Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: June 26, 2007
As an underlying game, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a pretty good example of how well modern arcade titles can be pulled off; the action is often fast and frantic and never really slows down for very long at all. At the same time, though, the title is absolutely stellar on the Xbox 360, while the PC iteration suffers from many of the drawbacks of being a port. In Lost Planet's case, it is these very drawbacks that either harm or detract from the gameplay.
You play as Wayne, a man who used to be a snow pirate on the frozen world of E.D.N. III. At the beginning of the story, Wayne and his father are attacked by the monstrous Green Eye, a member of the bug-like Akrid race that infests the planet. Wayne survives, but his father is less lucky, and much of the plot revolves around Wayne trying to track down Green Eye to exact his revenge. Along the way, Wayne also helps out those who saved him from a frozen grave, dodges the ambiguous snow pirates, and battles through hordes and hordes of Akrid.
Keeping Wayne alive as he trudges through the frozen wasteland is T-Eng (Thermal Energy), which he gathers from enemies he has killed, among other sources. Throughout the duration of a level, the drain on Wayne's T-Eng is constant, and his reserves are also tapped in order to recover his health when he's been harmed. Thus, the Lost Planet plays more like an arcade title, with the T-Eng effectively serving as a level timer. Though this does force the player to progress with a sense of purpose, it never really feels as oppressive as one would think, and you generally run out of T-Eng due to mistakes in your gameplay, rather than a lack of speed.
The Akrid race is one of the most interesting set of foes in recent memory. Individual Akrid can be as small as a compact car and only be considered a threat in swarms, but it can also be the size of a large building. With the exception of only the smallest of the Akrid, they're heavily armored and are impervious to weapons fire, with the exception of a few parts on their bodies that glow with the T-Eng contained within. Most fights with the Akrid — especially the boss fights — essentially boil down to locating the holes in their armor, watching how they move, and then striking them where and when you can.
While the Akrid stand out as worthy foes, the enemy snow pirates that you will face along the snow drifts are little more than humanoids with as much tactical intelligence as a bag of oranges rolling down a hill. Though their guns and rocket lauchers can pack a punch, you'll find them standing around cluelessly, a trait that doesn't change as you fight them. Some will run for cover and often never pop out to fight back, but most will stand their ground in the middle of the snow and let you systematically pick them off.
To help Wayne bring a little more punch to the party, he can hop into a vital suit: large mechanical walkers, of which there is a variety. Vital suits are incredibly fun, as some of them can jump into and boost around in the air, while others can transform from a walker into a jet-powered cycle. Most vital suits can mount a weapon on either side of their frame, such as chain guns, shotguns, lasers, and rocket launchers. It's hard not to giggle just a bit when you use dual-chain guns to mow down a flood of Akrid, and it's hard to not have fun when you and a snow pirate square off in a versus battle, with rockets and bullets flying all over the place.
One thing that does detract from the experience is every time the player hops into a vital suit, s/he is treated to a screen full of which buttons on the Xbox 360 controller utilize which features on the vital suit, with nary a single PC-specific button to be found. While other parts in the game have dual-purpose prompts, such as how one must mash either the 360 "B" button or the keyboard "E" button to deploy a navigation beacon, the inclusion of a screen with only 360 controls (when the player doesn't have a 360 controller connected) is laughable, at best.
Wayne will mostly journey on foot on his way toward the elusive Green Eye, during which he can carry two weapons at a time, including his standard machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, and other weapons. He can also carry and throw one of the various types of grenades to kill groups of enemies or those behind cover. To increase his mobility or automatically save himself from a long fall, Wayne has a tow line that he can fire and attach to ledges above him, pulling himself up to hard-to-reach places.
Lost Planet has a very striking look, with the bleak frozen tundra covering the abandoned buildings and objects, as well as the relatively colorful Akrid. When Akrid are killed, they can freeze solid, which the player can then shatter to get at their precious T-Eng and be treated to a nice visual effect. Motion blur and lighting/shadowing make the action and environments pop to life, and explosions emit wonderful flashes of color and distortion which intensify the closer you get to them.
However, many players have been seemingly left out in the cold with incredibly shoddy performance, as even on a Radeon X1800XTX, the game had to be run at 1024x768 with all options on either low or medium to get anything close to a frame rate that wasn't universally sluggish. Such performance issues can undoubtedly be fixed with a patch, but there's no word on whether such a fix is in the works.
Lost Planet also boasts a multiplayer mode ranging from simple deathmatch and team deathmatch to modes where you must capture posts to win, or where one player is hunted by everyone else and needs to best them to survive. In our experience, it has been incredibly difficult to actually join an online multiplayer match, and the same issue has been reported by quite a few end users across the board. Again, no word on whether a patch will be released to address the issue.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is not a bad title, and it's worth a look because its gameplay captures both the best aspects of an arcade game and the gritty action of a modern shooter. The port itself just seems to be incomplete, with the Xbox 360-centric prompts, reward tokens (previously used for 360 achievements) that now have no purpose whatsoever, and sluggish performance; if they are fixed in a future patch, the title is easily a recommendable one. For now, gamers should tread carefully and hope for a patch to address the issues, as the relatively low degree of polish and care on any level just doesn't quite match what one expects from a $40 PC title, much less one that bears the Capcom name.
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