Monday, May 10, 2010

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Demo Review

[A few days ago, what with the impending release of Lost Planet 2, I downloaded the demo of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. Graphics-wise, the game is so good that I decided to write a review about it.]

Playing Lost Planet is like watching a King Kong movie but with the following deviations: instead of being set in a tropical jungle, the game is set in a snowy world; instead of featuring a titanic ape, it features massive and implacable carapace-armored leviathans called the Akrids. Think Cliffhanger and Starship Troopers combined.

The full review of the demo of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition after the jump.

Better late than never.

Lost Planet shares more in common with the Sylvester Stallone movie than frigid tundras and deadly avalanches --- the game employs the staple of movies set in snowstorms and mountains - a grappling hook. Though it's just a mundane addition to Lost Planet's gameplay, it does add to the game’s list of features. The grappling hook enables the player to save himself from a fall, climb ledges that are otherwise unreachable, and really immerse the player in the role of a rifle-wielding, ice climber. Really, every dude who wants to climb mountains should get both.

Lost Planet’s bag of tricks is small but what gimmicks it has are impressive. Far from being a one-trick pony, the game pits players not just against slavering, squealing aliens but human opponents as well. Known as Snow Pirates, these mercenaries pack energy guns, grenades, sniper rifles, rocket launchers --- and mechs.

This is where the game really shines. Anyone who has fantasies of being an Ellen Ridley, controlling an exoskeleton while mowing down alien spawn and gigantic alien bosses will be in for an adrenaline-laced treat with Lost Planet. And it doesn’t stop there. The mechs have modular loadouts. You can attach gatling guns and rocket launchers to your walker --- or remove and walk away with them.

That’s right. You can slog through the snowy wastes carrying the mother of all chain guns.

Fancy lugging a mech-sized sidearm and blazing away at advancing alien hordes? I thought so.

Stage 5. Snow Field.

Lost Planet is easily one of the most gorgeous graphical powerhouses I have come across. Combining the almost monochromatic whiteness of its snow-covered levels with saturated hues of its in-game objects, Lost Planet presents a solid color scheme that’s surprisingly impressive for a game that mostly takes place in bleak, arctic environments.

The engine powering Lost Planet is very impressive; never has a game presented me with such volume of particles. Imagine this: you’re trudging through a blizzard, sheets of snow swirling around you, and suddenly, from the incline above you, an Akrid the size of a large SUV bursts bellowing from the drifts. As the 1000-pound leviathan comes thundering toward you, you let loose with a rocket, which explodes against its hide, causing ichor to shower every which way. This move however, causes an avalanche, and you scurry for a promontory to hide behind while the alien rolls into a disc and whirs furiously towards you through the blinding blizzard and cascading boulders. Think about that. Most of the time, there’s so much going around that you’ll begin to think your video card will melt under this heavy a load.


Indeed, Lost Planet deserves a “9” in the graphics department. However, its gameplay leaves something to be desired. The fault lies in its anemic AI and its difficulty level. While the Akrids’ lack of tactics can be attributed to an alien mindset, the game’s insipid AI shows glaringly in the behavior of the Snow Pirates --- these guys just occasionally dive for cover but that’s it. They don’t flank, rarely scatter when you throw a grenade at them, and they don’t provide as much suppressing fire to aid their teammates than in other games like, say, Far Cry. For a game released in 2007---years after F.E.A.R., Metal Gear, and the No One Lives Forever series got released---this quality in artificial intelligence is unforgivable. This AI deficiency---and the resulting mark down in difficulty---is what ultimately shatters Lost Planet’s bid for total gaming immersion. Players will be awed by Lost Planet’s graphical prowess but it will be a detached awe.

While Lost Planet: Extreme Condition paints a realistic picture of a corporate entity's endeavors to tame a colony in the outer reaches of space, its technical shortcomings effectively render the game as just a window players can gaze through. It’s a bit sad because if the developers had polished the AI aspect of the game, Lost Planet would have been a portal that would have absorbed players into a story of humanity’s struggle to terra-form an alien world crawling with massive insectoids that put King Kong to shame.