Fixing Starship Troopers, Dune and Mad Max, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Lost Planet is a concept too far. But it all works - and delivers one of the brightest Xbox 360 games currently in development.
In keeping with Capcom's Onimusha and Devil May Cry series, Lost Planet is a cinematic adventure that mixes some of the best virtual acting with eye-popping style and epic set-piece battles. It's no wonder blasting though Lost Planet feels a lot like Devil May Cry either - it's by the same development team at Capcom.
From the moment you step onto the icy tundra Lost Planet explodes with fire and ice. Your hero, erm, Wayne is on a mission to uncover new sources of life-giving thermal energy, a natural power source that's used by humans to survive in the cold of this new Arctic-like waste of a planet they (we) have decided to colonise. Like the hefty sci-fi epic Dune, there is a struggle for this natural resource, a fight between the new human settlers, the Ice Pirates' (a group of feral humans left to survive in the frozen waste) and the mysterious Resistyle Neo Venus Construction Corp (NEVAC). Oh, and there's also the indigenous insect-like creatures known as the Akrid, a species with a secret relationship to the thermal energy
Though Capcom will have you believe Wayne is the star of Lost Planet, a character played by and based on the Chinese actor Lee Byung Hun, the true stars of the show are the Akrid and the planet itself. Appearing in many shapes and sizes, usually from under your feet as they burrow to the surface, the Akrid are a fantastic creation. The initial creatures you see are the small, Trilobite-like monsters that attack in swarms, circling high above before sweeping down between the ruins of the old settlers' buildings. A quick spray of hot lead from your machine gun takes down the first wave and the rest spread and disperse. If only all the Akrid were so easy...
By level four you've taken on larger spider-like creatures that crumple with a burst of gunfire, their legs buckling and innards spraying onto the snow; more swarms of mosquito-like creatures; even bigger spiders; and exploding, bulbous insects. All threaten your blood pressure before Capcom as up the heat on this frozen planet. The empty expanse of snow and ice starts to shake, powdered snow and chunks of ice are thrown into the sky... and a giant worm-like Akrid raises itself from the ground. This slug is huge; about six storeys big and out for Wayne's blood. This attack is one of the most impressive events you'll witness in any 360 game, the scale of the fight is staggering and the style of the game just keeps driving home the spectacle. And this is only a few hours into the game - there are bigger battles to come. Luckily, Wayne has technology on his side. Scattered around the world are old abandoned Vital Suits (VS), minimech exoskeletons loaded with rockets, chainguns and pulse lasers. Again, the game's visual style is remarkable - the extra firepower tears into the Akrids, and within seconds of letting rip the peaceful ice is a mess of boney legs, body parts and green goo. You can tune your VS suit too, attaching new guns found in the ruins of past battles, while some suits have hover and even jump abilities, ensuring those giant slugs get a mouthful of lead right down the gullet. You're not just up against the Akrid, either. In many ways the swarms of insects are the game's cannon fodder. The real villains of the peace are the other humans searching for the thermal energy. The Ice Pirates are a band of faceless humans who have adapted to the chills of this wintry world; their ultimate purpose is being kept a closely guarded secret; for now they are there to be blown into tiny pieces. One stage we played had Wayne single-handedly storming the Pirates' stronghold. Wayne can carry two weapons at once. Starting with the sniper rifle, we picked off the guards and then swapped to the shotgun for the close kills. What was most impressive about this stage was the scale and the cinematic nature of the fighting. The controls make nailing the legion of Pirates a doddle, with a neat 90 turn implemented on the shoulder buttons, enabling Wayne to run and shoot over his shoulder.