ping5000's Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (PC) review

A fun, focused shooter.

Lost Planet is a prime example of Capcom’s development procedure. Build a game and then stitch on some context to add texture and reason to the world you’re involving yourself in. Well, granted, this how most developers prioritize, but Capcom’s incompetence in this field is glaringly obvious right from the opening cut-scene. The narrative plods, crawls around and dares you to not guffaw. Still, it’s something you should try to ignore, because Lost Planet provides a weekend’s worth of fun, as the game provides one action-packed sequence after another, all wrapped in a pretty presentation.

Take a roulette wheel with plot devices replacing the numbers and George Lucas. There. You have Lost Planet’s team of writers. It’s tough to overstate just how bad the story is. It’s completely nonsensical and unintentionally hilarious, with characters so lost in their own fiction that almost anything could’ve truly been better. The foundation is good – a winter-bound planet has potential for terraforming, but the Akrid, a native alien, primal race, prove to be a genuine threat to the project. However, the Akrid naturally produce thermal energy, or T-ENG, a powerful and viable energy source. Humans gain a new motivation and here they are, on this perpetually freezing planet, ready to eradicate all Akrid, attain as much Akrid secretion as possible successfully colonize this landmass.

Instead, all eyes are on Wayne, an amnesiac. He’s conveniently forgotten all his memories from an earlier Akrid encounter and so, without much of a justification, his rag-tag team of compatriots send Wayne off into the heart of enemy territory, curb stomping Akrid with robots and shooting anything that turns his crosshairs red. As just an action game, Lost Planet is a lot of fun, but Capcom insists on telling a story. The cut-scenes are technically proficient; they’re framed well, the lip-synching and general emoting is spot-on and the action is exciting. The problem is that it’s all drowned in idiotic, misdirected dialogue that constantly misfires. It feels as if the voice actors were given a piece of Brawny with words on them, led into a solitary room, were told to read said words however the hell they felt like reading them and then were immediately told to leave. Plot holes are massive and about as obvious as the game’s implementation of motion blur (very) and the list really does go on. Lost Planet’s story is a total, absolute failure.

Because of such an egregious story, it’s somewhat of a minor miracle to find that Lost Planet is still very engaging game, even when Capcom’s incredible stable of writers do everything they can to sour the overall experience. Lost Planet plays pretty much like any recent third-person shooter in the past 5 years, with the exception of the grappling hook and sans a cover system. The grappling hook allows you to reach higher ground and will be required in specific instances, but it never does become an integral part of the game. 

You will guide Wayne through 11 missions, shooting everything, jumping into mechs and finishing off the obligatory boss fight in his boss fight arena pit. This pattern repeats until you reach the end, never shifting, varying or changing. Befuddling cut-scene, a level where you shoot every sentient being and anything that glows a hearty orange, and a boss. Rarely does this principal structure vary.

It never feels confining or repetitious, though. The time of day will constantly change, new enemies are introduced, new mechs beg to be driven and the setting slowly shifts away from the winter wonderland as the game goes on. With such a thin narrative barely providing a legitimate excuse for essentially everything, Capcom has leeway. In a sense, the awful story means less effort in providing a true reason for your daring escapades, which lets Capcom toss you into a varied, pulse-pounding adventure with less effort. It still is a migraine-inducing story, though.

Lost Planet provides you with a lot of options on how you’ll go about making things explode and die. There are a lot of guns in the game, ranging from the straightforward machine gun to the criminally awesome laser rifle, which homes onto whatever the hell it feels like gunning down. And that’s just on-foot. You can man mechs with drills, mechs that can practically fly, mechs that morph into snow speeders and even a spider tank. Just like the on-foot action, there’s a lot of weaponry for your mechanized automaton. The so-called shotgun is absurdly attractive and a selection of lasers is open for you to outfit your mech. The gunplay feels punchy and the mechs feel weighty but not overbearingly so. They’re extremely nimble with a tinge of clunkiness.

As interesting as shooting big guns are, it’s important that the stuff you shoot at is worth shooting at and Capcom doesn’t disappoint for the most part. Two enemy types will fill in the role of getting shot at – humans and Akrid. The former is uninteresting, infused with AI that puts self-preservation on bottom of priorities. Fortunately, the Akrid are a memorable assortment of giant bugs and they play the starring role in combat. The giant moth that lays down explosive kidney stones, the hundreds of Starship Troopers-esque mass minions, the giant and angry praying mantis that flails around until it hits something. They’re all awesome and there are much more than the few just mentioned. While their bark is more threatening than their bite, they always look formidable, providing meaty, cinematic firefights, always ending with a rich, rich reward of T-ENG.

T-ENG is essentially an extended life bar. Your T-ENG meter will constantly descend and taking damage will cause it to drain even faster, because it’ll fill up your health back to full. Run out of this precious energy source and you’ll be dead, which in all honesty rarely ever becomes a dire threat, making the idea of surviving off of thermal energy moot. 

Still, T-ENG is fiendish. There’s an innate desire to get every single drop of its sickly sweet orange dew (you don’t need to taste it to know it probably tastes great; shit, just look at it) and as much as you can just run past a lot of firefights, there’s an important reason not to. You know, it keeps you alive. While you never need more than a reservoir of around 2,000, it feels good to know your lifebar is, in actuality, around five times bigger than it really is. This lets a lot of design frustrations slide, because even when you’re locked in a constant stunned animation from a paroxysm of rockets and angry Akrid flailing, the chances are you’ll get out of it unharmed, because of your vast quantities of T-ENG. 

Lost Planet’s presentation adds enormously to the visceral nature of the firefights. The game look terrific. The weather effects are convincing; it looks like this planet is meteorologically unsound. All other effects range from ludicrous to bombastically insane. Everything is always in excess; an explosion hogs your field of vision, excess use of motion blur causes general states of panic and the game is just visually loud. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer intensity of it all and that’s one of Lost Planet’s best qualities. When hoards of Akrid litter the screen with half a dozen explosions going off at once, it’s easy to fall completely in love with this game during some of its more chaotic moments.

The game’s audio can be split into two parts: voice-acting and everything else. As expected, voice-acting is atrocious. Solid actors (Josh Keaton from Spectacular Spider-Man; Nolan North, the man who gave the prince his voice in the latest of Prince of Persia and will continue to voice Nathan Drake in the Uncharted games) are gone to waste, due to a kindergarten script and a total lack of refined direction. On the other side of the coin, sound effects are terrific. It’s loud, explosive, angry and loud. The pow of the mech-mounted shotgun, the roars of the Akrid menace and the woosh of cold winter blizzards work with the visuals to really sell the plausibility and peril of your situation.

The single-player is awfully short, clocking in at around 5 hours. There is a multi-player mode, but without any players online, it might as well not exist. Even with its brevity, Lost Planet is a very dense game, packing in a lot of excitement with the time it has. It never feels drawn out or diluted. If this game was five bucks on some bizarre, interdimensional plane of existence, Lost Planet would be an absolute steal, but a ludicrous sale like that only comes along two weekends ago. Even at its current retail price, Lost Planet is highly recommended. It’s a focused, memorable game, dishing out a chain of sequences that get the heart racing and the dopamine flowing. Just try to block out the story.

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