Whatever happened to 8-bit gaming? Once upon a time, Capcom was the undisputed master of; gigantic end of level bosses, weapons bigger than a house, lurid colour schemes and amazingly over the top music. We have a suspicion that they took all these elements and put them into cryogenic storage.
The good news is, the Japanese developer has finally thawed out the old-skool tradition, bringing it back for our generation. Playing Lost Planet is like battering Ghouls and Ghosts for the first time. You simply won't believe how stunning it looks. But more importantly, it's one of those games that pits you against incredible odds and satisfies by making it just about possible to beat them!
There are no serious pretensions. No AI-controlled squad to order around, no driving levels, no puzzles to solve. You pick up a gun or a heavily armed mech (known as Vital Suits or VSes) and kill stuff. LOTS of stuff.
It's a game made for show-offs with a flair for the dramatic. You can put Lost Planet on round a mate's house and they'll be blown away. From the word go, you're faced with one of the biggest bad-mothers of a bastard alien hellspawn in any game, period!
In a moment inspired by Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, a colossal insect bursts out of the snow and tries to impale you on one of its giant spiny legs. This would normally be a bad thing, but the fact that you're already tooled up with a dual-minigun toting VS makes you relish the occasion. We found ourselves flipping a finger at the screen, shouting "come get it bitch!!" It wasn't exactly just another day at the office.
For a game that starts off packing heavy punches, you might expect the action to lose its way or run out of new spectacles to make you go "wow!" Somehow, Lost Planet keeps on getting bigger and more impressive. It's a sign of majestic pacing. Wait until you see the giant worm on level three or the incredible boss battle at the end of level six. The enemies are so big that you can't even fit them on an HDTV screen!
The monsters and VSes (see our VS Guide to the right) are great to look at, and
at the same time are totally believable. All the moving parts on the VSes click and whirr together like the genius vision of some demented mechanical toymaker. Likewise, the giant Akrid creatures move like real creepy crawlies, albeit really savage bloodthirsty ones. If you thought the Corpsers in Gears of War were nasty, you haven't seen anything yet.
Gears of War proved a lot, including that a captivating setting is just as important as the heroes and villains. Lost Planet's E.D.N. III is a barren arctic wasteland, but the snow is just a veil, covering foreboding ruined cities, decommissioned military outposts and beautiful, but sinister, subterranean caves.
The Akrid hives and particularly the volcano tunnels are a stark contrast to the cold and hostile outdoors. They burn with orange fire and ooze with glowing yellow and green slime. Beauty is everywhere, numbing you to the fact that you could be killed at any moment. Carnage and devastation has rarely been so appealing. The particle effects used in explosions are extremely complex and full of volume. Likewise, there's loads of dynamic and high-dynamic range lighting.
Playing Lost Planet is like being stuck in a kaleidoscope full of giant scorpions, albeit a lot more fun. The game engine is capable of dramatic feats of the imagination, not least displaying 20-30 massive enemies on screen at once, with not a single drop in frame rate.
The game is best played in third-person. Although you do have the option to play Lost Planet as an FPS, you don't see the gun on the screen and will suffer from a dramatically reduced arc of vision. It's very much a conventional shooter in third-person, with the Left thumbstick controlling movement and the Right one used for aiming. We recommend switching auto-aim off. It's a little too helpful, at times robbing you of the deep satisfaction of using weapons like the sniper rifle.