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Do you ever buy game with the intention of playing it but never actually get around to it? Maybe it was on sale so you bought it because you didn’t want to pass it up. For me, Lost Planet was one of those games. Every time I saw clips of it or heard about it, I was reminded that it looked interesting and I should check it out. I bought it years ago, probably during a sale, and just never got around to playing it. Well I finally said to myself “Fuck it. I’m playing it. Let’s do it.” It was time to finally stop looking at it and actually get into it. Developed and published by Capcom, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition was released for Xbox 360 in December, 2006, PC in June, 2007 and PlayStation 3 in February, 2008. For this review, I played the Colonies Edition for PC which is a re-release of the game that includes new single player and multiplayer modes. It also includes cross-platform play between Xbox Live and Games for Windows – LIVE. Unfortunately, the Colonies Edition is not compatible with the original Lost Planet saved game or multiplayer. It should be noted that the PC version, specifically the Steam version of Colonies, does include Games for Windows – LIVE. I installed Games for Windows – LIVE before running the game and encountered no issues with it throughout my entire experience. There might be a way to actually disable it but because I got it working, I didn’t really look into it.
Set on the planet E.D.N. III, a megacorporation named NeoVenus Construction (NEVEC) planned to colonize the planet which is in the middle of an ice age. After discovering it was inhabited by hostile alien creatures known as the Akrid, the humans went to war with the aliens and lost. Those still alive are known as “snow pirates” and live a nomadic existence, harvesting Thermal Energy from fallen Akrid. The plot centers on Wayne Holden, a soldier who ends up frozen for thirty years and survives thanks to his Harmonizer which purifies Thermal Energy and slows the aging process. Wayne sets to out to seek revenge against the Akrid that defeated him and his father before he was frozen and as more characters are introduced along with twists and turns, the plot ends up being convoluted. I found some of the twists to be arbitrary and the voice acting ranges from poor to average. I, honestly, feel like the plot would have been a lot better if it was simplified.
Lost Planet could be described as a third-person shooter and/or action game. You get to run around and shoot things and pilot mechs known as Vital Suits (VS). Wayne can jump into any Vital Suits he comes across in the environments and different suits can do different things. You can equip them with weapons, some will transform, some can hover, some can double-jump and long jump and they can do a lot of damage. As for the on-foot gameplay, it’s pretty basic stuff. Wayne can run around, jump, crouch, shoot, perform a melee attack and activate a flashlight. He can carry two firearms and grenades and use his anchor to grapple to higher elevations.
Wayne can store Thermal Energy which will replenish his health if he takes damage and is also used to power certain weapons. His Thermal Energy is constantly draining and he dies when he loses all his health. Enemies release Thermal Energy when killed and Wayne will automatically absorb it when near it. The draining Thermal Energy is clearly the game’s way of encouraging you to keep moving and engage enemies but it never really posed a problem for me. When it runs out, you don’t automatically die so it’s not like a timer and it doesn’t drain very rapidly. Plus, it’s not hard to come by. Not only do enemies release Thermal Energy, but it can also be acquired from Data Posts and by destroying certain things in the environments. Despite all this, I did like that it was at least some kind of an excuse for regenerating health. But it should be noted that Wayne can still die even if he has energy in reserve so you do need to be careful.
Lost Planet, and specifically the Colonies Edition, gives you a lot to do and has a lot of replay value. In addition the campaign are other single player game modes and multiplayer, although I was unable to try any online modes. You can unlock the Extreme difficulty which gives you another reason to play through the campaign and there are collectibles to find in the form of Target Marks. Finding and shooting them all does nothing but unlock an achievement. You can replay through the campaign in the Score Attack mode. The goal here is to rack up big combos and try for high scores. If you decide to replay a mission, you can play through it in Unlimited Mode which grants you infinite ammo and increased movement speed. You basically feel overpowered and it’s actually a lot of fun just rampaging through areas. Finally, there’s the Trial Battle Mode which is like a boss rush of sorts. You go from one boss to another and there are branching paths that take you to different bosses. Defeating bosses while meeting certain requirements will take you through different paths and your level of Thermal Energy and weapons carry over to each battle.
My biggest issue with the game is that movement is slow and sometimes clunky. Wayne doesn’t move fast when on-foot and controlling the Vital Suits can take some getting used to. You’ll often come across multiple different Suits in each mission and they will handle differently along with having different abilities and functions. It’s usually wise to jump into a VS if you find one but if it takes enough damage, you have to eject and engage foes on-foot and/or find another Suit. Luckily, they’re often lying around everywhere. When on-foot, Wayne can get knocked down by certain attacks and he’s slow to get up. He’s also slow to jump into a Suit and get going and this can be a nuisance during some boss battles. Moving around on-foot can be tedious the further you get into the game because some enemies and bosses can and will knock you down frequently, making it hard to not only get around but also get shots off. Sometimes if you end up against a wall or if bosses or certain enemies get close to you, the camera gets wonky and you can’t see what’s going on. Plus, many attacks result in explosions and all the smoke in the air can make it hard to see.
There’s two major types of enemies in the game. The Akrid and the snow pirates. You’ll also engage some flying robots or drones from time to time. The Akrid come in all shapes and sizes and you always want to aim for their orange weak points. Some can fly, some can fire projectiles, some roll around and Akrid bosses are large and intimidating. The snow pirates will run around and shoot at you, fire rockets, man turrets and pilot Vital Suits. This can result in some pretty cool mech battles with projectiles zipping around everywhere and plenty of explosions. Much of the gameplay is your typical run and gun style stuff. Whether you’re in a Suit or on-foot, you’ll be blowing away tons of enemies on your way to your objectives. I found that the further I progressed into the game, the more important Vital Suits became. Wayne is always traversing the ice-cold planet and areas by himself so he’s always outnumbered and deadlier Akrid and snow pirates with better firepower pop up more and more the further you progress.
You’ll get to engage enemies with a decent variety of weapons ranging from traditional firearms like machine guns, shotguns and rocket launchers to more interesting weapons like laser rifles, plasma guns and disc grenades. Each mission ends with a boss battle and these include both Akrids and foes in Vital Suits. Having your own VS is usually ideal for engaging bosses as is knowing how to control them because failure to avoid certain attacks will only result in the Suit getting destroyed. The boss battles are one of the highlights of the game. I thought many of the Akrid bosses in particular looked really cool. Lost Planet does put up a decent fight on Normal. In fact, I can honestly say I thought most encounters felt fair and once you get the hang of things, the general gameplay can be a lot of fun. It’s just a shame it’s often brought down by Wayne’s slow movement. When in a VS, you can least fire back as you’re being attacked but when on-foot, you may find yourself struggling to keep Wayne standing and moving and that’s never fun.
The campaign plays out in missions and takes you to a variety of locations. You’ll run across snowy plains, through different facilities, a hive, ruins, mountains and a fortress. There’s a verticality to the environments which can make exploration and certain encounters fun and interesting. Exploration will lead you to Vital Suits, weapons and Target Marks. Activating the Data Posts scattered around will allow you to see a map of the area on your PDA and reveal enemies and certain things on your radar. Explosive barrels seem to be littered around everywhere and can be used to your advantage and most environments are large with multiple paths and areas to explore. Most of the time, you’re free to navigate on-foot or in a VS and because of how big the environments are, there’s often multiple ways to approach enemies and reach your destinations. You might want to snipe enemies from long range or you can jump into a nearby VS and mow them down or you can engage them on-foot, all-guns-blazing. Sometimes you can just run right passed enemies. This kind of freedom is pretty cool and I rarely felt forced to do things in specific ways, minus a few sequences. Furthermore, the environments are partially destructible and you can blow up and destroy different objects and structures.
Visually, I think Lost Planet was a looker for its time. Not only that, the ice-cold E.D.N. III was kind of a departure from the settings of other action games of the time. Lost Planet does a good job at conveying a sense of scale and making you feel like you’re all alone as you traverse around the hostile planet. You can often see distant mountains and structures and sometimes giant Akrid will fly overhead. The texture work and character models look good and I thought the Akrid, in particular, were well animated. When they die, they often turn to ice and can be shattered. I also enjoyed the visual effects like muzzle flashes, things in the environments breaking during combat, particles and debris can fill the air and all the smoke as a result of explosions looks cool despite the fact it sometimes makes it hard to see what’s going on. As for the audio, I can’t say the soundtrack did anything for me but the sound effects are excellent. Weapons-fire is loud, explosions are booming and the Akrid will screech, squeal and make all kinds of noises. On the technical side, I can’t say I experienced any significant issues.
Despite some issues, I generally enjoyed Lost Planet. I do think the slow and clunky movement brings it down a bit and it’s also a shame it doesn’t support cooperative play. On a positive note, the action can be exciting and intense. I like the mix of on-foot and mech combat and I thought the environments were well designed. Plus, I always felt like they were constantly reminding me that I was on a hostile alien planet. I enjoyed the variety of Akrid enemies mixed with the snow pirates and I thought most of the bosses were really cool. I think by today’s standards, the gameplay can feel a little basic. It’s a typical run-and-gun shooter and most objectives simply require you to get from point A to B and shoot everything in between. But, luckily, the action looks cool and sounds great and the additional game modes and difficulty levels can keep you coming back for a while. I don’t think the Thermal Energy mechanic adds any kind of significant depth to the gameplay but I like it simply for the fact that it’s an excuse for regenerating health. I ran out of energy once or twice but I can’t say it ever became something I really had to worry about. It’s just that there’s no health packs to find or health stations to visit so it’s the game’s way of keeping you moving and in the action.
I would recommend Lost Planet to those that enjoy action games. You can find it for a decent price nowadays and it still holds up. It has its problems but I feel it’s one of those games where the good outweighs the bad and it comes with a good amount of replay value. If you like the idea of blowing away enemies with weapons and mechs in a frigid and hostile world, then definitely check out Lost Planet.