If you’ve ever had that dream where all the awesome things you love are in one place, but everything is a little hazy and it all ends too soon when you wake up, you’ll have a good idea what playing Lost Planet is like. This ported Xbox 360 game is packed to the brim with enough giant insects, killer worms, armored mechs, and glorious explosions to enthrall any science-fiction geek. Its only major shortcoming is that all of this awesomeness is crammed into a package that’s all too brief—we completed the fantastic single-player campaign in just over six hours.
The setting for this third-person bug-smashing romp is E.D.N. III, an ice-covered planet that foolish humans tried to colonize once upon a time. After their first attempt to conquer both the icy elements and native inhabitants (the bugs) failed miserably, the original colonists eventually resorted to piracy to survive. Yes, they’re snow-faring pirates—this game is that cool. As Wayne, you not only pump rifle rounds into hundreds of roaring bugs and pesky pirates but also fend off attacks from the evil NEVEC corporation, which is hell-bent on terraforming the planet in another attempt to make it inhabitable.
While unraveling the conspiracy behind NEVEC’s operation, we blew our way through 10 missions that traversed snow-covered mountains, snow-covered caves, and abandoned snow-covered ghost towns. Though the frosty theme blanketed most of the environments, the variety of opponents, weapons, and mechs mixed up the fights sufficiently to keep us entertained. The levels are actually timed to a certain extent, as a thermal-energy meter slowly drains as you move and take damage. Vanquished bugs and pirates drop gooey puddles of thermal energy, but I always found that I had more than enough to complete most levels at a comfortable pace.
And here’s where Lost Planet’s gameplay flaw reveals itself. Players rushing to reach the end of a level can simply sprint through most of the action, bypassing firefights and confrontations while conserving thermal energy. In fact, once we realized this trick, most shoot-outs felt more like irritating obstacles than intense challenges of firearm prowess.
Luckily, reaching the end of a level is its own reward, as epic boss battles are the best part of the game. Whether we were launching barrages of rockets into a giant moth or pumping lead into squadrons of NEVEC mechs, each boss encounter was a different and memorable experience that kept us on the edge of our seat. We could even excuse the somewhat predictable and repetitive attack patterns of the bosses, since this only reminded us of classic side-scrolling platformers.
Though we lament the lack of Games for Windows Live support (no achievements or matchmaking), the mouse and keyboard controls are surprisingly responsive and functional, making bug-squashing even more fluid and easy. Lost Planet also boasts long-awaited DirectX 10 enhancements—if you’re running Windows Vista. Existing pretty shadows and snow-particle effects look even prettier, as long as you can take the framerate performance hit. We’re also digging the improved multiplayer support Capcom is providing with the game. While there’s no crossplatform play here, PC-exclusive maps and models are available for download. Little extras like this add welcome value to an already enjoyable game; Lost Planet sets a great example of how console games can be successfully ported to the PC.
Land of the Lost
Fast-paced and visually gratifying action both offline and online.
All-too-brief campaign that's hastened by a minor faulty gameplay mechanic.