By Trevor Faulkner
The desert sands whip about the feet of my comrades and I, as we stand motionless, trying to avoid the sonar of one giant, four-legged monstrosity. As the beast silences his sweep of the scorched dust, I take to a mad dash. It turns its blind head in my direction and a rocket sails past my shoulder, illuminating the creature in a brilliant explosion. It topples onto its side and I cut a bloody path through its stomach with my gun sword. Suddenly, the ground shakes and a second monster charges toward the remains of his fallen brother. A teammate appears in front of me and sets a shield down which takes the brunt of the monster’s charge. In a hail of gunfire and grenades, we decimate our foe before he has a chance to act again.
These experiences are commonplace in the over-the-top frag-fest Lost Planet 2. That is, as long as you have friends or an Internet connection. Without such luxuries the game suffers from some problems which reduce the players experience to the gaming equivalent of a punch in the throat.
Lost Planet 2 takes place ten years after the events of the first game, and that’s about where the plot and locational similarities end. E.D.N III is now mostly terra-formed and you’ll rarely find yourself slogging through some forbidden tundra. Instead, you will now travel through the lush forests, dense cities and barren deserts that now litter the once frozen planet. Past that little tid-bit of information, however, the plot tends to dive into the theatrical equivalent of a small child’s ramblings. The game is separated into chapters following nameless soldiers of different factions doing non-descript tasks. The cut scenes given to you pre-mission are filled with ridiculous jargon that feels like the writers are just assuming you know what’s going on. Additionally, you’ll often find yourself wondering if you’re playing a character from a previous mission or some new soldier you’ve never seen before. Sure, they tie all of the stories together toward the end, but the string they use to do so is frayed, tangled and smells a bit funny.
The gameplay of Lost Planet 2 is kind of like a beauty pageant contestant. It’s a beautiful game with many satisfying qualities, but once you get past the glossy exterior you realize it only has a third grade education. The mechanics are heavily reminiscent of classic shooters. You pick up the strongest weapon you can find and blow up everything in your path until you make it to an impressive boss which you shoot in the bright, glowy spots until it’s reduced to mush. This technique works really well against the games waves of ferocious Akrid, but fails when you fight human opponents. Any time you’re being shot by an enemy, your character will vibrate uncontrollably through a “hit” animation, rendering any action you would take to counter the assault impossible. On the bright side, the gun mechanics lend themselves well and the variety of weapons makes what could have been a tiresome experience a Michael Bay directs Rambo explosion fest instead.
Lost Planet 2 has exchanged the constant decline of thermal energy from the first game for a simple healing mechanic, and it’s a welcome change. Once you get used to this and some of the problematic intricacies of the game, you’ll find yourself having a pretty good time. All of the weapons are extremely satisfying to use and the mech-like VS suits are a pure nerdgasm. This being said, you need to have some friends to enjoy the experience. The game is solely designed for ONLINE multiplayer at the expense of a single player campaign. I say online because when you play locally, the game shoves you into a claustrophobic box that make playing harder if you don’t have a larger television. But if you play by yourself you’ll find the team AI is completely broken. They’ll wander around aimlessly alerting the enemy to your presence and then promptly shield you from bullets with their faces, leaving you to take out the forty enemies with rocket launchers by your lonesome.
Luckily, you can use the well-designed online system to find some friends to fight with, and when you have four real people assaulting the waves of mechs, monsters and men, the game turns into a wildly fun experience.
Lost Planet 2 has a few features that will keep you playing. Besides time-trials, online deathmatch and zone modes, the game offer a roulette style leveling system. During the main game you collect boxes that you can later convert into points, and every 2000 points you can spin the roulette. From this, you can unlock better guns, new emotes for your character and Noms de Guerre, which is French for disappointment. This system had me constantly replaying my favorite levels trying to collect more and more boxes to appease my “gotta catch ‘em all” personality disorder and it actually added a lot of extra hours to my play time.
Lost Planet 2 is a crudely sewn quilt of flawed game mechanics and explosions. Still, with a few friends in tow it’s the kind of game where you look back on your experience and go, “damn… that was awesome.” Is it worth full price? No. Is it worth playing just to blow up a salamander the size of a battleship? Yes, very yes.