Back in the days of the 2D game, Capcom was
a powerhouse. A juggernaut if you will. Street Fighter, Megaman, and a whole
host of other franchises kept them going, gamers clamoring for the next
Capcom title. When 3D and the newer generation consoles came along, Capcom
produced again, moving older titles to the consoles and offering up new
franchises like Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, and Viewtiful Joe.
Somehow, somewhere along the line, Capcom
lost their way. One by one, each series has fallen to the wayside, doomed by
bad sequels with lousy gameplay. Megaman is a shell of its former self,
existing its best on handheld platform games. Devil May Cry moved from the
awesome first title to a sequel and then a third, each so bad that they
managed to sour gamers on the original as well. Capcom's fighting game
lineup has evaporated, as Street Fighter, Street Fighter Alpha, and Street
Fighter EX each fell silent after a highly disappointing entry into their
So what was Capcom to do? They went for
broke; in a time when shooting titles became popular, they went to the well
and tried to create a Halo-esque third person shooter. Enter Lost Planet:
Extreme Condition, a game that ought to be used as an example of how not
to make a third-person shooter for many reasons.
To understand Lost Planet, it's helpful to
think of the game-design process as a recipe book. With this, we can
understand where Lost Planet is coming from. Our ingredients are as follows:
- An ice planet, similar enough to
Hoth that one
could see Stormtroopers and AT-ATs crossing the landscape.
A grappling hook lifted directly from
Guns lifted directly from every first person shooter ever made: Laser,
machine gun, grenade, rocket launcher.
Battlemechs - in this case lifted from the Heavy Gear franchise,
but called "Vital Suits."
Weird, alien monsters - in this case, bugs lifted heavily from the
Starship Troopers novel.
Human enemies with AI so bad it's a wonder they can tie their own shoes, and
with firing accuracy eerily similar to the aforementioned Stormtroopers.
Cheap Capcom bosses, featuring "I Win Button" attacks and
cheesy attack sequences long enough to cook a pizza before regaining control
of the character.
A final battle lifted directly from
Mobile Suit Gundam: pick your series.
Take these ingredients, whisk in a mixing
bowl vigorously, pour out, and you have Lost Planet. Lost Planet has some
good qualities to it, but they are few and far between. The game starts out
with an intriguing enough premise (from above, Starship Troopers on Hoth
with Gears); humankind has tried to colonize an ice planet, it didn't work,
and the remaining colonists are fighting for their lives against buglike
enemies called Akrid, enemies that curiously enough spontaneously collect
what the humans need most: thermal energy (heat).
The main character, Wayne, has been
equipped with a "Harmonizer" by his father: the Harmonizer converts heat
into healing power, making it so that Wayne (unlike just about everyone else
on the planet) can survive long firefights even after being hit by, say, a
rocket launcher blast to the face. It also preserves his boyish good looks.
Some things happen, Wayne's dad is killed, his memory is erased, and a long time later, Wayne is
found in a frozen landscape and revived by a scientist (Yuri) and his two
assistants, Rick and Luka.
It's at this point that I must point out
that Luka, despite being on an ice planet, prefers fashions that expose
about half her sizable chest to the cold air. Fan service, anyone?
Yuri tells Wayne that his goal is to kill
the "Green Eye", a giant Akrid that killed Wayne's father. Wayne agrees,
joins up with the group, and starts in blasting monsters. For a couple of
levels, this all works fine; the basic tutorial-type levels involve killing
Akrid. It's fun. Unfortunately, by the third of a mere 11 single-player
levels, the plot has the Akrid taking a distant second to fighting with
other humans; the aforementioned humans who have no aim, no intelligence,
and will stand there being shot at and dying while ineffectively managing to
shoot everything but the main character.
The only time the enemies are effective
is when one of them is in a mech of his own, in which case they are likely
only going to be a minor nuisance; mechs are easily destroyed by other mechs,
especially since the player is inevitably equipped with the specific weapons
most likely to take one down. Bosses, be they enemy mechs or gigantic Akrid,
are Capcom bosses through and through; they follow a set pattern of attacks,
and all one has to do to defeat them is count to the right point in the
pattern and launch a counterattack. Nowhere is this more apparent than the
final Gundam-style fight, in which both mechs mysteriously can fly, but the
enemy mech has "I win button" close-range attacks, multitudes of homing
lasers and missiles, and can only be finished off by a point-blank sword
swipe. Yes, it's that cheesy.
The storyline takes a few time-hops after
certain levels, accompanied by a cutscene and voiceover, but the it turns
out to be rather lame after a while; the entire bit is about taking revenge,
once Wayne begins to figure out who he's supposed to be taking revenge upon.
Multiplayer online play can be fun for a
few hours, but the consensus - even among those who play regularly - is that
the gameplay revolves around who can find the best mech, get into it, and
shoot the other guy.
What's really sad is that for all these
problems, Capcom did manage to get two things right. The world they created,
despite being mostly ice and snow, is breathtakingly beautiful, as are the
enemy designs; even the human clothing has a certain flair that's nice to
see. The second thing they got right is the music, an orchestral score that
could easily be mistaken for something out of Oblivion, or the Lord of the
But it's not worth picking up for those.
Lost Planet is one of those games best left on the shelves.