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PC Review: Lost Planet 2

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Lost Planet 2 was released way back in May for the PS3 and Xbox 360 to mild success, and as I had missed it then I thought I would give the PC version a go. Right from the start Lost Planet 2 threw a series of problems my way, seemingly trying to stiff arm me from even playing the game as intended. After breaking one of my DirectX .dlls, forcing a complete reinstall of Games for Windows LIVE, I was finally presented with one of the worst user interfaces I’ve ever seen.

Console to PC ports are usually a pain to navigate, and even games like Fallout 3 have issues getting their UI’s to translate properly to the keyboard and mouse realm. Lost Planet 2 uses some of the strangest navigation hot keys I’ve ever seen. Combined with a Games for Windows LIVE interface that is poorly integrated, I was on the brink of rage quitting Lost Planet 2 before I had even experienced some gameplay.

After an hour or two of frustration, I was finally in the game. Lost Planet 2 involves several pirate and government factions vying for control over the planet E.D.N. III. The insect-like Akrid inhabits the planet. These creatures also serve as a thermal energy source for both the human factions, and the planet itself. The graphics are nice, and there’s a lot of detail in the various player models. Forests, lakes, jungles, deserts, and military complexes are all quite believable, and some environments rival those seen in games like Uncharted.

Each level is fairly linear, but there are enough branching paths to keep players from feeling as if they’re on rails. Lost Planet 2 has the player controlling one of four squad members for each playable pirate or military faction, with the remaining three squad mates being controlled by A.I., or ideally other players. Gameplay consists of fighting through enemy pirate camps or Akrid nests, and activating various control points along a linear path. Some control points will increase the number of re-spawns the squad has available, while others may open a gate or activate a device required to progress toward the end of the level.

The game consists of six total episodes, one for each faction, with each episode typically punctuated by a battle with a category G Akrid. Category G Akrids are the highlight of Lost Planet 2. These humongous insect bosses take up the entire screen, and some will have to be taken down from the inside or by using specialized weaponry.

Lost Planet 2 provides many tools to deal with the various enemies it throws at the player. These include machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, gatling guns, sniper riles, and a ridiculous number of grenade types. The highlight of the players’ arsenal would have to be the Vital Suits. These mechs come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and weapon load-outs.

Lost Planet 2 includes a repair mechanic that allows the player to keep their selected VS (Vital Suit) running throughout the entire level, however each VS does require the player to install new weapon modules when their current ammo reserves are depleted. Some of the Vital Suits may run faster than others, or have the ability to fly for a short duration. Other larger suits support dual weapon modules, and can take more damage than their less armored counterparts. Although there are a nice variety of suits available in the game, often the player isn’t given a choice regarding what suit they can use in each level.

I tried Lost Planet 2 with both a traditional keyboard/mouse setup, and an Xbox 360 gamepad. The experience as a whole was much better with the Xbox controller. Actions bound to several different keys on the keyboard can be handled contextually with one button on the gamepad, but I did find it strange that the ‘evade’ maneuver was unavailable while playing this way. Dodging Akrid attacks is necessary to survive some of the more difficult battles, so some players may find this frustrating. A grappling hook is available, and while this may sound like an interesting mechanic to play with, the fact that it can’t be used while jumping drastically limits it’s use. Players can also toggle an aim assist function on or off, but with the aim function turned on player’s simply need to point the screen in the enemies general direction and hold down the fire button to clear out entire nest’s of Akrid or pirates.

Lost Planet 2 is touted as a multi-player centric game, offering four player co-op for the entirety of the campaign, a host of competitive multi-player modes, and a ton of options for customizing player models. Unfortunately, the  online modes are a ghost town, and poor design choices work to expound on this issue. I literally spent two hours trying to get into a multi-player co-op game, and when I was finally able to join with another player, the experience was underwhelming. For the majority of my play-through, I was forced to either carry my A.I. squad-mates, or spend an inordinate amount of time in a matchmaking lobby to play a few missions with another human being. When the multi-player does work, I didn’t notice any lag or other technical issues, but the time invested simply isn’t worth it in the games current state.

Lost Planet 2 had potential, but clunky game-play mechanics, a confusing interface, and a non-existent multi-player community plague the PC version of the game. The narrative is uninteresting, and with no specific characters to follow it’s hard to care for each playable faction. If you are looking for an exhilarating multi-player experience, you’re better off picking up the more active console versions, or another game altogether.

Lost Planet 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3, and Xbox 360.

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