• Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Capcom’s first release since their surprise hit Dead Rising, arrived amid high expectations due in large part to the very popular demos of the game that appeared on Marketplace last year. While they showed how great the game looked, several questions still remained unanswered, most importantly: Did Capcom adjust the often cursed “Nope, can’t save here” system of progression from Dead Rising? To that, I’m happy to say “YES”! Checkpoints, bad-ass bosses and some very cool weaponry are all included in Lost Planet, plus a hero named Wayne (which is long over due in my humble opinion).

    The storyline for Lost Planet places you on the frozen world of E.D.N. III during the second attempt to colonize the planet, where hordes of Akrid inhabitants are less than thrilled with their new neighbors. Adding to the misery are the unfortunate humans that were left behind when the first attempt to establish a livable environment failed. Forced to fend for themselves, they’ve now banded together to form what’s known as Snow Pirates and they’re not a happy bunch either.

    Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

    The game begins when your character, Wayne, witnesses his father’s death during an Akrid battle and nearly dies himself. Rescued by Yuri, Rick and Luca, a small band of Snow Pirates, Wayne realizes that something about himself has changed, although he has very little recollection of the events that took place before his rescue. Here begins the struggle to understand all that has happened and ultimately avenge his father’s death.

    The first thing any player will notice when they begin the game is how good it looks. The creative and unique environment is presented brilliantly. Couple that with spot on audio effects of crunching snow, and one can almost feel the dangerously cold temperatures when crossing the landscape. Frame rates during gameplay remain pretty consistent with only the slightest slowdown during times when very heavy action and smoke effects are taking place. These impressive frame rates carried over onto Live as well as I experienced no overwhelming slowdowns during multiplayer matches regardless of the number of players.

    Also impressive are the creatures that make up the Akrid race. These insect-like aliens, the baddest of which are huge monstrosities, come at you with voracious tenacity and taking them down is no small feat. While the A.I. for the Snow Pirates is sort of hit or miss, the Akrid offer up a challenge that shooter fans will appreciate.

    One interesting thing to note is that nearly of all of the characters in Lost Planet are covered from head to toe in cold weather gear with the exception of Luca whose constantly exposed cleavage suggests that mammary glands must generate a ton of heat in the future. Gotta’ love those Japanese animators.

    The game is chock full of cool gadgets and weapons. One of the more handy gadgets is the Anchor, a grappling hook of sorts, that can allow your character to reach elevated terrain or even cross short distances quickly by latching on to a nearby object and letting the retraction of the Anchor whisk you quickly out of harms way. By far though, the most fun toys to play with in Lost Planet are the Vital Suits. Think of the V.S. as a mini mech complete with heavy, interchangeable weapons. Familiarizing oneself with the different models can come in handy since each offers it’s own different movement capabilities which can help or hurt during battle depending on the situation.

    The linear style of gameplay in Lost Planet is very good and tasks such as collecting Thermal Energy, activating Data Posts and digging for items in the snow are integrated well. One thing to note is missions are a bit inconsistent as far as their difficulty. While some offered up a real challenge to complete, others seemed a little too easy. The exception to this are the Boss battles which all proved to be quite challenging, although their old-school style of “shoot – run in circles – jump – repeat” was a little disappointing.

    As I mentioned earlier, Xbox Live play runs beautifully. Options abound with 4 different modes, Elimination, Team Elimination, Post Grab and Fugitive, each available in either Player Match or Ranked Match flavors. Online matches differ a bit by using a Battle Gauge in place of the single player Life Gauge. Each player’s Battle Gauge starts at the same value (determined by the host) when matches begin. Getting killed depletes the gauge, while administering a kill and capturing Data Posts will increase the gauge. Once any player’s Battle Gauge hits zero, the game is over and the standings are calculated.

    The best word to describe a multiplayer battle is hectic. The maps are reasonably sized so the action is fast and kills come quickly, especially when you’ve got the maximum of 16 players going at it at once. The only downside I found in multiplayer was the limited amount of spawning locations which ends up resulting in a large number of “spawn kills”. Otherwise, the gameplay on Xbox Live is a fantastic and most “Multiplayer Only” fans should find the game worthy of adding to their collection.

    In spite of Capcom falling back on a couple of old-school videogame tactics (the constant need for collecting things and the ‘circle and shoot’ Boss battles I mentioned), Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a worthy follow-up to Dead Rising and a good title to kick off their 2007 videogame season.

    Score: 8/10

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