|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Capcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 27, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Special editions of games are starting to make some headway. Persona 3 FES landed in our hands a few months ago, and soon Gears of War will be joining the re-release show. It's a smart strategy: bring a game back into the limelight by slashing the price and packing it full of bonus content. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Colonies Edition (that's one long-winded title) takes the original game, released over a year ago, and jams it full of new weapons, some single player additions, and a massive list of online modes. Now, all these features look good on the back of the box, and should draw the average consumer's eye, but do they really add to up to a better game? The answer is yes and no. They make the multiplayer better, but don't help the shaky single-player campaign.
The Lost Planet in question goes by the name E.D.N. III. A frigid globe, it is overrun by an alien race known as the Akrid, who are posing trouble to intrepid groups of human colonizers. It plays out like an icy version of Starship Troopers. Problems arise when the narrative aims for exposition - instead of keeping it simple (people versus bugs), the story weaves a convoluted path. Putting you in control of Wayne (yes, just Wayne - no last name), the cutscenes unravel a hard-to-follow plot about secrets of planet supporting thermal energy sources, and try to get you interested in two dimensional characters with ridiculously silly names (one goes by the name of an herb - she's just known as Basil). And, like so many video game characters, Wayne has memory issues, so he's constantly reassessing the situation and getting reacquainted with the same cast.
Thermal energy plays a part not only in the plot, but is also central to the gameplay. Wayne has two heath indicators: one is T-Eng (thermal energy) and the other is a standard health bar. T-Eng slowly drains from the cold and enemy damage; once it all drains Wayne's health bar starts to dwindle. The key is to constantly keep Wayne charged up with T-Eng. This spills out of the aliens - so there's an incentive to stay on the move while keeping the kill count up. To absorb the T-Eng, Wayne and all the other human characters have a device called an energy pod - it essentially looks like a glowing, over-sized fanny pack.
Bug blasting is fun, but there's a catch to how it's done: instead of requiring you to unload a massive amount of ammo into the aliens, the game is built around an exploit-the-weak-point system. Each Akrid has a particular spot on its body that glows yellow; as you pummel that particular spot with rounds, it grows a darker and brighter red until the alien explodes. It feels like an old school gameplay mechanic in a satisfying way. Wayne does have a unique attachment at his disposal: by pressing a button he'll shoot out an anchor (a grappling hook) that allows him to reach high ledges or descend down into caverns. Aside from your standard assortment of machine guns, rifles, shotguns, and varied grenades, you can hop in what the game refers to as Vital Suits. These are essentially mechs, which can hold up to two weapons at a time (for instance, a Gattling gun and rocket launcher), and have special abilities like double jumps or limited flight.
Even with all the neat abilities and equipment at his disposal, Wayne isn't the most fun character to control. The game utilizes an arcade-like, tight control set, which is responsive, but Wayne seems to run at a terribly slow clip. He also isn't very nimble either - the force of many attacks knocks him to the ground, and by the time he gets back up, he's already getting knocked over again. Another problem is the game's camera. While it works well most of the time (with an over-the-shoulder setup), during boss fights it gets stuck in odd situations. This is a fault mainly of the game's ambition - bosses take up more than the whole screen, and as a result, the camera constantly has trouble staying where you want it. Visual oddities aren't restricted to just the camera. Explosions - which look quite impressive - can sometimes become so frequent they cloud your entire field of vision with smoke and fire. You're left to swing the targeting reticule around, waiting for it to turn red, and point you in the direction of the explosive weapon spammer.