There’s a certain base level of satisfaction in squashing a cockroach. In stamping a big, booted foot down onto it black shiny, shell; listening out for that reassuring crack, the crunch and then the final squish as destiny finally catches up on the stupid little blighter. God how I hate cockroaches! Killing them is so much fun; so surely, killing massive ones with special, glowing, orange energy inside them will be even more fun? Surely?
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a traditional, classic brainless shooter for the Xbox 360. Set in the snowy wastes of a ‘Lost Planet’ your character, Wayne, must blast his way through thousands of Akrid (lots of different insect-like creatures) on a mission to avenge his Father. In terms of gaming complexity, Lost Planet is amoebic.
That’s not to say it won’t be fun though. Killing, a staple of the video game, is generally considered a pretty healthy ingredient for enjoyment by gamers. I grabbed my machine gun, my grenades and my snow boots and trudged off into the snowy depths of hell – insects beware.
Lost Planet begins by throwing you straight in at the deep end. After an initial story explaining the history of the planet and the humans’ struggle with the Akrid you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a city battle. Controls are relatively intuitive – you spend most of the time in a third person view with your right trigger and left trigger operating both your gun and grenades respectively.
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Your character is also pretty agile, he can jump (albeit with a bit of an annoying stutter) as well as use a grappling hook to climb up to would-be unreachable places. Height is a key feature of the game's levels, with you required to move both up and down, as well as forwards to get to the end of the level. The controls also allow you to switch between weapons (maximum of two), perform a melee attack as well as a rather bizarre 90 degree turn manoeuvre controlled by the two shoulder buttons.
These rather simplistic controls work well in conjunction with the simple gameplay. Essentially, each level is just a charge from the start to the finish killing everything in your path. There are little or no puzzles and the only real other factor is keeping your health bar up. Here Lost Planet does something interesting. To keep yourself alive you need to keep your energy suit topped up, as each second of playing in the bitter snowy wastelands sees your energy slip down. To replenish the lost energy, and thus keep yourself alive, you need to kill things. They then leave behind an orange glow which you collect by running over it and thus replenishing yourself with elixir of energy. The long and short of it is, if you don’t kill things you slowly die.
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So, what are these creatures you have to kill? The Akrid come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. You have little flying wispy ones (think the Final Fantasy movie), big Armadillo ones (think Dime Bars) and massive spider like ones (think spider, and then think big!). The highlights of each level though, are the final boss battles. These epic fights with massive, unique Akrid are graphically stunning and are genuinely exciting to play in. At the end of each level you face one of these epic battles and their probably the most enjoyable part of the game.
Despite this, Lost Planet is still hugely disappointing. Killing hordes and hordes of very similar enemies just to reach the final fight gets tiresome quickly. The snowy environments, although beautiful, can also drain your eyes of their desire to ever see anything white again. This wouldn’t be so bad if the final pay off; the brilliant looking epic bosses were more substantial. Instead you can usually work out a pattern for killing them quite quickly. This patterns generally consist of taking out a rocket launcher and aiming at the orange bits – that, or you could hop in one of the mechs that populate the game.
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“Mechs!” I hear you cry like an excitable, robot-loving, baby. Yes, the game does have some rather cool mechs, called Vital Suits in the game, which you’ll need to use to complete the various missions. These bipedal robotic walkers are customisable too, with right and left arms that can accommodate different weapons and work independently. There’s a Gatling gun which is great for taking out smaller enemies, a Rocket Launcher which is good for blowing holes in just about everything and an energy gun which is great for stopping other mechs with an EMP-like pulse. The weapons are dotted around the levels in good numbers and you’ll rarely find yourself without the means to destroy your enemies.