Laying waste to the original Lost Planet's icy plains, the sequel sees the ice begin to melt and immediately remedies one of the previous game's main bugbears. The campaign, of 6 chapters (each of varying length), spans a number of different locales and different playable factions. From the opening 'prologue' on ice to lush jungle, grey concrete warehouses, dry desert landscapes, fiery mountain ranges and even space- the game's constant mix of location is nice to see, even though the level design, which is both obscure and extremely repetitive, often means the whole progression through the game is often a long and arduous task. Each level is more often than not a negotiation through the opening 'Intel' briefing, generally informing you to capture the array of 'data posts' spread through the level and progressing in linear fashion through to the 'area complete' message. And whilst the variety in 'Akrid' creature design is to be admired; from sea urchins, crustaceans and desert dwellers accompanied by absolutely huge boss creatures that are justifiably epic in scope (even though Capcom's design philosophy to yellow weak spots is tired and dull.)
The third-person run-and-gun game play here works well and is generally fine although other aspects of the game play are clunky and a hideous mess. The 'crouch-run' is far from the standard of Gears of War, for example, with little manoeuvrability once in its animation meaning the frantic action is often nigh-on-impossible to keep up with when in a fire fight. Elsewhere, the extremely aggravating way in which the character falls to the floor upon a slight hit in an over-long animation really begin to get irritating quickly with vast sections of the game suffering the same repetition of being knocked down over and over again through no fault of your own. The grapple-hook also returns from the first Lost Planet, with the 'square' button firing the short leash and meaning higher ground can be covered, adding much-needed verticality to the somewhat stale level design. The health system is governed with the returning use of the 'thermal energy' mechanic. The 'thermal energy' level is constantly accumulated by collecting the yellow energy in the world and is used in conjunction with both re-boosting the health bar (a hold of the 'Start' button) and using Lost Planet 2's special weapons and the extremely powerful and always fun 'VS suits' which somewhat alleviate the slog through levels with the intermittent sections where these can be used. The addition of 'battle armour' is also a nice addition as such suits have no hindrance of movement but do add temporary shields until depleted. The weapons have a very powerful feel to them, with even the pistol delivering sufficient might to combat. Single-handed weapons (that can be carried two at a time) are the genre's classics (shotguns, machine guns, pistols, rocket launcher) whilst there are also more powerful two-handed weapons freely available, ammo meanwhile is always in sufficient supply. The aforementioned opening of 'data posts' in levels activate the previously fuzzy map interface and also act as re spawn hot-spots and add a healthy 500 points to the 'battle gauge'- a bar that fills upon opening the posts but disintegrates by 500 for each life lost by human players. If the level reaches zero, it's game over and the level is restarted from scratch- a key source of enormous frustration no doubt in some of Lost Planet 2's horrendous difficulty spikes such as 3,3's train boss battle which seems hugely unbalanced. The eventuality of a 'game over' can be particularly rife if playing as one of four in co-op play since single-player does not punish the player for AI deaths.
Capcom seem to have dedicated much of their time towards the mutliplayer experience. Whilst this can be congratulated wholeheartedly for adding another dimension to the framework of Lost Planet, it is also at a huge detriment to the game as a whole in its implementation. If not playing in co-op with buddies, AI replaces the remaining team members and to say they are more often than not useless is an understatement. The tailoring towards online play has meant the single player suffers so forcefully that the campaign is often nearly unplayable when in solitary play, and no, this is no exaggeration. The AI does little in terms of progression, instead more reliant on running directly beside you as cannon fodder. This is where the game falls apart- whereas the clunky combat system can often be ignored since most of it works sufficiently, the AI is as poor as it comes in a game where it is vital. Whereas team play is at the forefront of menu messages (“Co-operation is key”- it annoyingly reminds me!), this is an impossibility if playing by yourself, with no integration of any 'team order' mechanics used. Granted, online integration is available and works well with no latency problems at all witnessed, but to cause unnecessary frustration when I just want a quick stint through the campaign is plain ridiculous.
In terms of the appearance of the game, it looks good graphically, although can not quite live up to the fidelity of other new releases. Also, the epic bosses that define the game often seem to take up much of the processing power when on screen that textures elsewhere are bland and lifeless. This is a far cry from the likes of God of War III. The problem of drop in frame rate is also apparent throughout. Cut scenes interrupt the action every now and then and are well directed and well animated, progressing the story nicely in brief moments of over the top action. Quick-time events are used on occasion for some unbeknown reason because most of the time the action plays out with no requirement for the player, meaning upon first play through they'll often catch you off guard. The UI is cluttered and screen real estate is overloaded with the game's health and energy bars, map, ammo count, gun display and team statistics. Modern game design seems to have been put to the back-burner in a more focused attack on traditional Capcom design. This is none more apparent than when in the boss battles, which, although grand, remain frustrating through the whole 'rinse and repeat' nature of blasting yellow weak spots consistently over and over until it finally falls to the ground in a shower of energy orbs.
It's not that I don't like Lost Planet 2 but it is so hard to accept its faults at a time where polish is applied in vast quantity to every triple-A release that any annoyances are positively ironed out before release. The story is passable (the main might of which resides to stop a huge 'Akrid' force bringing the planet to a new ice age) and it doesn't help that the game has no recognisable characters since all are faceless protagonists. I've never been a fan of boss battles, and as such, perhaps it is my own ignorance that lay at the heart of my problem with the game but the general frustration that was greeted through each play through was difficult to ignore. All in all, it's difficult to recommend. If you enjoyed the first, I believe you will enjoy this outing. For newcomers, it's average at best, I was expecting so much more.