in Gaming, Reviews

Review: Lost Planet (Xbox 360)

(In the interest of full disclosure: I was given a copy of this game to review by M80, a marketing company who works for Capcom. They emphasized that they wanted me to be honest in my evaluation, and I will be.)

I’ve had my eye on Lost Planet for a while. The downloadable demo was the first thing I played after plugging in my Xbox 360 last fall, and I was hooked right away. This third person shooter puts you in the shoes of Wayne, an amnesiac soldier on a barren, icy planet full of giant hostile bugs known as Akrid. Fighting through the snow covered plains (either on foot or in any number of giant walking robot ‘vital suits’), Wayne seeks both revenge against and an explanation from those responsible for his father’s death. Being an ice planet, players must constantly seek out new sources of heat to avoid freezing to death. Enemies consist of both Akrid and the human “snow pirates”.

Yes, snow pirates. OK, so the story won’t win any awards. In fact, it gets more and more nonsensical as the game progresses – and the situation isn’t helped by some truly awful dialogue. Thankfully, the gameplay isn’t held back by this limitation. I always try to ask myself one question in particular when reviewing a game: Is it fun? Lost Planet absolutely is.

There is a certain simple joy in climbing into a robot battle suit, picking up a rocket launcher, and duking it out with a giant alien bug the size of a small skyscraper. And I’m not exaggerating – some of the enemies you’ll face really are that huge. Click on the thumbnail above for an example (that giant worm is only about halfway out of the ground). Visually, this all occurs in some of the most impressive graphics I’ve ever seen. Whoever did work on Lost Planet’s explosions and smoke effects deserves some kind of award. Most battles in the game involve many instances of both, and they just make blowing something up that much more fun.

Control-wise, Lost Planet has a bit of a learning curve. Each vital suit has it’s own special button scheme, which is only displayed the first time you sit down in one. Find the same model again later, and it’s up to you to both determine which model it is and remember which button does what. And you’ll be switching suits a lot, constantly picking up new ones as your current ride runs out of armor (the possibility exists, of course, that I’m just really bad at the game). A cheat sheet located in the pause menu would really come in handy. Controlling Wayne on foot is thankfully easier to get the hang of, and the ability to zip around a level with his grappling hook is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, there is one major problem with how controlling Wayne is handled. If knocked down by an explosion, the animation as Wayne scrambles back to his feet takes about three seconds. During this time he does not respond to any commands. Three seconds is an eternity in a firefight, as rockets and bugs continue to stream at him. On multiple occasions I found myself simply unable to react: Wayne gets knocked down, spends ages getting back up, gets hit by enemies who have run up to him in the meantime, gets knocked down again, etc. If this happens while you’re backed into a corner, you might as well just restart the level. Wayne won’t be long for this world anyway. Having absolutely no control over this process is extremely frustrating, and I found myself trying to sidestep as many close encounters with enemies as possible as a result.

This is a game I would love to play in surround sound. But as I don’t have such a system, I was limited to stereo. I was still impressed, effects are realistic and even useful. Each gun has such a distinctive sound that it becomes a simple matter to determine exactly what Wayne is under attack by without even spotting the assailants.

The single player mode took me about 8 hours to finish, which feels just about right. I personally prefer games of about this length. They’re meaty enough to be worth playing, but not so involved as to keep me from other things. There’s also a significant amount of replay value in returning to earlier levels, both in optional secondary bosses to fight and hidden items to search out.

The online multiplayer mode is not something I plan on spending a lot of time with. As in any online game with voice chat, there’s a large number of players present with a questionable vocabulary and attitude. If my friends had this game I would gladly play against them. But they don’t, and getting constantly insulted isn’t how I want to unwind after work. I also find the interface and lobby for setting up a game to be confusing, much of which will be clarified in an upcoming patch. I didn’t spend enough time in online play to feel qualified to comment on it any further.

Lost Planet truly shows off the technical capabilities of the Xbox 360. Gorgeous graphics and sound complement solid gameplay. It’s just really too bad that the story wasn’t given more attention.

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  1. I heard you got an advance copy of this game. I’ve been likewise hooked on the demo since it came out and I’ve been waiting patiently to see if the full version lived up to all the coolness they managed to pack into those two trial levels.

    I’m glad to hear that it does. Now I’ll have to go get my own copy!

  2. Thanks for the review, Chad. I always appreciate your reviews, as you offer insight that a normal, very busy person can appreciate. What other games are in your library? Are you playing Gears? What 360 games are you looking forward to the most? I’ve got to say I’m pretty intrigued by Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Alan Wake. I’m still catching up on games with my PS2 (Currently playing God of War), but the upcoming games are making the 360 more appealing. A price drop on the system would make my decision a little easier and probably budge me off the fence.

  3. Jarvis- Yeah the demo did amazing things for this game. I’m not sure I would have given it a second look otherwise.

    Chad- Let’s see, at the moment my 360 library includes:
    Rainbow Six: Vegas
    Gears of War
    Dead Rising

    Of the list, the only one I regret buying is Chromehounds. I can’t get into it for some reason. Rainbow Six and Gears of War both have amazingly fun co-op online play, but both also fall victim to my same concerns about the online play in Lost Planet – I just don’t enjoy playing against random people online.

    I’m really, really excited about Mass Effect. The original Knights of the Old Republic game for the Xbox is one of my favorites ever, and this will be from the same team. Alan Wake and Bioshock both look great as well. I’ve pre-ordered Guitar Hero II and Crackdown (think sort of like Grand Theft Auto, but with super powers and less questionable content) for the 360 as well. I also find myself playing Lumines a lot. It’s a puzzle/music game you purchase and download over Xbox Live.

    How is God of War? That’s one in my eternal “would really like to play someday” pile, and the upcoming sequel looks especially nice.

  4. God of War is pretty sweet. I’m about 4 hours into it a loving it. I’d love to finish it in time for the release of God of War 2, but it’s not likely to happen. My gaming time is pretty limited, so it takes me a while to get through games. I’m also working through Lego Star Wars 2, Bully, and Resident Evil 4, with the occasional side-game of Madden. I also got a few other games for Christmas which I haven’t even scratched the surface on. I highly recommend LSW2, as it is a good sit on the couch and chill game that is fun to play. Lots of puzzles, unlockables, and more keep this game fun. I’ve got over 22 hours in the game, and I’m only at 50% complete.

    I did take your advice a while back and picked up a used copy of Beyond Good and Evil. I loved the game and the story, although I’ve still got to beat the final boss. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but got a little impatient and quit. I just need to set aside some time to beat the final boss and beat the game. Thanks for recommending a good quality game. With the exception of the last boss, I found that the game is a good, relaxing game that is neither too challenging or too easy.

    I, too, have a “would like to play someday pile.” I’m sort of torn between trying to work my way through this pile (or my Amazon wish list) versus buying a next-gen console and playing some of the newer games. The newer games have online functionality, so playing with others might be nice. However, I agree with you that I’m not up to playing with total strangers. Perhaps in the future we could have a librarians take over XBOX Live night 😉 .

    Which brings me to another 360 question. Were you concerned at all about the reliability of the system before “Jumping In”? It just seems that there are tons of cases online of folks with the 3 red rings, etc. Have you or any of you 360-owning buddies had any problems thus far? Just curious about this, as it still may be a little while before I can justify a new system, so perhaps MS will have some of these issues resolved. You never know, by the time I’m ready to buy one, the price might be cut by 50% and include a 120 Gig HD, HDMI port, and more goodies. One can only hope, right? Once again, thanks for the game reviews and discussion.

  5. I was definitely a bit concerned, having heard a few maintenance horror stories from friends who had the console before me. But I think the problems were mostly confined to the first run of 360s. I haven’t had a single problem with mine. I think part of that might be because I keep mine out in the open, not confined in an entertainment center at all, so it has plenty of airflow and never gets close to overheating. The 360 puts out a lot of heat, and so ventalation seems very important to me.

    Plus, MS upgraded the warranty on 360s to one one year recently, so that takes a bit of the worry off.

    I think the larger hard drive in particular is inevitible. 20gb is just not very much space when MS is renting downloadable HD movies that go over 5gb each!

    And a librarian night sounds like a ton of fun :)  Glad you like BG&E!  In a way it might be a good thing if you don’t finish the game, so you’re not presented with the cliffhanger that will never be resolved 😛