It probably isn’t untrue to say that the original Lost Planet was something of a sleeper hit. It received little more than the standard amount of promotion for a game and didn’t seem to be anything special when you looked at it. When you tried playing it, however, it turned out to have a certain elusive charm, something that couldn’t be put into words, but had to be experienced to be understood. It wasn’t an amazing experience or anything like that, but there was a definite warm and fuzzy feeling of joy that welled up inside gamers as they ran around on foot or in mechanised suits, blasting huge insects and gathering the orange goo they left behind.
So, does the long awaited sequel, Lost Planet 2, manage to recapture that subtle joy that endeared the first game to so many while providing some great new ideas, the way any good sequel should? Well… the answer to both questions is: sort of. Putting aside the graphical improvements and one or two new gameplay elements, Lost Planet 2 suffers from the same problem any previously single player-oriented game has when the sequel is made with multiplayer gameplay in mind. That’s right, Lost Planet 2 was clearly designed for multiplayer. This doesn’t mean that it was made purely for deathmatches, oh no; the game was designed in a way that four friends could play through the entire campaign together online (or two friends on a single machine), which is not a bad thing, since co-op gaming has seen a steady increase in popularity over the last decade – the problem is that the single player mode and the facilities which allow solitary players to play the game all by their lonesome feel kind of tacked on.
Before I elaborate on that, let’s get the premise out of the way. Lost Planet 2 is still set on the chaotic world of EDN-3, where the giant insects known as the Akrid, rebellious guerrillas known as Snow Pirates, and the military colonization outfit known as Nevec vie for control of a world that seems to have nothing anyone would actually want. Set some decades after the first game, a new phenomenon has taken hold, and pockets of EDN-3’s frozen surface have thawed out, allowing lush jungles to spring up. These jungles quickly became populated by a new guerrilla threat, the Jungle Pirates, who want to establish their foothold in the newly emerging EDN-3. Thrust into this madness is the player – or a team of four players – who assumes control of various factions battling for control of EDN-3. Each player has a custom character this time, so there’s precious little character interest this time round.
The core game itself is very much the same as before: players run across huge terrains on foot wielding a variety of guns and grenades, or in robotic suits which all have different abilities and can also be kitted out with different types of weapons. Players will have to battle their way through swarms of insect-like Akrid, which range in size from tiny flying bugs to massive, building-sized monstrosities. The battles with these monsters are interspersed by turf wars between the various rival human factions. From time to time, players will face a huge boss battle, like a particularly big Akrid or a human in very powerful mech suit.
Sound good? Well, yes it is. But as I have mentioned before, all of these campaign missions were designed to be played by four players working together – and as long as that’s how you intend to play it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time, especially if your friends are skilled players who know how to play the game properly. Contrary to what you might expect, there aren’t all that many multiplayer-oriented gameplay elements beyond the ability to hitch a ride on a friend’s mech or transfer some thermal energy to them if they’re running low. Otherwise it’s much like player the previous game’s single player mode, only that there happen to be four players in the game at the same time. There are also a few competitive modes that allow greater numbers of players to compete in deathmatch and team deathmatch and so on, if it takes your fancy.
The problems come in for those of us who can’t get online or who were looking forward to a good, reclusive single-player experience. You can play it alone, sure, but even starting a single player game feels like you’re setting up a multiplayer match. You still have to “create” the game and decide whether or not other players will be allowed to jump in and how many AI-controlled allies you’d like to have. You can choose not to have AI-controlled allies, if you wish, but seeing how the larger enemies were obviously made to be tough enough to withstand a coordinated assault by four players, this might not be a good idea. Mind you, with how helpful the AI is, you’re probably better off going it alone. Your AI partners might occasionally shoot an enemy or two, if they feel like it, but usually they seem quite content to let you do all the work. Don’t expect them to jump in and send you some thermal energy if you’re desperately in need, either. Of course, the second the goal is in sight, they’ll rush to the extraction area and leave you to mop up the remaining enemies – often while shouting at you to hurry up and stop messing around. Oh, and they seem to think it’s fun to stand there and gawk at a huge Akrid before it flattens them.
The long and short of it is that Lost Planet 2 is very enjoyable when played with three friends, but lone players have a lot to put up with before they can get to that same place of joy they found in the first game. The new ideas are almost entirely multiplayer-focused and the graphical improvement from the previous game is very noticeable. Make your decision carefully.