The hype machine following the release of the intensely popular single-player and multi-player demos of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition on Xbox Live Market propelled the game to a level just below where Gears of War stood prior to its release. Finally, Capcom has released its latest Xbox 360 offering into the arms of demanding gamers all around the world. Unlike Gears of War, unfortunately, the hype was a little too much to live up to.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a game which tries to sell itself as one that is truly innovative and unique, but the familiar third-person gameplay style and the classic story of human survival against incredible odds (this time against towering, alien bugs) fails to keep anything entirely original. Although the game manages to inject enough creative elements to keep it interesting from start to finish, at the same time, it isn’t a game that will appeal to everyone's tastes.
Lost Planet tells the story of the human race's quest to find a new suitable planet after we managed to pollute Earth into oblivion. We eventually locate a cold, icy and seemingly uninhabited planet, known as EDN 03, where we begin to build and colonize our new home. It isn’t too soon before the alien inhabitants, known as the Akrid, decide to rear their ugly heads. Clearly unhappy with our presence, they begin to kill the new human arrivals on sight. The majority of the human population decides to jump ship, retreating from the planet and leaving only a handful of survivors to fend for themselves, all of whom form their own following known as the Snow Pirates. A few years later, however, we’re back, boasting bigger guns and newer technology to take on the destructive Akrid, determined to make this icy planet our new home. Never mind the ethics of invading a planet and being willing to exterminate its indigenous race...
The game follows the experiences of Wayne, a youngin’ warrior training alongside his father. When the squadron is attacked by an extremely large and powerful Akrid, suitably named the Green Eye, Wayne's father is killed and he's left unconscious. Later, he's awakened by a mysterious trio bent on ridding the Akrid from the planet, and also discovers what the seemingly corrupt planet authority, NEVEC, are secretly up to. The game’s story leads you across the planet, battling both outdoors in blinding snow storms and through metallic futuristic corridors as you take the battle indoors. The action remains largely the same throughout, with little change and variation taking place between missions. Essentially, you’ll move from Point A to Point B, mowing down enemies in large mechs (known as the VS, or “Virtual Suit”) or on foot, all the while activating information posts along the way to help replenish your T-ENERGY stores and to also update your map and the direction in which you need to travel in, which is rarely used given the linear nature of the maps. You’ll also regularly come across boss battles, which usually make an appearance to wrap up each level, typically taking on the form of a larger Akrid or enemy that you’ve met earlier.
Given the freezing cold nature of the planet, the humans rely on the harvesting of liquid thermal energy (referred to as T-ENERGY) to give us heat, power our own life support systems (which includes replenishing your health) whilst in the blizzards, to power the VS mechs and to provide the crucial electricity that we need. As luck would have it, this thermal energy can only be harvested from the Akrid, who leave deposits of the liquid energy after being dispatched. Slaying the Akrid can be done using a variety of means, ranging from handheld weapons such as machine guns, shot guns and rocket launchers through to making use of the VS mech machines that boast strong firepower to down even the biggest of beasts. There’s a range of weapons on hand, backed with a nifty grapple hook that allows you to reach new places and attach yourself to large enemies.
Of course, cutscenes do appear between each mission, as well as occasionally between different sections of a mission. These drive the storyline throughout the game, with the gameplay itself occasionally unrelated to a recent cutscene through its random placing of missions starts and often uneventful gameplay that doesn’t really tie together the cutscenes as nicely as they could be.
The single player campaign isn’t overly long, requiring a mere eight or so hours of gameplay time to complete. Of course, as with most Xbox 360 releases, the game offers full online multiplayer support, where you can participate in the standard ranked and unranked game matches. There’s your standard deathmatch mode, accompanied with a team variation, as well as a capture-the-flag type mode, Post Grab, and the seemingly unpopular multiplayer mode during our testing period, Fugitive. Lost Planet offers simultaneous play for up to 16 players in its multiplayer mode, which proves to be a mixed bag. While some gamers will find plenty of fun to be had with the simplistic, yet frantic, multiplayer offering, others will quickly tire of its somewhat shallow offering that just isn’t very engaging.
The game is visually solid, offering some great weather effects which make snow storms look fairly believable, and as a nice aesthetic touch, leave Wayne covered in the white whenever he is doing battle amidst a storm. The game rarely experiences slow downs, apart from intense action sequences when multiple explosions are erupting in your immediate vicinity. The cutscenes offer some great character detail and animation, with each of the characters featured sporting solid facial detail and animation coupled with accurate clothing detail.
There’s the typical lineup of action music featured throughout, none of which is particularly impressive but isn’t annoying or of poor quality either. The voice acting is generally top-notch, with the main characters in particular offering some quality voice acting that portrays the characters beautifully. It's a pity then that the dialogue seems to have been largely written by a hamster.
While not a particulary innovative game, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a satisfying straight action experience. The missions, while they do lack a sense of variation in gameplay, are interesting enough to keep you playing from start to finish, if only to see how the game’s story pans out. The online multiplayer is a mixed bag, appealing to some while not to others. If you’re looking for a game that demands some strategy in the gameplay, you’re better off looking elsewhere. If you’re simply looking for some solid run-and-gun action, Lost Planet is worth a look – even if it isn’t a “must have.”