A hero called Wayne
Mech combat does offer an added layer of fun to Lost Planet but wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped. Apart from the ability to jump and hover (which only some of the mechs can do) your mech does essentially what you do as a person. Think of it as something similar to the Power Rangers – you fight for ages with your cool combat skills as a person but then, when things get tough, you jump in your big mech and then fight some more in that – Lost Planet is Power Rangers, minus the dodgy Karate, crappy looking bad guys and cheesy American Teenage heroes.
The hero definitely needs a mention. First off, why did Capcom think calling the lead character Wayne was a good idea? Is it some kind of homage to English footballing starlet Wayne Rooney? Quite probably. Whatever the reason, Wayne, who looks a little bit like an Eskimo, doesn’t really suit his name and I found myself wondering if there really are any Eskimos called Wayne.
So, the story: Wayne is searching for a massive Akrid bug called the Green Eye (no prizes for guessing why it's called that) who killed his Father. He gets picked up by a group of people who are living on the Lost Planet and then, bemusingly, just starts doing everything they tell him to. What’s the first thing you do when you pick up an amnesiac stranger? Ask him to go wandering in a frosty wilderness and kill millions of Akrid and local snow pirates on his own. Didn’t you know that every stranger you find in the snow is a one man killing army? Oh, you didn’t. Well they are, so if you ever find one you know what to do with him.
Who needs a story?
As you can probably tell I wasn’t very impressed by the story. Nor was I particularly impressed with the repetitive nature of missions which, once the first few had been completed, offered nothing particularly unique or exciting. Lost Planet doesn’t really offer any reason to play through the single player game. Even the story is seemingly abandoned, with the game originally stating that only the Akrid have the T-Eng energy that will keep you going. Instead if you kill humans they give up the orange good stuff as well, and even by destroying abandoned cars and canisters you’ll also get energy. Why these cars contain a life-giving energy source is never questioned – it just is.
The games difficulty is also pretty suspect. You’ll probably get about 8-10 hours of playtime out of the single player missions. The time you spend in the game will depend on whether you actually want to fight the enemies, a lot of the time you can just charge through ignoring them. If, however, you decide to fight, you’ll come up against relatively brainless foes that either stand there and shoot in your general direction or just charge at you to attack. If you want to fight your way through the levels you can usually kill everything without too much difficulty. One of the best things I found in the game was charging through a section of the level, getting a whole horde of Akrid chasing me, and then stopping and trying to kill them all at the same time.
You know things are bad though, when you’re trying to engineer fun within the game. Due to the nature of the single player game I actually thought that it must have been designed to be a multiplayer game – that the single player game had been tacked on. This, unfortunately, is not the case. The multiplayer consists of a death match mode, in which players simply charge for the best weapons (I ended up dead without seeing who shot me more often than not), a capture the flag style game called Post Grab and a kill the fugitive mode in which everyone must attack one person.
Not only are the multiplayer games unoriginal but there also only moderately fun to play. For starters, I found that upon dying there was always a monotonous trip of about a minute or so to get back into the action. Why make an action orientated game so slow? With such a beautiful frame, which Lost Planet quite clearly provides, it would have made so much more sense making the multiplayer feel claustrophobic, so that you saw explosions and fighting as soon as you got into the game, rather than a mile long trek through beautiful but empty valleys.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition will go down as a game with a lot of possibility, a lot of promise, but one that didn't deliver. Not only has Capcom failed to create an engaging game on a sophisticated level but it has also failed with certain basic design features. Why is my ability to look up towards the sky restricted when half the time I’m required to grapple high objects? Why make a game that focuses on shooting where it automatically targets the enemies if I at least point my weapon in the right direction? It’s these simple flaws, combined with the more complex ones, which limit Lost Planet: Extreme Condition's appeal.
That isn’t to say the game is completely absent of fun. At times the visual appearance of Lost Planet will leave you open jawed and is certainly a demonstration of how great games can look on the new generation of consoles. There are also certain amounts of fun to be had from running around killing millions of things. This fun, however, is of the limited variety and will probably only last a short while. Stamping on a cockroach is great, stamp on a million and you get a sore foot – that just about sums up Lost Planet.