When Capcom promised to include co-op play in many of their future titles, the community of Co-Optimus held their breath in collective anticipation. We’ve already sampled the flawed delights of Resident Evil 5, but what about the sequel to a slightly more obscure game? Lost Planet was a decent seller, but never broke through to the mainstream. Those that did play the game found it a challenging experience that was equal parts exhilarating and annoying. There were plenty of mistakes that Capcom could fix in a sequel; adding co-op and removing Wayne are just two of them. Were these changes enough to make the game a must buy?
Capcom is a Japanese game publisher that is interested in selling to the Western markets and this is reflected in many aspects of Lost Planet 2 – as the action loved by the West is mixed with the Mechs of the East. Set 10 years after the events in the first game, the campaign is split between 6 major missions, each from the perspective of a different faction of Pirates. This allows Capcom to set the game all across E.D.N. III, which is no longer just snow fields as the ice has melted to reveal a multitude of new and interesting environments. As before, Thermal Energy is the resource that all the factions require to survive and this comes in its natural form within the bodies of the deadly Akrids – the local alien population. As each mission unfolds you will need to battle through both alien and human foes to get what your faction requires.
When Lost Planet 2 is at its best, it is quite unlike any other game available. The game is built with co-op in mind from the bottom up, to the point that playing the game as a single player is almost broken. Luckily, we at Co-Optimus are very interested in the co-op aspects of the game, and here it shines. Up to four players at a time can tackle the campaign online, or two via splitscreen at home, where each mission has a series of chapters that lasts between 5 and 25 minutes. As a foursome you must successfully achieve the mission brief, which is usually kill everything or activate all the Data Posts. You share a common Battle Gauge that acts as a collectible life pool; this means that true cooperation will be needed if you are all to survive. If one player is weaker than the other you can place them in a support role such as a shield carrier or sniper.
Whose turn is it to feed the Akrid?
When you are all in the zone the game truly shines. Chapters vary from open vistas, rocky outcrops, underwater battles, on rails gunfests; and many others. Nearly every larger mission ends on an epic boss battle that brings to mind the sense of scale seen in Shadow of the Colossus as you must work as a team to bring down a massive enemy. To aid you are a series of powerful weapons, and more importantly Vital Suits (VSs). These suits are mech type contraptions that you can climb into to even the odds. There are many variants on offer, from solo pilot mechs, to mechs that allow the entire groups to jump in and fire a separate weapon, or hang from the side.
It is here when you and three friends are all together in a giant Vital Suit, standing off against what looks like an insurmountable alien creature that you realize Lost Planet 2 is quite unlike anything else. However, these moments are perhaps too infrequent, and there are also an abundance of small issues that will make many people dislike the game.
The controls for one thing feel very strange. Any veteran of the first game will be completely prepared for the feel, but new gamers will question the tank like control of the characters. It is almost as if Capcom have adapted their Resident Evil control mechanism onto a completely different game type. The mission structure is also far too choppy as you can complete an objective within minutes and have to wade through another loading screen. Lost Planet 2 saves a multitude of statistics, but you need to jump back into the main menu to review them. Incorporating the statistics into the loading screens like in Left 4 Dead 2 would have at least made them feel quicker. Capcom would have been better to create a fluid story mode that continues without interruption; then open the missions and statistics separately after the game was completed.
One other major stumbling block, that seems to plague Capcom across many of their titles, is the save system. The game is structured over 6 missions, which each contain several chapters, which in turn contain sections. Sounds complicated? It is! Not only do you have to sit through the already mentioned loading screens, but you can also only save at the end of each chapter. This means that if you get to the final section of a chapter and the entire team dies, you are all moved back to the start, which could be up to three sections ago. On the harder settings this can happen a lot, and it can take a long time to get back to were you died. The level structure also means that Capcom feel there was no need to incorporate drop in, drop out cooperative play as players should be able to complete a chapter in less than 30 minutes. With the dubious save functionality this is not always the case, so an urgent helping hand would have been nice on occasion. Fixes can come in the form of later patches; a good example would be to reduce the amount of Battle Gauge reduction when a player dies, this would effectively give the group more lives.
Taking the VS
The archaic controls and strange mission structure will be enough to stop many people from attempting to play the game past the first few minutes, but these issues are nothing when compared to anyone foolish enough to go solo. The AI in the game, in both enemy and ally terms, is not particularly strong. When fighting a human enemy this can sometimes be amusing, but when you are relying on an ally AI to reload a giant cannon, or protect your flank, the game truly suffers. Capcom have boldly designed a game with co-op in mind, but in doing so many have alienated most solo gamers.
Added onto the 4 player campaign is a multiplayer mode and faction mode that have plenty of maps and a community far more friendly than most. There is a standard versus mode, but also a Postgrab mode that has a strong element of team based versus. To enhance the multiplayer Capcom have created unlockable elements that it will take you longer to catch them all than both Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver together. You receive these through gaining experience, but also from giant boxes that the larger enemies in the game drop. In essence, all these unlockables should mean that no two players look alike as they equip different weapons, clothing, names and Modern Warfare style perks. A welcome feature is that all your experience spans both the campaign and versus modes so that feel you are working towards a common goal, no matter what part of the game you are playing.
Would I recommend Lost Planet 2 to co-op gamers? Whole heartedly, yes! Despite the controls, AI and campaign structure; as a co-op game Lost Planet 2 sometimes veers towards Left 4 Dead levels of greatness. Gears of War 2 provided epic moments of co-operative gameplay, but not on the scale of Lost Planet 2. The more people you get to play with, the better the game gets as Capcom’s vision comes further into the light. There are far too many issues within the game to make it a true classic, but unlike other bigger releases that I grew bored with after a few weeks, I can imagine that I and a few of my pals will still be playing elements of Lost Planet 2 a year from now.