Wednesday, April 4, 2007
"Lost Planet," despite being a modern, high-tech title, brings me back to the days of gaming long past, when top-of-the-line graphics were 8-bit, when you could spot a hardcore gamer by his untidy mullets and his Alf T-shirt, and when dedicated players keeled over dead from exhaustion—not while farming for gold in "World of Warcraft" but by going for the top score in "Donkey Kong" or "Galaga."
In other words, "Lost Planet" is not about graphics. They're there. The snow is pretty, the faces are decent, blah, blah, bah. It's not about storyline. The characters have names, and I believe there is, at the very least, an attempt to string together a plot. Good enough. But the true appeal of "Lost Planet" can be summed up in a single sentence: There are massive, man-eating bugs, and you have lots of guns. Does any real gamer need to know more?
Now, I'm supposed to be reviewing all aspects of the product, and I will, but as I continue, keep in mind that the bottom line on this game is that it is simple and executed with near perfection.
By definition, "Lost Planet" is a third-person shooter. But as soon as you pick it up, you'll notice a clear distinction between it and games like "Gears of War" or "SOCOM." Rather than using tactical, sometimes team-based strategies to conquer a set number of enemies, in "Lost Planet" you're thrown onto an inhospitable ice planet and inundated with literally infinite enemies, be they colossal bugs—the Akrid—enemy snow pirates or the planet itself. Due to the extreme cold, the only way to survive is by using your thermal energy pack, and that can be recharged only by activating checkpoints or killing enemies. The challenge is finding enough ammo to fight off the Akrid and rival snow pirates, so that you can make your way through the level and keep your thermal energy high. That will keep you safe from the cold and heal you in case of injury. Throw in family-size Akrid and human bosses that are able to kill you in a couple of hits, and you have yourself one hell of a game.
Even beyond that, the player can pilot a vital suit. If you're familiar with armored cores, mobile suits or orbital frames, think small versions. If you aren't, imagine a 10-foot suit of armor. This amps up the game's scale, allowing you to fight enemies the size of buildings.
The graphics and sound are passable, but what really strikes me is the level design. The world is massive, and each level feels like an honest-to-god journey. There is very little waiting around—your thermal energy needs constantly propel you deeper into the planet—but even progressing through the levels at an ambitious rate, completing the game will take some time.
The plot and character design are the game's greatest failure. The characters are developed in traditional Capcom style, and could have been much better. All of the characters have personalities, and they each play a role in the overarching plot of "Lost Planet." But it feels distinctly like much was left out. Characters form teams, friendships and romances that never develop. So many things happen for little reason other than advancing the plot, and in the end, this detracts from the experience.
"Lost Planet" is a good game that both old-school and new-school gamers can appreciate. Despite a few elements that detract from the overall quality, it's simple, quiet, bug-slaughtering perfection.
What more could you want?
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