Lost Planet 2

Review

posted 11/10/2010 by Chad Smith
other articles by Chad Smith
Cubic zirconia is an interesting product.  It’s a synthetic, inexpensive alternative to diamonds; it's easy to form into shapes and put on jewelry.  Even though it might good, it's ultimately not the “real deal.” It wouldn't be good enough to give your loved one as a cherished gift.  After spending many hours with the PC version of Lost Planet 2, I’m sad to report that it has a lot in common with the imitation diamond. 

Lost Planet 2 certainly looks fantastic like a shiny new diamond.  Even with minimal load times, Capcom managed to squeeze incredible detail into the environments, characters and Akrid.  My medium-level system was able to crank the graphics up and use DirectX 11 features.  The result was convincingly grungy cities, lush jungles, and hostile deserts in addition to the returning harsh, snowy environments.   In one instance, the buildings you fight on can even be crumbled to the ground by stampeding Akrid. 


Character models were shown loving attention, but there just isn’t enough variety in the humanoid characters.  Each human is just another face behind a mask, all looking the same.  Granted, some of them are clones but that feels almost like an excuse to fall asleep at the creative wheel.  During a game, you’ll end up controlling a few different characters with a severe lack in individuality.  Even your AI-controlled teammates are “random” players that are given a new name each time you login to the game.  Why should I be concerned about a haphazard plot when all of the characters are stripped of all vestiges of humanity? 

It’s made even worse by the fact that your teammates are dumb as a rock.  Scratch that - I would prefer rocks that I could throw at enemies instead of the horrid placeholders running beside me.  Like the first game, Lost Planet 2 has various data posts that should be activated.  These act as spawn points when you die (you’re given a certain amount of lives before you see the game over screen) and also enable the mini-map that shows the location of all enemies in an area.  Your teammates would often run right past these without activating them, making you backtrack to do it yourself.  Or they’ll stand there taking pot shots at a bug the size of a skyscraper when there are heavy weapons laying right beside them. 


Enemy AI doesn’t fare any better, though, so at least it’s a level playing field.  It’s a common occurrence to run into an area and see the enemy just standing around or looking at a wall.  Even firing on said enemies might not cause them to react. If they do notice that they’re almost dead or have an object to deactivate, they’ll run in a straight line oblivious to cover or impending death.  I can understand this from a mindless bug but not from the most evolved species now known. 

One thing I did thoroughly enjoy were the cut scenes.  These were well-directed and action-packed with numerous “wow moments.”  Even the soundtrack and audio made the experience more involving.   Bugs sounded juicy and explosions felt powerful.  I would actually watch one with eager anticipation for the next opportunity to control my character.  You could even skip them if you wanted, which is good because there are certain videos you’d have to watch repeatedly.  Why?  There is no quick save option. 

Actually, there is no saving option at all during a chapter and no checkpoint system.  You are only able to save a game between chapters.  That’s a huge problem, but requires a brief explanation of the game‘s presentation.  Lost Planet 2 is broken up into six episodes each containing 3-5 chapters.  A chapter can be divided into multiple missions that could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes long.  Therefore, a chapter can take ten minutes or upward of forty minutes to complete during which you can‘t save.  What complicates the situation is that a large Akrid can hit you once and remove all but a sliver of your health, leaving you instantly on the brink of death.  It has to be a sin to be so brutally unforgiving by “forgetting“ a save option. 

Lost Planet 2 is intended to be experienced in cooperative play, though.  I was thus expecting the PC version to instantly improve with other people; I was wrong.  Capcom repeatedly dropped the ball in this mode, too.  First, you can’t jump into a game that’s currently in progress.  I would load up the game during prime gaming times and find maybe 10-15 cooperative games being played - a total of 20 players.  You can select a game to join and wait in a “lobby” but you can‘t kick out an AI-controlled player during a mission. 


During these nap times in which you can‘t do anything else except feel yourself getting older, audio chat is available with in-game players but text chat is not enabled.  That makes it impossible to find out how much longer until you’ll be able to join if you don’t have a microphone.  However, that’s assuming you’ve already played through enough of the game to unlock the chapters in multiplayer.  Regardless of the reasoning behind the design choice, you are unable to join a cooperative game that’s a higher chapter than you have previously completed. 

I got the distinct feeling that I was being punk’d by Capcom.  “Do you want to join this game?  Too bad!  You haven’t played that level yet.  Oh, you’ve played this level before but now you have to wait 10 minutes to join them!”  The saddest part of the entire debacle is that coop play is a blast.  That is how Lost Planet 2 should be played, but it’s nearly impossible to just jump straight into a game of your choice. 


After much frustration, I decided to try other online multiplayer modes.  Believe it or not, there are a number of different options from ranked matches to faction play.  These sound like fun but I was never able to get one going.  Whether I created my own match or used the automatic search, I never found more than 2 people doing the same thing.  It’s obvious that it’s a barren wasteland in Lost Planet 2 multiplayer because there are barely 2,000 people on the leader boards. 

Lost Planet 2 is so much like cubic zirconia when players deserve a diamond.  It looks absolutely fantastic  and there is real quality in some boss encounters and the cut scenes, but it does as much as possible to prevent you from enjoying the experience.  Atrocious AI, lack of saving, bad (or lack of) online design, and a void of online players make this game a hard sell.  Capcom should have made an attempt to utilize all of the features of the PC platform but turn their back completely on optimization.  What results is a cheap imitation that falls short in nearly every aspect.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

D+
Good looks and potential fun is destroyed by poor design and lack of common PC features. Hardly anyone is playing online, which is just about the only way you’d enjoy the game. It would be a hard sell to even the most forgiving and patient action gamer.