Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

January 30, 2007

After being rescued, by a band of Snow Pirates, from a frozen Vital Suit buried in the ice, you emerge as Wayne Holden. Wayne is a forgotten soul with almost no recollection of the past. Armed with only the knowledge of a few painful memories you team up with a small group of survivors and battle the NEVEC Corporation and the deadly aliens that inhabit this ice covered world, the Akrid. Your goal? Uncover your past, find the truth behind NEVEC, and eliminate the Akrid known as “Green Eye.”

[i]Lost Planet[/i] is Capcom’s newest blockbuster hit for the Xbox 360. Its release triggered swirling rumors that Capcom was in a prime position to be acquired by Microsoft, something that has yet to happen. One thing that has happened is that Capcom has hit its stride with the 360.

[i]Lost Planet[/i] is a third person shooter (TPS) that takes place on the frozen planet of E.D.N. III. This planet was chosen as a future location for human expansion, but being a frozen wasteland, was in need of some massive terraforming. Sometime during the settlement process an alien species known as the Akrid decided to welcome the human settlers. The settlement process came to a halt as they realized their inferior weapons were no match for the Akrid. That is, until the humans discovered the powerful thermal energy, T-ENG, inside the Akrid and all over the planet. Suddenly E.D.N. III was worth fighting for. The humans developed a weapon that would allow them to fight the Akrid, the Vital Suit or VS for short. A VS is basically a single person mech that is able to carry various types of weaponry. These Vital Suits are being used to help NEVEC with The Frontier Project. The Frontier Project is the current initiative to wipe out all life on the planet and warm the climate to enable massive human settlements to move in. The Snow Pirates also use the Vital Suits to fight the Akrid and prevent NEVEC from succeeding with The Frontier Project.

At its core, [i]Lost Planet[/i] is a standard TPS that allows you to approach each of the missions with a stealth tactic or with one of the many Vital Suits lying around. During some missions you are forced to go on foot or in a VS, but in many cases you do have the choice. There are 7 different VS models that each have a different set of features ranging from the types of guns they have built in to their speed and jumping abilities. The number of weapon choices are equally as vast and range from a standard machine gun/gatling gun all the way up to rocket launchers and laser rifles. There are also a few types of grenades that you can carry and lob at other Snow Pirates or enemy VSs.

[i]Lost Planet[/i] stands out in my mind with its inclusion of a [i]Bionic Commando[/i] style grappling hook that Wayne carries. This hook allows you to easily climb into hard to reach places and doubles as a safety net if you should accidentally fall off a ledge. Using it quickly becomes second nature. Wayne also has an incredible vertical leap that makes him seem almost super human. As you run around the levels you will get the opposite impression of Wayne as he seems to move far too slowly for my tastes. You eventually get used to it, but it almost feels like he is running in knee deep mud. I would have applauded Capcom if this effect was only present while running through snow, but you don’t seem to speed up on solid ground. In the end, I guess it’s a wash.

Each mission is loaded with waypoints that make short gaming sessions an option. Instead of being dumped back at the beginning of the current level every time you die or have to quit playing you are allowed to save, quit, and return to the last waypoint you passed. Saving is handled automatically so in essence you just have to quit the game and return when you are ready to play. In every case that I can recall, there was a waypoint at the moment you entered the boss fight at the conclusion of each level which makes fighting a tough boss a little easier to stop and pick back up later.

If you have played the game even for a little bit then you know I have omitted a huge part of the gameplay so far, the role that T-ENG plays in you staying alive. You do have a standard life gauge in [i]Lost Planet[/i], but you also have a T-ENG counter. You see, Wayne is equipped with a special device called the Harmonizer. The Harmonizer converts T-ENG into life. This means that getting hit by enemy fire only temporarily lowers your life meter. After a brief instant, your T-ENG count decreases as your life is refilled. You will also notice that your T-ENG counter counts down even when you are taking damage; this is normal behavior. Piloting a VS drastically increases the rate at which your T-ENG decreases. Run out of T-ENG and you are ejected from the VS. Having available T-ENG also doesn’t prevent you from dying. Taking a massive hit from an enemy that takes more than your current life, as the T-ENG to life conversion isn’t instantaneous, then you will die. T-ENG is collected after other Snow Pirates or Akrid are killed; it’s the glowing red stuff on the ground. There are also plenty of T-ENG silos all over the place that can be blown up and collected. Managing your T-ENG, life, and ammo are where [i]Lost Planet[/i] becomes a real challenge. There is a minor learning curve as you learn how the game is played, but nothing that will scare away prospective fans of the game.

Visually and aurally [i]Lost Planet[/i] is amazing. Everytime I turn the game on I comment on how crisp and clean everything is in HD. The sound effects and voice acting are also spot on. When a VS explodes or a rocket makes contact, you can hear and feel the impact, depending on your sound system of course.

From a storytelling standpoint I really got into [i]Lost Planet[/i]. There were a few times where I thought the character interaction was a little cheesy, but as things progressed I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next. Capcom did a good job of blending the gameplay and story portions of the game into a finished product.

When you get right down to it, [i]Lost Planet[/i] is an amazing game that delivered on all of my expectations. Crystal clear visuals and sound bundled with a good story and awesome gameplay. I’ve always considered Capcom a great studio, but they really raised the bar with this one and I’ll be expecting even more out of them in the future. [i]Lost Planet[/i] gets a thumbs up and a definite purchase rating from me, even with a $60 price tag.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.