches his VS onto the rails of mine and we continue through the snow. Suddenly, the ground shakes and a giant, snake-like creature erupts from the ground... It's time to lock and load.
Perhaps, similar to the giant Mecha invasion of the 60's and 70's, there is a giant Monster fad going around in Japan at the moment. How else would you dare to understand Capcom's recent desire to feed us to giant monster after giant monster in not one, but two of their franchises. What started with Monster Hunter is continued in Lost Planet: the first having a fantasy twist, the latter going the science fiction route. But where Mass Effect fails at accurately depicting the size and scale of a Thresher Maw, Lost Planet 2 has no such problems.
The immensity of monsters (Akrids, as the game calls them) is something that is almost always shown in such a manner to illicit gasps of surprise from the person playing. One creature sprouted a set of talons, the smallest of which the size of my entire body. The two main talons - used to attack - easily measured the thickness and width of a large bus. And the body of this monstrosity? Skyscraper proportions, easily, even with most of its body still hidden in the water.
CO-OP seizes the day
Mech combat is both fun and interesting. The ability to customize your suit with parts you find around the level is a great addition although the hilarity of seeing a regular soldier not only pick up a weapon two times the size of his own body but fire it with his bare hands as well is pretty special in its own right.
One of the immediately noticeable concepts of the game is that you are followed around by three AI controlled teammates. It is hardly a new concept - we’ve seen that in games such as Modern Warfare too - but at least in Lost Planet 2 your real life buddies can take control to play co-op games. The ability to team up with human players is imperative in some missions as AI controlled members of your group seem to have a severe case of “Stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast” and will make it difficult to complete some of the more challenging mission objectives.
The AI wouldn't be so inherently or even noticeably flawed if it weren't for a few specific missions. The game is broken up into multiple segments of three to four stages. One of these stages invariably involves something along the lines of activating and then defending four objects in four different locations. Not only will the AI refuse to activate these for you, but unless they get stuck on a pillar, they won't defend them adequately either. Not to mention the AI's propensity for shooting whatever is closest to them, not necessarily whatever is the biggest threat.
Some of these oversights can be forgiven were it not for numerous other design challenges and flaws. When hiding behind an object, I like to envisage that enemies are unable to see and that they certainly can’t shoot me through it. Alas, it’s a pipe dream in Lost Planet 2.
I enjoyed Borderlands for its perfect single-player experience, giving you ample opportunity to learn the game. Once three of your friends got thrown in, the game changed into an amazingly enjoyable beast but the game did not rely on that multiplayer experience to be playable. The same cannot be said for Lost Planet 2. Attempt to get a high rank on any mission – particularly during the boss missions - and find yourself frustrated by AI who aren't hitting the right spots on the monster and then even more so when you get killed for the umpteenth time after doing 90% of the damage and seeing the AI credited with the kill.
It's not all sub-par
There is a lot to like about Lost Planet 2. The way you gain experience both in single and multiplayer modes is refreshing, the way you have to gamble your accrued points in a slot machine fashion to get new guns (important) or cosmetic upgrades and titles (unimportant) is not. The arcade feel that is so prominent in almost every Capcom game sorely needs a rehash but fits surprisingly well into this particular game.
When you find three other players that all know what they are doing and capable of taking down a category G Akrid, it is a beautiful thing, much like taking down some of the biggest Wyverns in Monster Hunter Tri is. Capcom continues to nail the feeling of reward game after game.
Some of the cut-scenes had my mouth open, the monster design is incredible, the guns are fairly impressive and the storyline is well paced. The way the game shifts focus from one group to another to show the overarching reach and impact of events is fresh and executed well. The mechs are varied and fun to use and you’ll almost certainly find one that fits your playing style.
Lost Planet 2 has equal amounts of bliss and frustration and it is unfortunate that the latter tips the balance into an overall ‘disappointing’. A better single player experience could have made all the difference.
Fantastically fun in co-op.
Dumb AI ruins the singleplayer experience.