Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lost Planet: Colonies Edition - Review


After the release of the original Lost Planet, Capcom went back to work on yet another entry in the series; however, this "new" title was not a sequel, but rather an expanded version of the original. Lost Planet: Colonies Edition was released on the Xbox 360 and PC as one of the few cross platform "Windows Live" games. It included everything the original 360 and PS3 game had, but also greatly expanded on its content. The game features new modes, and multiplayer options, but are these features worth the upgrade? What about those of you who have not planed the original, is this the better version? Well, let's find out!

The Story:

As mentioned above, Colonies Edition is still Lost Planet, and nothing has changed story wise.

The story of Lost Planet takes place far into our future. The Earth is currently undergoing an energy crisis, and people have begun to look to the stars for hope. After discovering an energy source dubbed "Thermal Energy" (or T-Energy) on the frozen planet EDN III, colonization quickly began. Although the research company and military force "NEVEC" began working on a plan to warm the planet and turn it into a home away from home, they soon discovered that the cold wasn't the only threat. Fierce monsters called "Akrid" soon emerged, and the planet fell into chaos.

When the game first opens up, it has already been many years since the discovery of T-Energy, and the Akrid. NEVEC continues to work on colonizing EDN III, but groups of people called "Snow Pirates" have appeared as well. While some pirates are groups of people who simply try to survive or reach their own goals, others work outside of NEVEC to try and create a better future for the planet. One such group of of pirates is lead by a man named Gale.

After taking a job request to kill a giant Akrid named "Green Eyes," Gale lead his team of Snow Pirates into battle; however, tragity struck. During the fight with the Green Eyes, Gale, along with most of his party was killed, leaving his son Wayne as the only survivor. Upset over the loss of his father and friends, Wayne made his way out of the building in his VR mech, but he loses consciousness soon after, and was buried under the snow.


When Wayne finally came to, he found himself being rescued by a small group of Snow Pirates. Despite being buried for who knows how long, he was still breathing because of the strange device on his arm; a device known as a "harmonizer." Given to him by his dad, the harmonizer made use of T-Energy and had the ability to keep people alive in the extreme cold, and heal their wounds. Yuri, the leader and scientist of the three man group, becomes very interested in this device, and accepts Wayne into their family because of it, with hopes of one day warming the world himself. Although still in distress over what happened to his dad, Wayne decides to make the most out of his new life with the Snow Pirates, and within just a few short weeks, he gets to work. With Yuri as their commander, Wayne sets out on missions to better his cause, and with hopes of one day getting revenge on the Green Eyes.

Although the story of Lost Planet may seem a bit generic at first, it isn't quite as clear cut. Early on in the game there is a major twist which changes everything, and the story continues to evolve with each chapter. Rather than Wayne just helping the group in anyway that he can, he soon gets caught up in much larger events, and he slowly learns the truth about his past. Unlike in most shooters where the story takes a back seat to the action, Lost Planet's may actually drive you to keep playing. The characters are very likable, their personal relationships with each other goes a bit deeper than your generic cast often found in games such as this. While being stranded in a strange world out in space isn't a "new" concept, the way Lost Planet handles it still stands out.

The Gameplay:

Lost Planet is in fact a third person shooter, however, it is unlike any other. The game takes place on a frozen world, where you cannot survive out in the open without heat, or rather, thermal energy. By blowing up objects, accessing data post checkpoints, and by killing enemies, you can collect this energy to keep yourself warm. Each mission you will begin with a set amount, but from the get go it will start counting down. Inorder to survive, you must keep your energy meter up, and because of that the game is always pushing you to move forward. While at first glance this may seem like a limiting system, as well as a stressful one, in reality it is not. The game does still give you enough time to fully explore the world around you, and for the most part you don't even need to worry about it; however, on the harder difficulty settings, it gives you quite the challenge. Something a lot of shooters tend to lack. In Lost Planet's case instead of ducking behind a wall, and shooting only when there is an opening, the game pushes you to be perfect. Not only do you have to fight harder enemies, but you also have to make use of every energy source in the map, and you have to constantly be moving forward. It truly can provide quite the challenge... If you want it to that is.


Another feature which makes Lost Planet stand out above other shooters is the grappling hook. Many objects, and cliffs, in the game can be hooked onto, and that allows for some very interesting map design. Rather than just walking down hallways, levels have multiple levels to them, and the game expects you to make use of them. Sometimes you'll need to use the high ground to get the drop on an enemy, but other times you may have no choice but to go in low. The landscape itself is also always changing, so you never really see the same type of area more than once. One minute you may be in an open area with buildings, but then the next you might be underground making your way through tunnels. Throughout the game's 11 missions they try to change it up as much as possible, so progression never gets stale.

The weapon system in Lost Planet is one of the few aspects of the games that doesn't break too far away from the mold. Like in many others in the same genre, you can carry two weapons, which range from standard assault weapons to shot guns to rocket launchers, you have some sort of grenade, and there are also mounted weapons such as turrets for you to use. It's all run of the mill stuff, but there are different types of mechs for you to pilot as well. Although mechs use more T-Energy, they provide you with extra defense and attack power, as well as some extra mobility (depending on the type of mech, that is). You can also remove weapons from the mechs to use on foot, but due to their size they do slow you down. Even so, you may just need them if you hope to survive against the Akrid.


Akrid are the main types of enemies in Lost Planet, and there are many different species of them. Some Akrid are small creatures which jump out of spawn points, some fly through the air and try to swarm you, and others are giant monsters which WILL put up a challenge. There are many types of enemies, and because of that you never know what is waiting for you around the corner. It creates a horror survival like feeling at times, and it may even scare you. One minute you can be walking along with nothing in sight, and the next a giant creature will be coming out of the ground. As your brain tries to process just what you are looking at, you realize you're about to be eaten alive, and fear sets in. It is great shock value, but nothing too scary. As for the fights themselves, each Akrid has its own weak points, and attack patterns. Taking them down all comes down to you hitting the weak areas as much as possible, and avoiding anything they throw at you. Although, sometimes it is better to run and live another day, rather than risk your T-Energy just to stay and fight.

Besides Akrid, there are soldiers and Snow Pirates out there as well. These enemies use a wide range of guns, mechs, and even explosive devices to try and kill you, and they can pose more of a threat than the Akrid in some cases. Although, these enemies are not always your "enemies." Most of them are just out there trying to survive like you, and they are no friends of the Akrid. Using other Snow Pirates to do your dirty work is sometimes the best course of action, and it'll allow you to avoid at least some fights. Really though, it is up to you. If you want to just kill everyone and everything that gets in your way, then go for it! It just means more T-Energy for you.

Colonies:

While the original Lost Planet only had one single player mode, Colonies Edition has four more. On top of your story mode, the game also features a score attack mode, a time trial mode, a first person view mode, and an unlockable "ultimate mode" which is the main game with altered settings (such as increased speed). These modes alone greatly expand the replayability of the original game, and actually give you a reason to go back for more and to keep on playing. That is, if you want to.

Multiplayer:

The multiplayer modes in Lost Planet are your standard shooter modes, well, they used to be. Just like in the original version, you have your standard death match, team death match, capture the flag, and so on. They do have their own twists to them, but they are still pretty standard. The multiplayer maps themselves are designed with thgrappling hooke  in mind however, so you can scale buildings, cliffs, and other objects, and you can also pilot the mechs. Thermal Energy also plays a role, but unlike in the main game where you need it to survive, its main use in the multiplayer mode is as fuel for the mechs, and as ammo for T-Energy based weapons. If you run out of T- Energy you will survive, but you will not be able to use objects that require it to run. This can give you a big disadvantage, but it doesn't matter too much considering grenades are still the "king of all weapons." At least, in the standard modes.

On top of the old multiplayer modes, a completely new type of mode has been added in as well called "Akrid Hunter." In this mode players can actually take control of the Akrid for the first time, and battle it out against human players. The mode can be a lot of fun, and there are even new maps for you to explore; however, sometimes the balance does feel a bit off. Some maps have narrow passageways making it near impossible for Akrid to navigate, while others are set up in a way in which human players only hope of surviving comes from hiding in a building as the Akrid players blast and slash the heck out of it until they win. Although, these maps rarely come into play, and they don't ruin the fun as much as you might expect. What can though is the PC players.


Since the game is cross platform, Xbox 360 players can go head to head against PC players, and that is not a good thing if you're on the 360 side. The Xbox 360's analog stick, even when the sensitivity is changed, cannot keep up with a mouse; at least, not effectively. It doesn't matter how fast your aiming speed is set to, you will never be able to control it as well as on the PC, and that puts you at a huge disadvantage. PC players can pull off head shots with ease, and quickly out maneuver you... Although, sometimes mods, hacks, and other forms of cheating may be the reason for that. Sadly, it is quite common...

The Good and the Bad:

Lost Planet is in fact one of the must have shooters from the early days of the seventh generation. Back in the day it was a solid shooter, and it was a game perfect for anyone who might be burned out on the genre. It did enough different so that you never felt like you were playing a clone of another game, but it also didn't stray too far from the standards. Its unique time system was actually pretty nice, and didn't feel restrictive like other time trial based games. Even if you're typically not a fan of timed based games, there's a pretty good chance that you would still enjoy Lost Planet. The game is also very challenging on the harder modes, and takes skill rather than pacients, in fact, you'll lose if you just try to wait everything out. The Akrid designs are also great, and the element of surprise always kept you on your toes, anticipating what could possibly be coming next. For an early seventh generation game, it also looked pretty nice, and some of the physics were pretty impressive. When you shot the T-Energy out of a flying Akrid you could see their body freeze, fall out of the sky, and shatter, and explosions looked pretty nice as well. Of course by today's standards, that of the eight generation, these little touches are not as noticeable anymore.


As for the "bad points," well, a lot of them have been fixed as well. Originally Lost Planet was a very short game. There were only 11 missions, each only lasting around thirty minutes, and there was little to no replay value. You could go back on harder modes, but that's about it. Now, with the Colonies edition, the four new modes added a lot more for you to do. The first person mode puts a new perspective on the entire game, and can make it a bit freakier, the score attack and time attack modes are fun for anyone who enjoys arcade style modes, and the ultimate mode puts a nice twist on things; which will not be spoiled here. The changes to multiplayer also give you more of a reason to play, and for anyone who likes to go achievement hunting, there are new achievements as well. Still, the game isn't perfect.

Even with the changes, there are issues. Voice acting can still be a bit strange, it's not too bad though, some of the maps online have balance issues, the cross platform online modes makes it hard for 360 players to win at times, some people cheat the system (although that happens in a lot of PC games out there), and the new content is still mostly replaying the same old levels, just with new twists. Despite this, Lost Planet: Colonies Edition is still a major improvement over the original release, and its added content will most likely keep you coming back. Rather than beating the story, and then playing the multiplayer mode until you get burned out like in the original, you'll find yourself coming back to single player more and more instead. This is why I'm giving Lost Planet: colonies Edition for the Xbox 360 and PC, a much better score of 9/10. Too bad this content wasn't in the original...

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