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Lost Planet | Extreme Condition | review | game | Lollipop

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

(Capcom for Xbox 360)
by Mike Delano

If you go into Lost Planet with the right expectations, you'll come out with one of the most entertaining, thrilling game experiences of the 360's brief existence. It's an action game through and through, complete with all of the surprises, big set pieces, and implausibility one would expect from a game that centers around a dude with a machine gun eradicating a "lost planet" of "snow pirates" and mutant insects.

In true action game tradition, the story really takes a back seat in Lost Planet: It really doesn't have much use outside of setting up each of the levels, and introducing the "thermal energy" concept wherein your character is continually hemorrhaging health points that must be replenished, often to persevere in the harsh Artic conditions.

The need to stay constantly on the lookout for health adds an interesting dimension to combat, as do the "vital suits," giant controllable mechs that trade agility for superior firepower. Add these elements to a solid list of expected weaponry (guns, grenades, rocket launchers), and the battles are rarely boring.

Your main enemy throughout is the Akrid, alien insects that usually attack in either swarms of the one-shot-kill variety, or alone and four stories tall. Fighting the Akrid takes place across all sorts of terrain, from warehouses to caves to steep mountain cliffs. You'll also battle snow pirates, who aren't much smarter than the insects, but they're well-armed and can also pilot the tank-like vital suits. The first time you encounter all three at once in a firefight in an underground facility, that's when the game truly justifies all the hype.

But with hype comes the nitpickers, and the most common complaints are the poor A.I. of the snow pirate enemies and the comical "flashing weak point" design of many of the Akrid. In a more tactical shooter, such criticism would be valid, but Lost Planet is a straight-up arcade blaster, coming closer than almost any game of its kind to the pick-up-and-play feel of old arcade action games that had to both wow and engage first-time players without 10 buttons and a half-dozen submenus.

The simple, immediate satisfaction of Lost Planet's gameplay might disqualify it from being used for tournament play, but most of the game's scenarios don't allow the player to advance without at least a little planning of the approach, and for even more of a challenge, there are several online multiplayer options.

This is probably the best looking game on the system behind Gears of War, and even Gears doesn't take as many chances from a design standpoint as Lost Planet, which continually impresses with both the scope of its frozen world and the attention to little things like smoke, sparks, and snow.

As a showcase of the 360's power, Lost Planet is a staggering example of things to come, and as a blast-and-go action game, it has the instant appeal of a subzero Contra with an immediacy that, for a few weeks at least, leaves all other games out in the cold.


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