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Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
From: Capcom
For: Xbox 360
Genre: Action, Sci-fi, Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Some gamers set their internal clocks by the release dates of games. As in "what time is it? A few minutes before Twilight Princess? Half past Tony Hawk? A quarter to MotorStorm?" As you read this, the clock hands are at straight-up Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. It just wasn't a real New Year until the first BIG GAME showed up.
Posted January 17, 2007
Suitable to the first cold months of a new year, Lost Planet offers a world of "Extreme Conditions" indeed: It plays on a freezing, miserable snowball of a planet where thermal energy must be harvested and used continually in the name of survival. The vital orange glop that provides this thermal energy throughout the game, unfortunately, must come from a nasty indigenous insecticile race known as the Akrid, who'd just as well see the humans become corpsesicles. Cue the big weapons and giant, romping, stomping, flying, scooting, robo ("vital") suits, and let the cross-species genocide begin.

Combat, either on-foot or utilizing the aforementioned mechanized stompers/vital suits is tempered by the ever-present threat of the elements. That is, every time you wipe out an enemy, a small amount of energy is left behind, which you pilfer for yourself, because your own supply is always dwindling, dwindling. Furthermore, if you take damage, your energy is shunted into your health bar; better to further-dwindle energy than just be dead. The pacing of this health/energy/dwindle scheme is nicely balanced; were it more accelerated it would be a game of needless paranoia, like interactive withdrawl/detox/fix-finding, which would be annoying. Instead, the drain-scheme is just urgent enough to prod the player along. It's okay to do a little exploring for exploration's sake, but you need to keep finding orange-coughing things to kill (that, or the occasional data/energy post) or you're done.

Despite the next-gen platform and visuals (particularly beautiful in high definition), Lost Planet has its heart in some very old-school sensibilities. This isn't a knock against it, but simply a fact: Very soon into the game a distinct pattern emerges: view a (great-looking) cinematic, wipe out a gauntlet of not-particularly-bright enemies, encounter some gigantor "level boss," and, hopefully, scrape out of said boss-fight without having your bipedal behind frozen off or handed to you.

Speaking of patterns, the boss battles are where experienced gamers will really start to sense Lost Planet's old-school roots. Expect to try out new and interesting swear words as you try-and-die looking for a boss Akrid's vulnerability, the one chink in his/its behavioral armor. Also true to the hallowed games of yore, you'll be fighting these boss baddies in multiple stages, so curb your enthusiasm the first time you "take a boss down." As you should know, he's only "mostly dead." He'll be baaaack.

There are mech'ed-up humans to face in these epic battles as well, but on the whole, they're not as threatening -- nor as unique -- as their alien counterparts are.

As for variations on Lost Planet's been-here-done-this game design, there's an extremely nifty grappling hook that allows you to get around vertically -- though it's a little heartbreaking to discover that it can't be used if your feet aren't actually touching the ground (i.e., no crazy on-the-fly stunts or stumble-trip saves). Thankfully, a good range of weapons and vital suits (including oddball configurations like arachnoidal drillers) combined with fully destroyable battlefield terrain and (temporary) cover keeps gameplay bustling.

Cool too, the game is admirably flexible. While your path is ultimately linear (complete with old-school disappointments, like invisible walls), you'll usually have a more than one tactical choice on how to get to the next area. Furthermore, there's not any one "right" tool for the job. Instead of pouring clips of ammo at an enemy's Achilles' heel (or whatever), you can use a well-time explosion or grapple to stun the enemy, giving you a clear, crippling shot. Unfortunately, this also applies to you, and in an oft-frustrating way: the animation sequence of your character taking a bad hit is just that fraction of a second too long; it's not uncommon for your foes to start lighting you up every-second-on-the-second, making it difficult to recover and get out of a kill-zone. It's possible to do a stealth dodge to break out of the pattern, but when you're in the thick of it part of your old-school gamer brain may be screaming "Cheap! Cheap!" in these frustrating moments.

Eight multiplayer maps are also available out of the box (with more to be available in the future via download, according to Capcom), and the game supports 16 players via Xbox Live (sorry, no co-op or split-screen mode).

The online multiplayer component is nothing to write home about, mind you. It includes such modes as elimination/team elimination (deathmatch), a self-explanatory chase-the-fugitive variant (very tense and cool, for as long as you can manage it), and a "post grab," where stations provide both game points and radar information to holding teams.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition shines brighter with its single-player campaign.

Overall, Lost Planet looks great and sounds okay (don't be holding your breath for any award-winning cinema here, but it does the job). It's relatively short in the campaign regard (perhaps 12-14 hours), but does a good job of proving that the Xbox 360's "new wave" of games can be rooted in gameplay first, showy visuals second nonetheless.

Go ahead and eat the orange snow as found in the first BIG GAME of the year; it's actually pretty tasty.
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Bang for your buck:
Great Rental 
Good New Purchase 
Great Pre-played 
Excellent Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  4  (out of 5)