The following is a conversation I had with my girlfriend regarding Lost Planet 2.
Her: "I thought you didn't like that game, so why are you still playing it?"
Me: "Because I think it might get better."
I wish the game got better, because ultimately I decided after playing through the first half of the campaign of Lost Planet 2 that there was no point in playing the rest because it was just too much of a grind to finish it playing it by myself. The last part of that sentence is the critical part, because if you play the game with others the game is marginally better, but there are still critical flaws in the game but we'll get to that in a minute. It's not that I didn't want to like Lost Planet 2, it's just that Lost Planet 2 seems to fight the concept of fun at every step.
Lost Planet 2 is set on E.D.N. III (which is much catchier than LV-426), the same place you battled it out in the first game. Big changes are afoot as
the planet has undergone some serious terraforming in the decade sine the first game, and now features some level types other than "Hoth". Now you get to shoot people and giant monsters in deserts, jungles, and cities. If the later levels of the game feature a office building and a warehouse then I think they'll have checked off every single generic shooter environment we've seen before.
There are a couple of other cool new features in the game, like the harmonizer which allows you to convert thermal energy (t-eng) to health. Since you no longer need thermal energy to stay alive in the cold environments, this makes collecting thermal energy helpful. You can still die with a full load of t-eng in your backpack though, so you learn very quickly to pace yourself in combat.
Lost Planet 2 ships with two major modes. A co-op campaign and a set of online competitive multiplayer maps. The co-op campaign is fixed to four people and broken out into six episodes with three or so chapters in each episodes. The game lacks drop-in/drop out co-op which means that you have to wait until you hit one of the chapter breaks before you can re-start the game with your friends. This might have been acceptable a few years ago, but right now it's a major feature miss. This wouldn't be so bad if playing the game by yourself was enjoyable at all.
Why you ask? It's because the your AI teammates seems to be based on a bad high school relationship. They are eager to please but they are super clingy and tend to be a bit on the clumsy side. Clingy is great when they serve as a meat shield between you and enemies, but that meat shield is a problem when they can block outgoing rocket fire which causes some un-fun localized splash damage. The AI is also useless on some of the more complex missions that require you to have an organized team that's doing multiple things at once. For example: during the final level of the third episode you're fighting one of giant Akrid Category G monsters and to do so you need to load and fire a cannon while fighting it off the beast. In addition, you need to have some of your teammates repair the train you are on so you can live long enough to get a few shots off with the big gun. Instead of having the AI either fill in the games and do the stuff I wasn't I was forced to try and to everything by myself while my AI teammates sat around, occasionally firing the occasional shot at the giant beast attacking the train.
The game isn't helped by it's incoherent plot. There's no central theme to the game other than you're playing members of a team made up of clones that go from one place to another and kill things of various shapes and sizes. At one point I was almost hoping that one of the characters would have a previously un-mentioned spouse,child, third cousin, that we could rescue just to break things up a bit but the team really seems like a really violent gang that goes where they are told and blows stuff up.
The highly fluid plot is further muddied by the fact that your compatriots do not have consistent names. Every time you play the game by yourself you're going to get a new set of names for your squad mates which kills any kind of continuity from one play session to the next. I guess I could see that replicating the online experience of having new team members every time might be kind of cool conceptually but from a plot point of view it feels messy. Halo 3 pulled this off pretty well and it would have been nice to have people play characters in the game instead of just playing themselves (if that makes any sense).
The value and enjoyment you derive from the campaign mode of Lost Planet 2 is going to be based primarily by how many people you play the game with. If you play the campaign by yourself you're probably not going to get a lot out of the game,
as parts of the game are a bit on the dull side, if you play through with some friends you might actually have a bit of fun. Not a lot of fun but at least some more fun than dealing with a bunch of oddly named hangers on.
Another quirky thing about Lost Planet 2 is the game's inconsistent use of quick time events. Instead of making them part of the game they occur in the rendered interstitials between sections of the game. There's nothing like putting down the controller after a heated battle for a quick drink and then having to fumble for the controller to save your character from instant death.
Like Darth Vader,
there is some good in the game. The VS Suits mechanical robots from the first game are back and are a lot of fun to play with. There's a nice variety to them as you've got everything from small one person robots to large three seaters that can deal a large amount of damage. You can also hang onto the side of the VS Suits which is new to the series.
Also returning is the giant Akrid monsters that are attracted to the t-eng like the worms in Dune. Some of the smaller ones are interesting but it's the giant ones that are the most fun. They are all very well designed and Capcom did a good job of making sure they are unique and integrated into the game. Some of them are little more than bullet sponges, just there to soak up bullets, missiles, and grenades but there are others that require some teamwork and thought to take out quickly.
One nice co-op feature is that you can shoot t-eng to your teammates in the game to help keep them alive. It requires some work and line of sight but it's a nice innovation for the co-op folks out there.
The game's online multiplayer is also something of a bright spot. The Capture the Flag variant has you attempting to get Akrid eggs from one side to another and the Post Grab mode is also fun as you have to work with your team to capture and retain data pods that are scattered around the level. These modes have been done in other games in one format or another so I'm not sure that the online multiplayer is a reason to plunk down money for the game.
Lost Plant 2 is a bit of an ambitious title as they went whole-hog into creating a co-op game that was ultimately undermined by it's poor co-op implementation Adding in drop-in/drop out co-op won't fix the plot or AI issues. but it will make the game a bit more than a bargain bin pick-up.