Lost Planet Review - 26/04/2007

Capcom returns with another superlative shooter, and they forgot to turn on the thermostat, this game is a cool return to form for the established developer-publisher.

A frozen planet is the setting for what will go down as probably the best shoot ‘em up game to grace Microsoft’s latest console. Capcom have pulled out all the stops for this one, great graphics that look sumptuous in glorious HD, stirring orchestral music and sound effects throughout and some of the rock-hardest gameplay since, well, the last Capcom game.

What do you know, you even control an amnesic hero. You see, Wayne (great name) loses his father at the very beginning of the story, thus sending him on his snowy journey to avenge his death. The planet the humans have decided to descend upon happens to have been already blessed with life already, massive monsters (and some not so massive) spring from under the snow swirled tundras hell bent on making sure the humans don’t make it their own.

Some of the enemies are mightily impressive

The Akrid as they are known aren’t very happy with all the noise upon the planets surface and decide to take out any and all enemies. Not only does Wayne have giant creatures to deal with, but also evil space pirates, these pesky humans like to cause chaos and mayhem, all the while making a quick buck. But is it the space pirates or the Akrid that killed Wayne’s father? That’s the big mystery set throughout the game, it adds a small narrative to an action packed game, it can all get a bit silly at times, for example the main Akrid threat is called ‘Green Eye’ and this creature was thought to be the cause of Wayne’s dad’s death, it’s a revenge story you see. With tongue perfectly in cheek, several protagonists arrive early on in the story, and put an element of doubt into whether it is the creatures or the space pirates who are the real danger.

The Akrid are also very important to the humans' colonisation, due to their massive heat reserves, indeed the only way to survive on the artic planet is to harvest the blobs of energy left behind after an Akrid has been disposed of. The warriors of the human army, including Wayne, need to collect this throughout the game to top up their vital suits and keep them from succumbing to the sub zero conditions; it’s this constant shoot, collect and run mechanism to the game that adds something different to an otherwise overcrowded market.

Gadgets galore, but the game remains remarkably simple

There are eleven levels in total and each one it has to be said looks pretty much the same, the snow landscapes are part and parcel of this game, but there are sections interjected with warmth, the underground levels show the Akrid have some heat reserves below the surface and the snow does let up on the surface sometimes, showing barren rock and man made structures such as the pirate base. That’s not to say the snow levels don’t amaze with some great effects, whether it’s snow falling slowly in flurries or massive storms where visibility gets down to a couple of metres. Make no mistake Capcom have outdone themselves on the visuals and music in this game, they are arguably the finest seen on the next-generation of consoles, and this game shows that anything the PS3 can do, the Xbox 360 can match. The same can't be said about the voice acting, it’s not as bad as Metal Gear Solid, but it is the typically hammy American rubbish that you normally get from Japanese games.

The normal Akrid warriors are the usual cannon fodder and don’t offer up much of a fight, the big guns normally appear near the middle and end of levels, where an end of level boss arrives to really dwindle your energy supplies. Normal enemies seem to keep re-spawning, it’s not till you realise that they are coming out of nests that you focus all your firepower on those points to make your way slowly to the next band of enemies. Enemy AI is of a high quality, after all this is a Capcom game, and even on normal it will seem like a hard slog to reach the end of the game. The only poor parts are the end of level bosses, they all seem to have over obvious attack patterns and seem very similar to each other, unusual in a Capcom game as anyone who has played the Resident Evil series of games will tell you, the bosses always tended to be the real showpieces.

Shoot the glowing sack to castrate the big spider and ensure he can never father another arachnid. And to get some more heat energy for yourself.

Weapons all feel like they really could blow massive holes in the environment, even the shotgun is no weak weapon, and when you get hold of the rocket launchers you can almost feel the recoil off-screen. Not only are the weapons excellent in their own right, but you get to join up at some points with Japan’s favourite things; Mechanoid suits, these large ‘suits’ come armed with massive cannons and machine guns and can take the larger inhabitants down very quickly, the controls for these are spot on and make negotiating the landscapes that much easier.

The mech controls are really well implemented, but the semi third person over the shoulder look and the seemingly over sensitive shooting reticule really make it hard to aim sometimes; it can be a real hindrance in a big firefight when you need to shoot multiple enemies, a small niggle, but one nonetheless.

One of the most diverse environments

The game has a multiplayer mode, which I was unable to test as my Live subscription is up, and the only way you can play multiplayer is over the Live service, yep, there’s no split screen or system link, and god forbid no co-op even if you do have Live. Going from recommendations by friends, the Live multiplayer has been really well implemented with 16 players supported and the usual elimination game modes are available.

Overall this game almost feels retro in some ways and is all the better for it, Capcom has always produced great games and this one is a masterpiece that will find many imitators but not many successors.



Xbox 360