Xbox 360
The unbearable imperfections of Lost Planet 2

Posted by Tom Chick (February 07, 2011)

Lost Planet 2 is not perfect. Which is really disappointing. How is it that Capcom makes a game so good, but they can't be bothered to go that little bit of extra distance to make it perfect? Are they lazy? Negligent? Oblivious? Just teasing us? We may never know. We can only consider the missed opportunity that is Lost Planet 2.

For instance, the variety of level design. Lost Planet 2 ranges far, wide, deep, and high. Jungle, oil platforms, Hoth, an undersea base, a non-undersea base, up into space, ruined cities, a small village that will be ruined by the time you're done, a submarine, a land battleship, sewers, a factory, and a Normandy invasion. Most shooters only go to two or three of those places. Maybe four once you figure in some DLC. Lost Planet 2 goes to all of them. Plus the obligatory train level. Two train levels, actually, since your first train gets wrecked by giant blind giraffe/lizards with retractable sonar fins on the sides of their faces. The second train, which is really just a big-ass gun on rails, fights a sandworm from Dune. By the way, the train fights it, so don't think you're going to be able to just shoot your gun at the sandworm to kill it. You'll need the firepower of the train itself, which involves various blue collar pursuits that usually involve a union, like hauling ammo and pumping coolant. You might think that sounds terrible, but would it kill you just once to fight a boss fight some other way than plinking away at the weak spot for massive damage?

Wait, I'm getting sidetracked into just talking about Lost Planet 2 being awesome. That's not why I'm here. My point is that there's no zeppelin level. If Lost Planet 2 had a zeppelin, or even just a blimp, preferably with a nightclub dangling underneath it like the one in Just Cause 2, it would be the perfect game. Also, I don't remember any warehouses. I don't know how you can make a shooter these days without a warehouse.

Now let's talk about the shooting, which could have been perfect, but isn't. Some folks might describe it as "clunky" or "unwieldy" or "a game where I can't hit anything because I can't be arsed to figure out what's going on so the problem is obviously with Lost Planet 2 and not me being so used to Halo: Reach". In real shooting, there's something called suppression. The basic concept is that people don't want to get shot. So when bullets travel in their direction, their first priority is hiding, with "shooting back" falling lower on the list of response. But in videogame shooting, you just have to shoot back better than the guy who's shooting at you. Whoever loses all his health first loses. Suppression schmuppresion.

Lost Planet 2 didn't get that memo, so it does this tricky thing where it messes you up when you're getting shot. If bullets are hitting you, even tiny ones you don't care about, you can't run or throw grenades. It's as if bullets could keep you pinned down and limit your ability to return fire! Crazy, right?

But that's not the real problem. Bullets hurt because Lost Planet 2 isn't a game about health and it's certainly not a game about shields that will come back anyway, so you can feel free to stand around and get shot. Lost Planet 2 is about a finite resource called thermal energy, or T-Eng, or teng, or just go ahead and call it Tang because it's orange and you know you want to.

This is an important resources in terms of your health and -- depending on which weapons you're toting -- firepower. Tang fills up your hit point bar when it's depleted and it's used as ammo in some of the cooler weapons you'll unlock. Tang even affects whether or not you're going to unlock the better weapons and vehicles closed up in treasure boxes, which cost thermal energy to open. Tang is even fuel for vehicles and the juice you spend to repair them. Sharing Tang is an important part of being a team, because you don't want the other guys to die. Your team has limited lives, and once they lose them, you have to restart the level. So if someone has less Tang than you, it's in your best interest to share it. You literally equip a Tang gun and pump Tang into your teammates so he won't die. This teaches our children socialism. You worked hard for all your thermal power, carefully snatching it up whenever someone got killed. Why should you have to share it with some loser who's blowing all his thermal power using a plasma weapon? Redistribution of Tang!

Okay, so if you're a Democrat, it probably sounds like I'm once more talking about how awesome Lost Planet 2 is. That's where you're wrong. My point here is that this cool bit about suppression and thermal energy and the dangers of socialism will be entirely lost on someone who plays Lost Planet 2 at the two lower difficulty levels. Until the game gets more challenging, this stuff doesn't really come into play. You're just shooting and healing and getting shot willy nilly. Little do you know that the harder difficulty levels aren't just enemies with more hit points. Instead, you get a whole new model for gunplay and resource management and teamwork. What kind of imperfect game locks away such a radical shift so that casual players and reviewers will never see it?

Speaking of locking things away, did you know each mech has its own operating manual tucked a few button presses into the options screen? You've probably driven vehicles in Lost Planet 2 without even knowing what they were called, much less that they could turn into submarines or fly or slice bad guys with a giant blade or honk a horn. The average shooter would make a big to-do out of putting even an ordinary vehicle in a level. Lost Planet 2 gives you cool vehicles and then lets you overlook their important features or even ignore them entirely. If I was a game developer and I made a vehicle where two dudes could literally ride shotgun -- one mech has a pair of extra seats with big-ass guns that include shotguns -- then I would build an entire level around forcing three people to pile in so they could see what I made. It's almost as if the developers of Lost Planet 2 are modest, or they want to let you discover things on your own, or maybe they're just being coy. Whatever the case, what kind of imperfect game doesn't shove its every awesome bullet point into your face?

That's actually Lost Planet 2 in a nutshell. Its biggest failing is that you probably have no idea how awesome it is. You and everyone else in the world, which is why you can probably find it for about $10 in the used game bin at Gamestop. If that's not a sign of imperfection, I don't know what is.

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