I totally get what Lost Planet 2 is attempting. As a third-person shooter, it tries to deliver a science fiction story with six different episodes full of many different, but still kinda hokey, elements. What sets it apart are the Vital Suits, which are basically huge mechas with even huger guns. While the first Lost Planet offered co-op play, because of the difficulty and the way that the boss battles are scripted, the sequel pretty much requires it. But if you don’t have a regular group of shooter fans and you prefer to play solo (like me, for example), it’s not very fun.

Lost Planet 2 (LP2) is set on the planet of E.D.N. III, which has been colonized by humans for about a hundred years. There are several factions in place on the planet including but not limited to Snow Pirates, Jungle Pirates, Mountain Pirates, Carpetbaggers, Vagabundos and NEVEC. The planet was wrapped in snow and ice, but the evil corporation NEVEC has been agitating the indigenous super huge insects called Akrid in order to harvest their “thermal energy.” It’s unclear, at least to me, why heat is such a coveted resource on a planet that seems to have jungles and deserts.

Taking place 10 years after the events of the first game, the plot of LP2 is barely detectable from the cutscenes because every character is wearing some kind of head gear. The character models themselves are neat (I especially like the Vagabundo’s take on Homungus from The Road Warrior) but it’s very hard to identify with characters when you can’t see their eyes. There’s nothing engaging about watching four identical masked men jibber-jabber complex plot points at each other. It doesn’t help that most of the voiceover actors sound like generic military guy #5. That, and the campaign’s six episodes jump from character to character and faction to faction, so that you never feel invested in who or what you’re blowing up. If you don’t care about story and only want to know where to point the gun, then there is plenty of available targets.

You do blow up a lot of stuff, and that is pretty fun. There is an abundance of firepower in LP2, usually supplied by the vital suits, horribly abbreviated as VSs – isn’t that the same number of syllables? You can strap into these things like Ripley’s going out of style and wreak havoc upon … whoever. Other players can repair your suit if it takes damage, but that takes T-ENG, which is the game’s short hand for thermal energy.

Everybody on the planet is searching for more and bigger guns, at least three of the episodes involve stealing a gun so huge that it has its own train, or a ship that has some big laser gun. You need this explosion stuff to take out the bigger Akrid, who always seem to appear at the end of chapters. The boss fights are slogs, though, unless you are playing with people who’ve played through the campaign before. But a game shouldn’t only be fun the second third time you play it.

That is the major failing of LP2: it’s all about co-op. In the first game, you can play cooperatively but it was hardly a necessity. With the sequel, it feels like Capcom wanted to steal Left 4 Dead 2‘s gameplay by forcing you to play with other people. You can play by yourself, with up to 3 AI bots to assist you, but they don’t do very much. This is especially evident for the many boss battles, where there is usually something that players have to do together. Understanding what you and your team is supposed to do at any given moment is not always obvious. There’s one fight where you have to kill a big Akrid who is chasing the aforementioned train gun. You have to kill it, ostensibly by using the huge gun, but how that occurs is a bit of mystery. It shouldn’t be left to trial and error to figure out that you have to bring the shells to the gun, load them, then turn the gun to point at the big bug. All of this is possible solo, but it is really necessary to have buddies with you to load the shells, “energize” them with T-ENG and then assist in turning the big ass gun. If you are alone, all of those tasks take up too much time and the boss is busy eating the ship.

All of this makes the big climactic fights feel like WoW boss fights when no one has read the strategy guide: “Oh I get it, I’ll shoot the big weapon over here and you go over there and activate that data post while Shooter McJones shoots thermal energy at me if I take damage.” I can see that this might be fun if you have a tightknit group or lightning strikes and your PUG is awesome, but playing as a novice the first time through LP2 isn’t easy, even on easy. It’s just a hard game, there’s no other way to put it.

I would commend the effort if it was a simple task to find a partner to play through the campaign, but the system provided by Capcom isn’t ideal. Searching for a specific chapter or episode to play over Xbox Live is easy enough, and I played a lot of the game with other random people from places like Germany or Australia. The problem is that you can only join games in chapters that you’ve already completed. If you try to join a game already in progress, even only a few seconds, it bumps you out. Perhaps if there were more games being played, then I could join a chapter in “standby” and start the mission together. As it was, I hosted my own games and started the mission after I grew tired of waiting for some random gamer to join me.

LP2 has most of the pieces for a great game, but it just doesn’t put them all together correctly. Riding in a VS is fun, and the abundance of grenades and rocket launchers makes for some big explosions, and everyone loves blowing stuff up. I just wish that the story was a little more streamlined and, if the co-op was going to be the focus, it was a hell of a lot easier to find a group than it currently is.

Bottom Line: The guns and bugs make for some spectacular fireworks, but, after the sparks settle, you are left wishing you had played something a little more substantial.

Recommendation: Pick up Lost Planet 2 if you have a core group of shooter fans to tackle the campaign together, but if you like playing on your own, look elsewhere for your shooter fix.

[rating=3]

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Greg Tito wishes that they lost the planet.

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