Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition - Review


When the video game developer Capcom first made their transition from the sixth generation of gaming to the seventh, they did something a little different. Rather than focusing on their already established series such as Mega Man, Street Fighter, or Resident Evil, Capcom decided to step off of the beaten path, and venture into new territory. While one of their first titles of the generation, "Dead Rising," stuck with their landmark "zombie" theme, it still did enough to distance itself from the Resident Evil series. Rather than being a horror survival, it was a time limit based game where players explored a mall, using whatever they could find as a weapon. Even though the zombie theme had already been "over used," the game's unique style of gameplay, and unique time mechanic made it worth playing. The very same can be said about Lost Planet as well.

Not too long after Dead Rising was released, Lost Planet hit the shelves. While the game was yet another space themed 3rd person shooter, it too managed to find its own identity, and stand out over the rest. Even so, just how good is the game? Is it another generic shooter which may seem fun at first but quickly loses steam? Or is it the "must have" title you may have missed last generation? Well, there's only one way to find out...You either play it for yourself, or continue on with the review!

The Story:

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 handels 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. In order 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.

Multiplayer:

The multiplayer modes in Lost Planet are your standard shooter modes. You have your death match, team death match, capture the flag, and so on; however, the modes do have their own twists to them. The multiplayer maps are designed with the grappling hook in mind, 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. While the game's multiplayer mode is fun, and a nice extra after the main story, most of the modes are "whoever can throw the most grenades wins."

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 patience, 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.


The only real downside to Lost Planet comes from its length. The game is short. There are only 11 missions, and each can be finished within thirty minutes or so. While this is more than enough for the main game, the real issue is that the main game is all this game really has to offer. There is a multiplayer mode which may hold you over, but other than that, all you can do is replay it on harder difficulties. Unless you want more of a challenge, really like the story, or want to find the hidden "collectibles," there's not much of a reason to go back to this one. The game's voice acting can also be a bit strange at times, but it's not that big of an issue. Meanwhile the PlayStation 3 version, which came out quite awhile after the Xbox 360 version, also has some issues of its own. Its graphics are lower quality, there are (more) minor glitches, some frame rate problems, and unlike the 360 release with its achievements, there are no trophies. Overall it is still the same game, but it faces some of the same issues a lot of the earlier PS3 ports had to deal with.

Even so, Lost Planet is a Capcom classic, and arguably one of their best "new" IPs. Despite its short length, lack of extras, and minor issues, the game gets a 7/10. It's a fun game, but it could have been more.

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