Over the past few years, third person shooters have gravitated more and more towards a generalised shortlist of conventions. Series such as Gears of War and Uncharted have popularised the use of snap-to cover points. The same two blockbuster franchises are also known for their rich narrative and well-rounded characters as well as intuitive melee segments of gameplay.
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us may have bucked the trend by implementing its own freeform cover system but there’s no denying the similarities present throughout the genre.
One series hasn’t been as quick to conform to these trends is Capcom’s Lost Planet. Seen as one of this generation’s original heavy-hitters, the first game in the franchise -Extreme Condition- launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive before the series branched out to PC and PlayStation 3.
The game picked up some years after the human colonization of E.D.N III, a snow-covered planet inhabited by an alien species known as the Akrid. Lost Planet hardly set the world on fire, though even today, still stands out as one of the most unique third person shooters on the market. The same can be said about its 2010 sequel, perhaps to an even greater degree.
In some ways, Lost Planet 2 can be likened to the ever-popular Monster Hunter -another Capcom property. Though you will spend a great deal of time swatting smaller, less aggressive Akrid, it’s the bosses you need to look out for. As in Extreme Condition, these are by the far the game’s highlight, especially when you factor in Lost Planet 2′s online co-op focus. Huge in size and complex in proportion, these giant Akrid can take a while to put down, even with all four players giving it full whack.
One battle in particular sees a sluggish behemoth bounding around an open field. At first there doesn’t seem to be a way to kill it though, after a bit of ballistic experimentation, it becomes clear that players must blast its legs off before shooting it in the face. In truth, I rate Lost Planet 2 as an undeniably mediocre third person shooter, but there’s something about these battles -particularly when played online- that makes you think Capcom was onto something.
Sadly, the publisher failed to capitalise. By focusing on a washed-out campaign and competitive multiplayer, Capcom’s efforts were stretched too far, and it really shows.
Where Extreme Condition had linearity and a clear-cut story, Lost Planet 2 was a little more open. The game’s campaign was broken into episodes, chapters, and stages, each throwing a pocket full of objectives for players and their AI/online squaddies to beat. The result was a something that felt more akin to a gauntlet of score attack missions as opposed to an actual journey across E.D.N III.
This issue wasn’t isolated, however. No, Capcom had in fact centred the entire Lost Planet 2 experience around bitesize chunks of online co-op action. Every mission played would feed into a meta-score and player rank, yet the sense of reward was missing.
The game was also hamstrung by a number of mechanics and a control system directly inherited from Extreme Condition. Just to give a couple of examples: when aiming, the crosshair would move freely about the screen and wasn’t anchored to the camera. Instead, players would need to tap the shoulder buttons to snap the camera in ninety-degree angles.
Jumping back into Lost Planet 2, I think you’d be surprised by how many people still play the game internationally. However, the third person genre has come a long way since Extreme Condition. Though there’s a strange part in all of us that dislikes conformation, in some cases it can be deemed necessary. Capcom seems to agree, having passed the reigns to Californian studio, Spark Unlimited, Lost Planet 3 feels like a completely different game.
Still, if you’re looking to play something a little out there and detached from everyday gaming conventions, Lost Planet 2 is worth a try.