I'm told that you have to kill big to enjoy Lost Planet 2 but I can tell you, that even though there are some truly amazing boss battles in the game, a lack of cohesion, some rough hewn storytelling and some terrible AI problems conspire to turn a hit into a near-miss. There's probably something here for you if you loved Lost Planet but as far as sequels go this one suffers from too many hiccups to make it truly enjoyable.
Welcome back to EDN III, time's passed from the previous game and something is causing terraforming effects to the planet, many of the snow-capped and white locations from the first game are replaced by lush jungles and forested areas teeming with new life that you can kill. The Snow Pirates are still at war with each other and there's not really much in terms of cohesion tying all of this together, the cut-scenes are lavish enough and packed with action. It's like Metal Gear Solid meets Lost Planet.
If you're familiar with Lost Planet or a third person shooter then welcome to Lost Planet 2. It's a third person shooter where you Kill Big and basically structured in a confusing manner from the menus at the start which instantly remove the suspension of disbelief and remind you that this is a game, the story is broken up into Chapters inside which are episodes and you get ranked for completion, picking up extra bonus XP and so forth which allows you to level up and sometimes unlocks new stuff for the game. I won't spoil any of that since I'm a big fan of Gestalt Learning; however I will warn you that to get the best out of the game you're going to have to play with 3 other people.
I'm not sure why I don't like the menus in the game and it seems to be a minor niggle, but there's just something that totally puts me off, right down to the customisation and ability screens, it just doesn't feel intuitive and smacks too much of J-RPG to me in terms of the way you choose your various options. Sure you can customise your character in multiplayer but in single player you're confined to the story based character and can customise what weapons they start with (when you unlock them) as well as abilities and a few other things.
It plays Ok as a third person shooter, there are Good Job lists which give you a bonus in terms of score at the end of a short mission. And these chunks of play are short. It seems to run like this, enter area, perform killing of various Akrid sizes...continue on for a bit, shoot some rival Snow Pirates, activate various beacons and discover new toys with which to Kill Big. Interspersed between these often frenetic and confusing sections are big boss fights which either rely on you putting as much fire on the monster as you can, in some very unfair circumstances in some cases, or just climbing inside and shooting it from within (in one case). It failed to really capture our attention though, and became monotonous and repetitious.
Sure there are tonnes of weapons, the weapons are all different and the big powerful weapons feel so. There are VS (Vital Suits) mechs and battle armour, there are team options and you can emote with your buddies, you can give them T-Energy to help keep them alive via a tricky to select gun and they in turn can grab onto your mech and ride around. There are lots of co-op options here and the game does well when you have 4 human players all working as a team. We'll talk about the AI a bit later on. There are various grenades and some of them are actually fun, like the disc grenades and you can trade out weapons fairly quickly, stocking up on some new powerful toys.
The grapple hook is back and a lot easier to use, it can be attached to anything that turns the reticule green. It can be used in the big boss encounters to get a height advantage or even land you on the enemy. All the big Akrid have the glowing orange and yellow weak points that allow you to break them into little chunks to buy you some time as you devastate them with various gunfire and rockets. The human enemies are a little easier to kill since they'll go down from a hail of bullets fairly quickly. You can use the harmonizer to restore your health and you gain Thermal (T-Energy) from defeated Akrid and generators around the landscape.
You must keep an eye on your battle gauge, which is a new element to LP 2 and as long as it's high enough you can keep on respawning and dying over and over again. You lose quite a chunk when you die and the game's lack of a save-anywhere function is annoying but we never actually failed the mission even on the harder settings, which was actually nice to see. Of course we failed some later missions since the game's difficulty curve is uneven and it jumps around like a frog on an electrified floor. There are some pretty sweet big events to take part in but they are few and far between, ultimately the gameplay feels staid and vanilla compared to how it should feel, which is dynamic and compelling.
There's very little here for the single player even though the single player part of the game can be enjoyed by one person, your team makes it utterly terrible and you require real human allies to get many of the later levels done. There is a training level set but that's useless, it's just a very bad collection of time trials, acrobatic navigation and vanilla rooms that do nothing to educate the player on how to play the game. It should be called Gauntlet of Boringness or something.
The controls are not at all intuitive, trying to emote and do various actions requires manual dexterity as you depress one button followed by another, remembering each one to get a specific Good Job also requires Octopus DNA. They perform moderately well in combat, you can sprint and so on, you can't take any kind of cover, crouching is done by holding down the button and it all feels like you're trying to fight through treacle. Unresponsiveness and slow characters mean that you're actually better off if you just stand there and trade gunfire with your enemies, or pack yourself into a VS or battle armour to use as a secondary damage buffer.
We can't really fault the game graphically, it's pretty enough and the game pushes all the right eye-candy buttons. There are a few texture glitches on some levels and a bit of pop in and screen tearing now and then. It's nothing that truly detracts from the gameplay though as you're more likely to be blasting the heck out of everything. The environments are varied and from the frozen wastes to the lush jungles, it looks nice. Light and shadow are used to a decent effect and the explosions are gratifying, especially from the bigger weapons. Special effects play their part and the weather effects are also very slick. We did encounter some frame rate drops when the bigger battles kicked off but they were not too major and didn't cause us to lose a mission or get killed, so we don't mind that overly much.
Some of them are flat and some of them are decent, there are a few frames off here and there with some of the characters and they appear to move in slow motion at times. The big Akrid are well animated and they all have a particular character to them that shines through, so it's not all bad.
The physics in the game are pretty solid, there's a decent level of ragdoll and the explosive force from the various weapons feels as though it matches the weapon type. Rockets cause big damage and other weapons do even more. There's very little destruction in the environment and some grenades feel a bit weaker physically. It does what it sets out to do on the tin.
There is no I in Team and the bots of Lost Planet 2, your AI teammates seem to forget this particular fact, they'll charge on ahead, they'll activate beacons when you really don't want them to and they'll generally get in the way. I don't think we've really encountered AI this bad in a while, AI that makes you want to cry when you're playing single player and AI that becomes the reason that you fail later missions because it's incapable of realising that pouring machine gun fire onto the enemy does nothing more than make it mad. They'll also steal your prized weapons if you're not careful.
The enemy AI is a mixed bag, none of it is pretty clever and it's all vanilla. Even the giant bosses have predictable attack patterns and that leads to every encounter playing out the same across the huge battles. They lose their sparkle and the game is relegated to the Ok for a bit of mindless shooting. Allies are dumb, enemies are dumber, rinse and repeat.
It has some good sound and that's one of the high points of the game, unfortunately the game suffers from too many low points for the high points to keep you truly interested.
Again, it has some nice epic music and there's not much else we can say.
It's ok for the most part, the voice work is fairly good and there are no really terrible performances from what we heard. The script is dire in places and it drags the story down somewhat, we have come to expect this from some of these games though since they have a very distinct idea of what sounds cool. What sounds cool on paper doesn't often translate to the screen very well however.
There's a lot of lag in matches at the moment, there are the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch and a few other multiplayer options. The game has its own take on CTF where you collect eggs (bizarre) and there's a mixed bag of balance to it. You can customise your character with thousands and thousands of options to make a truly unique online character and when the mp works, it works fairly well and is fun enough. The problem arises when you try modes like LP 2's fugitive mode; it's so unbalanced that it isn't even funny or fun. We'd love to heap praise on the game's multiplayer but really, it just feels like we've been here and seen it all before. Sure there are VS' that you can use in battle and you can have a team role healing people with the T-Eng gun and so forth, it just doesn't grab us like it should.
It needs more polish and a lot more balance. Coop is satisfying enough and the game is redeemed somewhat by that.
Lost Planet 2 is one of those games that work well in trailers, works well on paper, but when you come to actually play it there are just too many annoyances in the game design to really make it a truly great experience. We'll give any game a chance but when you hit that old Deja Vu feeling time and time again, when it fails to grip everyone playing, you know that at the core there's something wrong.
Worth a try if you liked the first one, steer clear if you're new to the series or you're looking for a casual shootemup to fill the gaps between the next big things.
Kill Big? It seems that the only thing here that's been killed is the sense of fun.