Lost Planet 2 (PC) Review

Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, October 18th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/lostplanet2_pc/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Four years ago Capcom released Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, following it up a year later with an expanded edition called Lost Planet Colonies. Lost Planet was a heavily action-oriented TPS, and saw you trapped on a planet ridden by snow, ice, and gigantic bug-like creatures called Akrid.

As a new property, it was surprisingly well-received critically and commercially, and like some other reviewers, I would also compare the gameplay in some senses to classic franchises like Mega Man, though it's very much its own beast, too.

With Lost Planet 2 finally here on PC, I can say Capcom has expanded and improved on the original in every way I can think of, and also have done a marvelous job taking care of PC gamers.

As I've noted before, the game is built on the MT Framework engine, which is simply marvelous for building proper PC versions, with little or no effect from the console releases. I can't be sure, but it appears as with Street Fighter IV, this was built on PC, ported to consoles, and then developed and polished for a PC release, and is as of high quality as everything else the studio has released these past few years -- actually, even moreso.

Whatever the case, it feels like a PC game, and one that takes full advantage of the latest hardware and technology. Many already know Lost Planet 2 utilizes DirectX 11 and its famed ComputeShader and tessellation features (among others) for more realistic rendering and more detailed bosses -- these can be set manually in the config file, and/or in the options menu (settings are low, medium, and high).

On my high-end rig (overclocked 1GB 5770, 4GB 1333mhz DDR3 RAM, X6 2.8ghz 1055T CPU), with mostly max settings the game still managed to stress the system to its limits, but I found turning off tessellation brought mostly consistent and quite playable framerates (roughly 40 FPS -- about all you really need in this case). See our forums here for the tweak and also recommended control settings -- the default ones are a little whack. 

Suffice it to say, if you want something to show off that looks huge, absolutely gorgeous, and will tax even your new pricey rig, this is definitely the game to do it. On the other hand, I've also previously tested it on a low-mid range rig (see the link above), and managed to push great framerates, turning some of the fancy settings off or down without too much impact -- it's remarkably well-optimized.

Speaking of huge -- the bosses in this game actually made me think of upgrading my monitor a few times. I'm currently running a 22'' at 1680x1050 resolution, and that wasn't nearly big enough to accommodate them. If you're one of those enthusiasts with a 30'' or 40'' or multi-monitor setup -- Lost Planet 2 will make full use of it, and probably then some.

Aside from that there's 3D Vision and 3D Vision Surround Support (hopefully we see Eyefinity support in the future), and options for AA, rendering, textures, Motion Blur, and Shadows.

As for gameplay, I found with Lost Planet I could never fully enjoy myself because I was constantly thinking about the thermal energy (T-ENG) mechanic -- this was a twist in that you had to rely on orange goo to survive, which could be had by exploding barrels and drums or Akrid, or activating data posts. Once your T-ENG hit zero, your life began to drain, which of course could quickly lead to death. In the sequel, they've seriously toned down the need to rely on it so it functions more as one mechanic in a mix of many, and it's definitely for the better. In fact, I very rarely found myself thinking about it, except when I had to use the Harmonizer -- which sacrifices T-ENG -- to heal.

Another major change is the emphasis on co-op, which has proven to be a very wise choice. The campaign supports four-player, and damn is it ever fun. As one Steam user so aptly puts it, "I never played [Lost Planet], so I wasn't expecting literally every second everything on screen is exploding. It's a lot of fun though. Played co-op for six hours straight. I think I'm about to have a seizure now."

Instead of playing a fixed character this time around, you play one of four players part of a larger faction. You can certainly play through solo if you like (with a squad or alone), and you'll have about as much fun as you did last time, but the experience is about twice as enjoyable with voice chat and some proper partners, especially a group of friends. Drop-in co-op play could've made the experience even better, but the queue system works reasonably well, too (essentially, you wait for players to finish up a mission then join them on the next one, or they wait for you). Your best bet is to find a good group and stick with them for a few chapters and do that a few times until you're done. It must also be noted Capcom has graciously offered up LAN play for your pleasure.

The story is told through multiple factions' point of view, so there's plenty of variety in plot, action, and environments (there's not much ice world to be seen this time around, which is more than welcome). The downside is there's not much in-depth characterization, but this is more than made up for once you beat the game and can import your custom multiplayer character into the campaign -- essentially you pick one out of any of the game's character types (or some unlockable Capcom guest stars, including the ladies' favourite), and customize their colors.

A minor gripe: female characters are still voiced as males -- a generic female voice would have been nice, and not hard to implement as there's not much dialogue.

The campaign is roughly ten hours long, and this is a good thing as there's absolutely no filler, and every chapter has something exciting and different to offer. It feels like a perfect length -- not too long or too short.

In what must be a company first, Capcom has actually taken the plot seriously this time around, and the results are actually pretty stellar. I wouldn't have thought it, but it turns out when they put their minds to it, they can turn out a reasonably compelling narrative. While I will miss the purposefully laughable story of the first game, Lost Planet 2 is a significantly better experience for it, and one I hope has expanded the audience as it should. It's not exactly Mass Effect or Star Wars, but it holds its own nonetheless.

One of my favourite new features is the extensive customization touched on earlier. In campaign and multiplayer modes, you can unlock characters, outfit colors, weapons, "emotes" (press the F keys to perform actions like a rodeo dance or tell your squad to hurry up -- these range from useful to just hilarious), "Nom de Guerres" (pseudonyms like "I Suck at Games" or my personal favourite -- "Should be Working"), and abilities (which allow you to conserve T-ENG, start with tons of grenades, do more melee damage, and so on). These really add a lot to the communal nature of the game and also make for more deep, satisfying, and especially addictive play.

It must be noted once you beat the campaign, this is actually where the real fun begins. At this point I immediately took the difficulty up to hard, had my imported "Femme Fatale Carpetbagger" character who was decked out with a Gun Blade coupled with the Sprint and Melee Damage I abilities. What this means is I can now run around maps at top speed for longer, slicing and dicing with my huge Gun Blade Devil May Cry style for huge damage, and pick off enemies in the distance with bullets when necessary. At this point I had to actually force myself to stop playing -- it could've gone on for far too many hours. Also, the Gun Blade almost instantly nailed itself a spot in my all-time favourite game weapons.

Of course, there's a million other ways to play, and that's a lot of the reason Lost Planet 2 will be installed on my hard drive for a long, long time to come.

On the multiplayer front, this remains largely the same as the first game, though with some cool new ways to play. We've covered it some already in our preview -- essentially you get maximum 16-player battles in modes like Data Post Battle (fight to maintain control of posts), Fugitive (hide and seek), Faction Match (tournament), and then of course the standards like Elimination and Team Elimination.

Multiplayer gets points because there's not much else like it out now -- with sniper rifles, plasma rifles, anchors (grappling hooks), VS' (mechs), and lots of other explosive goodness flying about, there's a lot to love, here, however it doesn't feel too refined compared to other shooters of today, though perhaps that's a matter of taste. Regardless, especially with some unique and massive environments (Helix is something like a 20-story underwater tower, where any misjump means your death), there will be plenty of thrilling moments.

Unfortunately I didn't get much time with it, as the Steam version of the game is currently incompatible with all other versions due to an update mishap, but what time I did have I enjoyed. It's robust enough I could see there being people who beat Campaign once and then stick to multiplayer for a year or even more, but I think I'll be leaning toward playing Campaign over and over with various character customizations, with multiplayer serving as a nice diversion from time to time.

Dedicated servers could've really sealed the deal with multiplayer, however Games for Windows LIVE does a reasonable job with matchmaking.

Besides all that, there's also a rad training mode which helps you hone your skills throughout a ton of Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-style levels.

At the end of the day, Lost Planet 2 is one of the most beautiful, technically impressive games I've played to date, and fortunately it has the absurdly addictive gameplay to match -- this is the reason you play PC games and the reason you love action games and movies. For the $40 asking price ($35 if you pre-ordered), it's simply an insane value. I already can't wait to get back to it, and pray sales are good enough Capcom decides to begin work on Lost Planet 3, where I'd like to see even deeper RPG elements, more modes, more refined multiplayer gameplay, and an even better story.


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