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August 4, 2010
Lost Planet 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Some enemies in Lost Planet 2 are enormous.
The original Lost Planet game was released back in early 2008 and, despite receiving only moderate praise from reviewers, the game sold well enough that a sequel was inevitable (I actually quite enjoyed the game - Dave). Perhaps because of the entirely co-op campaign mode, or maybe because of the original title's untapped potential, whatever the reason Lost Planet 2 generated a lot of hype in the build-up to its release (which was a couple of months ago now). Can the game live up to the hype?

The story in Lost Planet 2 picks up a decade after the events of the original. The terraforming process has begun to transform E.D.N III from a planet of ice into one where tropical jungles and sprawling deserts feature just as prominently. The planet is still crawling with ‘akrids', which look like the giant bugs featured in Starship Troopers. Akrids aren't the only danger in the wilderness of E.D.N III; there are also a variety of different human factions out there, each vying for control of their own piece of the planet. For the most part the human factions are made up of pirates who just want to kill, loot and be merry. The exception to this is NEVEC; a military outfit that kills akrids to harvest the thermal energy they release when killed. Massive akrids, referred to as Category-G akrids, have recently begun appearing on E.D.N III and NEVEC is especially keen to harvest the mammoth amounts of thermal energy they hold. The fact that doing this may cause irrevocable damage to the planet doesn't deter them one little bit.

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The VS suits return in Lost Planet 2.
Lost Planet 2 is a squad-based third-person shooter with four members in your squad during campaign mode. When you play offline the other squad members are controlled by the AI, or you can have a friend join you for some split-screen akrid-killing fun. If you opt to play online then all the other squad members are controlled by real people, turning the campaign mode into a four player co-op adventure. There are six chapters in the game, each comprising of at least three missions, which in turn are made up of multiple smaller areas that must be cleared. The objective in each of the missions usually involves finding and activating any data points so that HQ can provide you with a map of the surrounding area, as well as killing anything else that moves.

To this end you are given a wide array of weapons to use, including machine guns, shotguns, multiple different grenade types, laser weapons, rocket launchers and more. Aside from weaponry your character comes equipped with an anchor (a grappling hook) that will help you scale to great heights much quicker than taking stairs. These can be used to gain a tactical advantage over your enemies, particularly if you can co-ordinate attacks to come from multiple sides when playing with friends. You will also stumble across VSs (vital suits) of various types; usually they are robotic armour equipped with suitable big weapons, though the game also refers to flying vehicles and stationary gun turrets as VSs too. Whilst the VS's look cool and are fun to run around in they also have the additional benefit of having their own life bar, so you effectively double your life when inside one. The downside is that dying inside a VS comes with twice the battle gauge penalty than you get ordinarily.

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Lost Planet 2 on PS3 is an impressive title.
Speaking of the battle gauge, death in Lost Planet 2 is not a big deal – provided you have points remaining on your battle gauge. When you die you can be re-spawned at any of the data posts you've activated for a cost of five-hundred battle points (or one-thousand if you died in a VS). You can keep your battle gauge topped up by activating any data posts you come across, which rewards players who take the time to track them down. There are no health packs in the game, but you have something much better at your disposal; a harmoniser. Any time your health gets low you can hold down the Start button to activate the harmoniser and recharge your health. The harmoniser runs on thermal energy, which is obtained by killing your enemies. A cool feature of thermal energy is that you can shoot it at your friends if they're running low, so that they can heal themselves. This is especially important when playing with friends because every single death reduces the battle gauge, whereas when playing with AI squad-members, only your own death reduces the battle gauge. This significantly increases the difficulty of the campaign mode, making the ability to share thermal energy around much appreciated.

The online component of the game isn't limited to the campaign mode, as there are plenty of other options for multiplayer mayhem. Although most of the modes have a familiar feel about them, they're also a lot of fun. There's elimination and team elimination which are all about wiping out your enemies, and in data post battle you and your team need to capture as many enemy data posts as you can. Akrid egg battle has you trying to steal your opponents' akrid egg and returning it to your base, while protecting your own egg at the same time. And lastly there's fugitive mode where the nominated fugitive must cause as much trouble as possible before being hunted down. The online experience is very smooth, with no noticeable lag. The biggest problem with the online experience is that frequently your opponents will be waiting for you at your re-spawn point, so one death is usually followed by a few more in quick succession.

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One of Lost Planet 2's bad-assed enemies!
Although Lost Planet 2 provides plenty of highlights, there are also a few issues that bring it back to the pack. As mentioned earlier, in many of the six chapters you control a different squad than the previous chapters. This in itself is not a problem, but the fact that despite a good-looking and well-acted intro to each chapter the overall story doesn't make much sense is. Unless you're familiar with the Lost Planet universe, it's often not apparent which faction you are controlling or what their motivations may be, and whilst this doesn't affect your understanding of each mission, what it does do is detach you from the action. Also, while mission objectives themselves are generally straightforward, the game fails to give reasonable instructions when anything even semi-involved needs to be done, and if you're playing offline, your AI-controlled squad members offer no help at all. An example of this is during one level when you are using a massive rail-gun to destroy a similarly massive akrid. The akrid will destroy you and your gun long before you can bring him down – unless you run inside the train and turn some valves to cool the gun down. The game makes no attempt to explain this to you, and your AI friends won't help out. This kind of thing will happen multiple times in Lost Planet 2, and you'll find yourself wishing for a simple prompt to point you in the right direction, saving you a lot of frustration. The last issue is that many of the boss battles are more a war of attrition than a dynamic fight. You simply shoot the glowing orange parts of the akrid for an extended period of time, before the akrid eventually carks it. It would have been great to see more strategic battles, though in fairness the AI may not have been much help when playing offline.

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Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter.
Graphically the game has some genuine highs – the environments are huge and for the most part look fantastic. They vary a lot between chapters too, with an early jaunt across ice fields soon replaced with a trip through a tropical jungle, which is followed up by a train-ride through a sprawling desert, not to mention the underwater and space missions. The akrids look and move well, each of the human factions has a distinct look about them, and the bosses can be breath-taking to behold given their sheer size. Some of the bosses are too big to fit on the screen, and those that aren't are still well-animated and good to look at. Overall these elements get a big thumbs up. However there are also some low points; there are times when screen-tearing is prevalent, and other times where the game seems to shudder, pause, and then start moving again. Luckily these moments are not common and won't affect your enjoyment too much, but it's still glaring to see in such a big budget title. There are times when the game is also too dark for its own good, making enemies all but impossible to see without consulting your map. Although this is probably realistic of warfare, in a game it would be nice if enemies were a little more distinct. In split-screen mode enemies can be impossible to spot, especially in the distance; given that the screen size is roughly a quarter of your TV (the other two quarters are devoted to each player's map). This can make the split-screen mode a bit of a farce during some levels, though I'm still glad it was included.

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Ohh, some nice reflective walls!
There's not a whole lot of music in Lost Planet 2, but what's there is well done. Like many other games the music in Lost Planet 2 bursts forth at the most dramatic moments, making them a bit more intense and exhilarating. For the most part you'll be shooting in relative silence though, which to be honest didn't bother me at all. The voice-acting is solid, with the different factions having their own style about them. There are some cheesy Mexican-sounding accents in one of the levels, probably designed to provide cheap laughs, though not often succeeding. The sound effects are excellent though, with the different weapons sounding as they should, and providing the perfect backdrop for gunplay.

Before wrapping up it's worth mentioning that there is a lot of additional content to play through outside campaign mode. Obviously there's the online modes mentioned earlier, but there is also a robust training mode which has you running through obstacle courses, activating data posts and dispatching all enemies as quickly as possible. There is also an enemy AI battle which allows you to hone the skills necessary to go online, without subjecting you to high-level human opponents. A drawback to the whole training mode is that there's not much in the way of a tutorial to help you get your bearings in the game. During campaign mode you will find bonus boxes which give you credits to be used on the Lost Planet 2 slot machine. Each spin of the slot rewards you with a new nickname, ability or emote for use in the various game modes. Personally the nicknames and emotes weren't particularly exciting, but the different abilities you can win are pretty cool. The abilities range from things like more ammo or thermal energy, to more sprinting capacity and shorter time required getting data posts online or to re-spawn once killed. There is something like thirty abilities to unlock, and given you only have two slots available for them in other game modes, deciding which ones to keep can be tough.

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What the hell are those pod things?!
Overall I found Lost Planet 2 to be a lot of fun. There are some definite AI issues when playing offline and the lack of on-screen direction can cause plenty of frustration at various times throughout the game. However in terms of straight up shooting fun, Lost Planet 2 delivers in spades. The game lacks the polish of some of the bigger titles out there, with screen-tearing and a stuttering frame-rate that you'll notice on occasion, but you'll forgive that once you get back to the shooting. With an enjoyable online component and the ability to play the campaign mode co-op all the way through, there's plenty to see and do in Lost Planet 2. It's not a classic and it probably didn't warrant all the pre-release hype but it is fun, and really that's what games should be all about. If you like shooting games then Lost Planet 2 is certainly worth checking out (especially at the cheaper prices if you shop around).

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSSome fantastic looking environments, awesome bosses and cool enemies. The downside is some technical issues.
SOUNDThere's not a lot of music, but the orchestra does pick up at key moments. The voice-acting is decent enough and the sound effects are spot on.
GAMEPLAYLike the graphics there's good and bad here. The shooting action is a lot of fun, but the lack of direction at certain times can be frustrating. Overall I say fun wins out.
VALUEThere's plenty to see and do, campaign mode takes around fifteen hours, and training and online modes add plenty more to the equation. If Lost Planet 2 floats your boat, you won't tire of it quickly.
OVERALLLost Planet 2 is far from the perfect game, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. If shooting games are your cup of tea this is well worth your time.

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