|Ported from the Xbox360, the PS3 version, to judge by the ever-reliable opinion of the internet, doesn't run quite as well. Load times, at least, are improved, since the game, like another recent Capcom PS3 effort, Devil May Cry 4, requires a full install of about five gigabytes of data to the PS3 hard drive. I can't say that I noticed real framerate issues during the single-player campaign, although some of the more intense boss fights can get a little chuggy--but this isn't very unusual in video game boss fights in general. One or two of the larger multiplayer maps are a little slow in spots.|
Lost Planet takes place on an icy world, and the snow-coated environments give the game a distinct look. The renderer enhances this with subtle but pervasive particle and blur effects. Possibly as a side effect of these, or possibly as a way to boost performance, during gameplay characters have a pixelated look, as if they're being rendered at a lower resolution (lower than the game's maximum 720p, that is) somehow. You can't really see this while things are in motion, but it stands out when you're at rest, and makes it hard to distinguish fine details on the character models, which is a shame, because they look pretty well done, even if most are muffled in bulky snow suits.
The story's busty main female character isn't quite so wrapped up, of course; in fact it's rather comical to see her cruising through arctic conditions on a jet-powered snowmobile without any face or eye protection at all. I'll admit that for a video game character she's attractive to the point of absurdity, and one of the only reasons for not skipping through the main story's cinematic scenes. These are well directed and animated, and pretty decently acted, but the script isn't great, and the story makes less and less sense as it goes on. I should have known things weren't going to go well when it starts out with a bout of amnesia, one of the hallmarks of a bad story. It's all something to do with an evil corporation exploiting this arctic alien world, and they killed your daddy, so you're gonna stop 'em. All well and good, as long as you can ignore the completely nonsensical ways in which the characters travel from unspecified place to place, and the gratuitous scientific law-breaking that goes on in the final stages.
On the plus side, the action is pretty good. Bundled up and trudging through snow, your character, viewed in third person, moves pretty slowly, but skillful use of your zipline-style grappling hook will have you zinging around to strategic points in no time. You don't take any damage from falling, aside from losing a few seconds recovering from the landing, and this gives a nice sense of reckless freedom to getting around.
The slow movement is even more key because you rely on thermal energy ("T-Eng") to stay alive: in single-player, it heals damage to your character, and it also powers all of the energy weapons and mechs ("Vital Suits" or "VS") you come across. You can get more T-Eng by activating data posts dotted here and there around the maps. This is a little annoying at first, especially since activating them involves crouching down and mashing the button for a while, but you get used to it eventually. In multiplayer, you can also absorb T-Eng at certain generator points.
The data posts are also supposed to have a little flare that points you to your next destination, but if you don't sync every post--and some are easily missed--you'll lose this trail. A lot of the single-player maps are wide-open affairs, where enemies just keep respawning, and I wasted a lot of time bumbling around until I finally figured out what I had to do and where to go. Admittedly, I didn't bother checking my map screen much--partly because the game doesn't pause while you're looking at it, and T-Eng is constantly draining (not to mention respawning enemies are shooting at you)--but an actual HUD waypoint indicator would have been appreciated.
The enemies are a mix of humans (those evil corporate bastards!) and the native aliens (there's an oxymoron for ya!). I had a lot more fun fighting the humans; it isn't that their AI is particularly impressive--they don't usually act outright stupid, but they also don't come after you in any really crafty way--but they at least require you to duck and cover once in a while, whereas the little mid-level aliens just come at you and get shot. They're irritating. The giant alien bosses are impressive creations, and not really that tough once you figure out their weak point. The last boss, on the other hand, is a bit of a cheap pain in the whumpus. Basically, the game control and rules change entirely for the final encounter; all of a sudden you're playing some kind of Chain Dive (see entry 352) or Zone of the Enders (see entry 312) flying-around nonsense, instead of the careful snow plodding and plotting you've been doing up to that point, and it isn't well done at all. Not a good way to end. Coupled with the silly story wrap-up, I wasn't all that thrilled by the end of the single-player campaign, but it was at least mercifully short--about ten hours, and that was having to retry a few bits. There are invisible mid-level waypoints, but you can only save between levels, which is annoying. (On that topic, do we really need a click-to-advance message about the game using autosave every time we start the game, Capcom? EVERY PS3 game uses autosave. We KNOW.) There's one wide-open stage with a ton of mechs that I might go replay for maximum destruction, but other than that, I don't think I'll be messing with the single-player much again.
It's telling, maybe, that the demo released for the PS3 was multi-player. In short, this game's multiplayer component is really fun. Matches can hold up to 16 players at a time, and I've played large matches with players from Europe and Japan at the same time without experiencing lag of any type. The matchmaking UI could be improved a little--it doesn't autorefresh match listings, for instance, and doesn't show you relative latency to players--but once you navigate through that and get into an actual match, you're in for quite a ride. Also, still rarely for a PS3 title, the game incorporates a little of the PS3's "friends list" functionality, so you can call up your list of online friends and send them invitations when you host a match. The game also supports voice chat (one highlight for me has been having a very good French player mutter "merde" when I finally got a kill on him by dropping more grenades down a stairwell than he'd expected from any sane player).
Oh, you'll get whupped at first. A large part of it is the usual old multiplayer shooter principle of never stopping moving and hunting; once you get used to that, you'll at least be able to compete in some matches. But the slower movement speed, heavy weapons, T-Eng requirements, powerful starting weapons, death penalty, and lack of any health replenishment make Lost Planet multiplayer a much more strategic affair than the usual deathmatch-style race for kills.
Of the four multiplayer modes, I'm only going to talk about the one most similar to Deathmatch, "Elimination," because that's the only one I've played extensively so far (the others are Team Elimination, which is by far the most popular online), Post Grab, in which the goal is to sync as many data posts as possible, and Fugitive, a "smear the queer" type of all-vs-one thing.
"Elimination" is so called because the match will end when one person's score "Battle Gauge" drops to zero. This rarely happens, however, because, well, it isn't very fun for the match to end that way, so hosts usually set the starting BG amount high enough that nobody's likely to point-out that way. Matches usually go for a certain time, with the winner being the one with the most points at the end. You score roughly 500 points each time you synchronize a data post, and close to 1000 points (it's never exactly that; I'm not sure what the equation used is, really) each time you get a kill. Oh, you also get points in between those two values for taking out manned gun turrets or Vital Suits. And most importantly, you lose close to 1000 points when you die.
Because of that death penalty, the elite in Lost Planet aren't necessarily those who score the most kills, but those who kill the most while dying the least. I come from a "kill the most" background (the old PC FSP "Outlaws"), so it's still taking me some time to get used to slowing down and taking an approach centered a little more around self-preservation. One of the first must-learn skills is the dodge roll, done by pressing in the left analog stick while pressing the jump button: this sends your character in a long roll along the ground that both covers distance, and makes you very hard to hit. Some people overdo this, and dodge so much they never get a good shot off, but those who do it right, rolling just before their opponent shoots, and orienting themselves so that they come out of the roll with a perfect bead on their target, will more than hold their own in almost any on-foot confrontation.
The other big thing to learn at the start is the fine art of grenades. On foot, right trigger fires your weapon, but left trigger throws your grenades, and this trigger cannot be ignored. Grenades allow for amazing arching, ricochet, or delay kills, and one type can even stun enemies, both on-foot and in mechs. Almost more often than not, a good player will blast you to kingdom come with a grenade before you, the starting inexperienced player, even sees them.
Speaking of seeing someone, you may find that it seems like your enemies know exactly where you are, while you're bumbling around not seeing anyone. Chances are this is precisely what is happening. Synching a data post gives you a radar-like map showing enemies around you as red dots. In small matches in particularly it is absolutely critical to have a local post synched; run around without one and your opponents will be blindsiding you all day long. This really frustrated me at first, because I didn't feel comfortable stopping to crouch down and synch a post, leaving myself very vulnerable to attack, and I couldn't concentrate on the radar map and what was going on in front of me at the same time, but once you get a little more situational awareness, and learn the maps, you'll have a better idea of when its reasonably safe to stop and synch a post, and then you'll be quite a bit more effective. Very small matches can even come down to a win based largely on points scored from data posts, as the opponents sneak around the map.
Another strong point to the game's multiplayer is that you start out with a pretty deadly weapon. The starting weapon can be set by the match host, but even the "lowly" machinegun, in the hands of someone with fast reflexes and steady aim, is absolutely deadly (actually it's my favorite weapon, although I'm not all that great with it yet). Online favorite starting weapons are often the sniper rifle, which takes off half health with each hit, and can be zoomed in for real long-range accuracy, and the rocket launcher, which is a very Quake-style weapon; I always see people hosting "rocket matches" in one of the two maps I really loath ("Training Facility": both flat and mazelike, urgh), and those look quite a bit like the "rocket jumping" deathmatches of old. Excessive jumping and rocketing isn't really to my taste, but I do like them in more varied maps where the knowledge that anyone can one-shot-kill the other makes for some really tense exploration and standoffs.
And then there are the mechanized "Vital Suits." The on-foot/mech integration in this game is really well done; mechs act as usually highly mobile, deadly, and tough armor, but they're large targets, particularly vulnerable to certain energy weapons, and absolutely reliant upon the pilot maintaining a large amount of T-Eng, which serves as fuel. It's a real rush to come upon one of the better VS, pop on a pair of nasty weapons (one per shoulder, in most cases, and these can usually be removed--you can even haul one around for on-foot use--and swapped out with others; duel gatling guns are a favorite of mine), and power jump above the map, hunting down your tiny, vulnerable man-prey; don't forget, though, that it's very easy to see and hear you coming, and that if you let someone take out your suit, they get extra points for that (not to mention that the suit detonates shortly thereafter, posing a real threat to you as you try to scramble clear); I've found that knowing when to bail from the suit, which keeps points out of my opponents' hands, helps my overall score placement significantly.
Most play takes place in "ranked" matches, where a worldwide server system keeps track of your numeric "rank," which is based solely on points scored in matches. You never lose points from a match; at worst, if you place in the bottom of a match, you'll still get 100 points just for having shown up. If you win a match, though, and particularly in crushing fashion, you'll get many more points; the most I've got so far from a single match was 7000-something, I think--that was a double-length (20 minute) match, though. At the rank I'm at now, 27, 7000 points is about enough to go up a full rank, although it seems like the points required to reach the next rank goes up steadily as your rank increases. The only thing rank gets you is access to a few more character models and textures, but its visible to other players, and it gives a good general view of how accomplished a fighter you are; the "ranking up" mechanic also keeps you going back for more, just to raise that darn number one more level. 27 is still quite low, and I, for instance, can't even say that I know most of the fifteen or so maps as much as I would like. Rank tops out at 100, I think, although the highest I've seen so far in a match has been a 90-something.
Speaking of the multiplayer maps, they're mostly quite good, and varied. While single-player is mostly snow/ice areas, in the multiplayer maps you'll also find jungle, tropical island, and even modern office-building areas, not to mention the "Lost Technology" map, designed to look like a 3D Super Mario Bros area. They range in size from vast to compact, and for the most part look lovely, and offer real jungle-gyms of areas in which to blast each other to pieces. I'm not overly fond of the 8-bittish hallways and teleporters in "Lost Technology," or the narrow, mazelike corridors in the lower parts of the office building at "Trial Point," but the only two maps I really don't like at the moment are the aforementioned "Training Facility," and "Lost Coast," which I'm still totally lost in, particularly in the pointless watery areas, the ugly concrete bunker-like towers, and when the "night" effect kicks in, which is really just a switch to darker colored fog, and looks horrible. I'm not really keen on the small "Dark Town," where most of the action devolves into a dark foggy pit below a tiny subterranean city with very little cover aside from high sniping positions, and the small, varied map they chose for the demo, "Pirate Fortress," is really overplayed, and too cramped and hectic for my preferences, but it's still an attractive, and admittedly well-designed small level.
Well, I've just about blathered on enough over the multiplayer. The point is, it's fun, and, even in a basic deathmatch-type arrangement, offers many more strategic possibilities than other 3D multiplayer action shooters I've played. 16-player matches can still be madhouse frag-fests, but my most memorable moments seem to occur in the small, tense matches where every kill can sway the outcome. I'll end with just a couple of these that I've had in about a week of playing in the wee hours of the morning.
> The Quitter
This type of thing probably happens a lot in games where losing a match counts against you, but that isn't really the case in Lost Planet, so I'm still a little puzzled as to why this guy bothered. I should have known something was unusual about him when he started the match he'd hosted when I, a lowbie, was the only other person to join. He was probably just looking to score some easy 3000 points or so by dominating the match. And he had a plan: he'd picked a very big map, started us out with sniper rifles, and had found a point at the base of a bridge where he could in effect disappear when threatened by running over the edge, which automatically kicked in his zipline grapple to save him from falling, leaving him dangling over the lip of the ledge, where his opponent couldn't see him unless they crossed the very dangerous, wind-swept bridge.
A decent strategy for a one-on-one, but it didn't quite work out for him. I'd grabbed the nearest VS I could find when I spawned in, and found his bridge camping spot when he popped out to nick me with a few long-range rifle shots. I shrugged these off and stomped over to get him in range of my gatling guns; then he disappeared, probably grappling off the ledge. The configuration of the map, and my point of view, made it look like he'd somehow squeezed below the seemingly solid foundation at the base of the bridge. I was flummoxed. Had he found an invisible gap? I approached, sprayed the base of the bridge, found nothing, and backed off to get a wider view. He popped back out and dinged some more rounds off me. This happened a few more times, and the dings were starting to show on my suit. If he killed the suit, he'd get points, and in a slow one-on-one in a huge map like this, it could be all over right there.
I bailed from the suit. He heard the suit shut down (a loud female voice from the suit's internal speakers announces it, plus the suit makes certain whirring and clanking shutdown noises) and jumped out. I was sort of prepared for this, and managed to hit him with a rifle shot, after missing a few times. This seemed to disconcert him, and here he made his error. His initial position was well shielded, and he had that ledge-dropping strategy: he should have stayed there and sniped me immediately. But he'd made a half-hearted rush at me, then backed up in confusion when I managed to hit him. I circled to the cliff edge, past the shields, zoomed in, and finally got him as he rolled around in the snow at the base of the bridge.
Now I was ahead. I ran off for the next closest base that I could see, found a data post on top of an igloo-like building, synched it, which got me more points, parked a loaded VS outside the door, and huddled down inside the igloo. From here I'd be able to see him approach on radar before he could get around to a firing position on me, and I'd run for the VS and go gunning for him. Time was running out, and if he didn't come for me, I was definitely going to win. He'd have to come dig me out of my fortified position.
He didn't try. The 30 second warning appeared. I was certain he'd come now, but the seconds ticked on, and then he disconnected. The game was cancelled, and neither of us got any points. Thanks, guy. Welcome to my block list, so I won't forget you.
> Hanging out
Not sure if this is more than coincidence, but my other memorable story so far also involves sniping and dangling from the grapple line. I was in a four-player match on the vast Pacific Island map called "Island 902." I'd been fortunate to spawn on the largest of the small highway-connected islands, near a VS, and had managed to get a few high-firepower kills. I had to bail when low on T-Eng, though, got sniped, then got sniped a few more times as I bumbled around the huge area, rather lost; one of these was an incredible shot at me from behind, and above the surface, as I hunched about fifteen feet underwater, gazing up a player in a VS who'd railroaded me into dunking myself. The author of that shot had got one of the other snipes in on me, and was now in the lead.
I spawned again and ended up underwater again, but this time I caught movement in a high sniping tower in an isolated island: it was him. I've read a FAQ calling that tower is a prime place to be, but that isn't really the case when the game host starts everyone off with sniper rifles, because while you can see a good deal of the map from up there, you're also visible to almost everyone who happens to look in your general direction, despite the armored plates giving you partial protection. Submerged, I zoomed in, drew a bead on his head sticking over one of the plates...and got rifled from behind by a guy who'd spawned in underwater. D-ar. (The game WILL respawn opponents at the most inconvenient locations...)
Respawning yet again, I found myself on one of the larger islands, with a few mechs in a little stockade. I set off to hop in one. Someone beat me to it. I lobbed most of the grenades I had, trying to get them in there before the player could power-leap out, throwing badly. They leapt out, gunning for me. I ran, he pursued, I stumbled through a passage and off the edge of the island, near a bridge. My grapple kicked in, leaving me dangling underwater. The VS couldn't see me, and went off in pursuit of other prey. Considering whether I should try to haul myself up, I noticed that sniping tower just across a small bay, and the leader still perched up there. This time nobody could sneak up behind me, and he hadn't seen me go underwater. Still dangling from my zipline, I zoomed in, and it took more shots than it should have, but I finally got a couple rifle rounds in him. Now I somehow held a narrow lead, and we were well past the five-minute warning.
While I again considered if I should reel myself back up, another player made his way into that tower. I plunked away at him, hitting once, but someone else had seen him too, and they got the kill shot. It wasn't the leader, though; in fact, he got killed somewhere else, widening my lead. If I could stay alive, and he didn't get some kind of sudden killing spree, I'd win. I hung tight. Nobody else popped up into the tower, but the other guy didn't get any last-second kills, and I pulled out the win. Not a pretty one, but I take what I can get.