Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Review
Capcom is full of surprises. They're the one publisher who's got the most controversial track record. First they sign a contract to exclusively publish Resident Evil games on the Nintendo GameCube. Years later, they decide to port Resident Evil 4 onto the PlayStation 2. Last year, they announced that Devil May Cry 4 would no longer be a PlayStation exclusive, but will also arrive for the Xbox 360. And now, most recently, Capcom took an Xbox 360 exclusive and made it a PlayStation 3 title, as well. That game is Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. But unlike RE4 and DMC4, Lost Planet isn't a game to care about.
That's right, Lost Planet is not what I'd call a good game. You see, despite some of the game's framerate blunders, even when Lost Planet is running smoothly, I never once found it to be an enjoyable experience. In fact, so much about the game bores me and strikes me as average and below average that it makes me wonder how people actually enjoyed it. The crazy thing is that with a few tweaks here and there, Lost Planet could've been a great game.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is an action-shooter with a very basic premise, eliminate hives from which the game's creatures, the Akrid, spawn from, as well as getting rid of the Snow Pirates that stand in your way. Of course, there are also towering bosses, some so towering and violent that the balance of the game can feel somewhat skewed (I will explain further down). Your combat will be done either on foot, as one of the game's many characters, or in mech form when you enter Vital Suits.
Vital Suits are mechs that you'll frequently find scattered around the game. You'll need them for a number of situations, including boss fights. Unfortunately, when you're in mech form, the pace of the action doesn't really change much, so don't expect Zone of the Enders-like speed here. And so I must express my biggest gripe with the game: the speed. Running in the game feels torturously slow, as the game's characters don't cover nearly as much ground as they should. Where as in a game like Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank running feels solid, conveying a good feeling of progress, you never feel that in Lost Planet.
You feel hopelessness most of the time. You'll often find yourself looking dozens of yards ahead and dreading the walk to get to a Vital Suit or checkpoint. This is an action game that moves at a snail's pace. Why? And there is no sprint button to alleviate the issue, either. I ask again, why? Sure, your environment may be packed with knee high snow, but if my character is staying alive by a generator that collects thermal energy, he could also boast a mean set of super-legs, as well. Besides, it's not like you run any faster when you're not in the snowy sections.
But the problems don't end there. You see, the game's bosses are absolutely psychotic. They dash around the area with lightning speed, in many cases, and so there is a skewed balance between you and the bosses. How can you fight the bosses properly when they move so rapidly, where as your movements are about as slow as your grandfather with a broken hip? And again, the Vital Suits don't help much, seeing as how controlling them feels more like I'm controlling mechs from an old Armored Core game - clunky. Lost Planet losses all of its points here, because the lack of speed and the lack of intensity really makes the game feel tedious. A shot of adrenaline could do this game well.
Moreover, the action is rather simplistic; you have a host of weapons to use, but you can only carry two. You'll find shotguns, automatic rifles, sniper rifles, mini-guns, grenades, rocket launchers, and more. Unlike other action games, such as The Club, the force from each weapon doesn't translate very well to you, the gamer, and so this only adds to the tedium.
Lost Planet's story primarily revolves around a young man named Wayne Holden, who, after a series of events I won't spoil, suffers from a slight case of amnesia. He is found and rescued by a group of characters: Yuri, Rick, and Luka. Wayne's arm is fitted with a device called the Harmonizer, which is a core aspect of the game. The Harmonizer is an energy device that helps heal Wayne's health, at the expense of T-ENG points. T-ENG is the source of the harmonizer, and can be considered your second health-bar. Once your T-ENG depletes, Wayne's health will begin falling, due to the horrific weather conditions of planet E.D.N. III. T-ENG points deplete, but are restored every time you kill an enemy. You can store a total of 9999, and the depletion speed isn't very fast, so the chances of you running out of T-ENG are fairly slim, unless you take a barrage of hits.
If, for whatever reason, you enjoyed the campaign mode of the Xbox 360 game, you'll likely enjoy the PS3 version more, as it features a host of extras - such as all of the downloadable and extra content from the Xbox 360 and PC versions. That includes the Resident Evil 4 camera view, extra maps, and extra characters (Mega Man, Frank West, Joe). Furthermore, Luka is a playable character for the PlayStation 3 version, as well. As an online game, Lost Planet fairs a lot better, as the running speed is of less relevance when you're playing against human opponents - seeing as how they run as fast as you do. A healthy online community for the game continues to exist for the Xbox 360 version, and perhaps the same will occur with the PS3 version. Online modes are good for up to 16 players. You can play a total of four modes, across 16 different stages. The modes include: Fugitive, Elimination, Team Elimination, and Post Grab - all of these should be fairly self-explanatory. And yes, voice chat is supported.
Unfortunately, Lost Planet isn't the best looking game, in my book. It features more than a fair share of iffy textures, as walls and even the surface of snow don't boast as many details as I'd have expected. Considering that Lost Planet runs on a graphics engine that was complete about two years ago, some visual enhancements over the Xbox 360 version would've been nice. And comparing both games side to side doesn't make much obvious - both games look about the same, with the only difference being color.
But both games don't animate the same, as the PlayStation 3 version features a noticeably jitterier framerate, in comparison to the Xbox 360 game. The framerate becomes rather cumbersome in the snowier portions of the game, as well as hiccuping when there's a giant boss running about. I actually found myself getting a little motion sickness thanks to the combination of a stuttering framerate and the falling snow. Moreover, when you've got games like Uncharted, Folklore, and Capcom's own Devil May Cry, Lost Planet's character detail is simply dated. There just isn't a whole lot to like about how the characters look and move.
Just about the only nice thing about the visuals here are the special effects. The explosions light up the screen and look very nice. There are also some solid lighting touches here and there, too. The image quality is fairly clean and doesn't sport any annoying aliasing issues, or screen tearing. But, ultimately, I don't feel like I'm looking at a next-generation title when playing Lost Planet. Iffy textures, a troubled framerate, and sub-par character detail make Lost Planet boring to look at. The game simply isn't aging very well.
The audio is just as sub-par as the rest of the game. There's quite a bit of voice acting going on throughout the game, both during cut-scenes and gameplay - and none of it is very good. I don't know if it's intentionally B-level or not, but after hearing the superb voice-acting in Bioshock, Mass Effect, Uncharted, and Ratchet and Clank Future, Lost Planet just doesn't cut it. Even Devil May Cry 4, a series that has always had intentionally cheesy and B-caliber acting, features better voice acting. It's been a very long time since I've come across voice acting I wasn't fond of, and I'm surprised that in this case, it came from a Capcom game. Additionally, the soundtrack to the game isn't very engrossing, nor does it attempt to create any intensity, and some of the sound effects (such as gun shots) could've used more boom.
I will give Capcom credit for pricing Lost Planet at a reasonable $40 price-point, but I don't believe the game is worth it. I do think the online component is rather decent, but the single-player campaign isn't enjoyable, thanks to the game's rubbish speed. Crank the game up a few notches and you've instantly got yourself a better experience. Lost Planet's slow pace hurts the game so much that it makes it a chore to play through, and boss battles are never fun. Moreover, not even the Vital Suits alleviate the issue, as they're every bit as slow. Visually, the game also leaves much to be desired, as Lost Planet is beginning to look somewhat long in the tooth. And the audio, specifically the voice acting, is easily forgotten. Check out the online multiplayer demo of Lost Planet on PSN. If you like what you see, wait a few months until the game drops in price and pick it up then. Otherwise, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is definite pass.
2/26/2008 Arnold Katayev