Somewhere along the line, the folks at Capcom have forgotten what makes a game fun. The creators of some of the most high-profile titles in the last fifteen years have delivered yet another title high on promise, yet mediocre in delivery. A weak storyline and repetitive level design bring the title’s appeal down to such a level that only those who feel shooting big bugs in the snow over and over again will enjoy playing. What was expected to be one-third “The Thing,” one-third “Starship Troopers” and one-third “D2” has ended up being 100% bland.
Players assume the role of Wayne, a pirate with a fuzzy past. Yes, the amnesia plot device rears its ugly head again (D2 did it much better), with the main character being rescued after witnessing the death of his father, who was killed by an Akrid (the alien-like bug creatures that have infested the planet and serve to be your targets of destruction throughout the game) going by the name of “Green Eye.” What follows is a simple kung-fu film plotline, with Wayne, our hero, setting out on a long and arduous course of revenge. By the time players get to enact that revenge, they will have sat through a story that gets so confusing and convoluted they are likely to not care what the outcome will be.
It is likely that most will not even notice the storyline much, as Lost Planet does what many players need it to do… it puts you in the thick of the action really quickly. Graphically, the game does its job of delivering a visually pleasant experience. The bugs, Vital Suits(more on that later), characters, weaponry and explosions are all really pretty and effective, the way they should be. Once your character gets in out of the snow and starts exploring areas deep within the bowels of a mountain you will see many elaborate, multi-colored environments.
The sound effects and music are decent, if not a bit dull. Some of the weapons sound wimpier than they should, but most of the things that are supposed to go boom do so really well. The main drawback of the entire sound design is the voice acting… not since the original Resident Evil for the PlayStation has voice acting been this laughable. The music is there and gets louder and more dramatic as it should, but it is likely you won’t even notice its presence… you certainly will not find yourself at work humming the dramatic overtures as you might do with the music from some other high profile games.
The one aspect of the game that moves beyond just being “meh” and enters “downright annoying” territory is the control scheme. Players manipulate Wayne from a third person perspective, while sight/aiming are done with the right. The targeting reticule you would expect to find in a shooter of this ilk often seems to have a mind of its own, even when you disable the auto-targeting assistance feature. You can be looking slightly up and to the right and suddenly your crosshair will be sliding into the upper right corner of your screen, chasing the path of a floating enemy. Performing split-second decision moves like dodging are more awkward than they need to be (stick + button), and the logic behind placing the weapon reload function on the right stick click-down is an example of the odd control design. Some aspects of the control can be changed or tweaked to your liking, but players will likely never escape the feeling that the game is not moving or functioning the way it should… especially on the later levels.
Later levels are a good point to consider, as somewhere toward the middle of the game the entire gameplay mechanic changes from a shooter to a mech-combat game. The “Vital Suits,” as they are called here, are combat units you have to climb into and pilot, kind of like the over-used loaders from "Aliens" with heavy weaponry attached. They available and useful even from the beginning, but when the entire game’s focus changes to emphasize them it becomes a bit aggravating. Navigating through combat inside one of these machines is not overly difficult, but slow and clunky nonetheless… the heavy firepower offers something of a trade off, though.
The health system is the one really interesting aspect of the game. Players constantly need to have their “energy” replenished. The story goes that since humans decided to colonize and ice planet, when they discovered that these bugs contain an energy and heat source within their bodies a decision was made to harvest it. Killing the smallest or largest Akrid causes them to release their energy source, which is ripe for human consumption. By running, fighting enemies (and getting hit by them) or just by being out and about in the cold will cause a constant energy drain that the player must replenish by blasting away at anything that moves. The speed and urgency of energy replacement depends on what difficulty level you are playing at, but rarely does it become something that you would actually have to worry about. Again, Lost Planet fails to deliver on an interesting mechanic.
There are eleven single player missions in total, and they are faced paced excursions into blasting everything that moves. This is the one aspect, again, that is likely to please the kind of player just looking to blow stuff up. The entire single-player campaign can be finished in about eight hours for a skilled player, and perhaps ten to twelve by a novice. In addition to the campaign mode, Lost Planet also offers multiplayer modes in the form of sixteen-player combat across four modes. The maps are huge and well laid-out, with eight different ones to choose from.
Lost Planet brings to the table an awkward shooter with no story to speak of and whose general gameplay mechanics are somewhat flawed or incomplete. However, there are players out there who may just want to shoot some bugs out in the cold. A paintball gun and a field full of cicada bugs would probably end up being a more thrilling experience.