The pick-up-and-play feel of the campaign meanwhile, obviously designed for short, sharp multiplayer sessions, hardly helps. You're guaranteed at least one epic Akrid showdown per chapter, but they're often an arduous slog to reach and - with exceptions of demo star Gordiant and the humongous Red Eye - a letdown. The controls continue to frustrate too; the various button layouts feel convoluted and alien in our Western hands, and we're still shaking our heads (and clutching our addled thumbs) at the amount of bloody b-pounding. Even the front end is fiddly, and don't get us started on the checkpointing system from hell.
Yet run your eyes over these screenshots and you could come to think that Lost Planet 2 has something to offer, hidden away among the dross. Co-op'd up with colleagues, we took down sandworms the size of small towns, bragged as we stumbled upon our latest epic Vital Suit and competed to see who could bag the most treasure boxes and 'S' ranks.
Blowing stuff up is often insanely fun, chiefly thanks to some suitably epic weapon design, and though environments aren't nearly as explosive as they should be, the sheer amount of mayhem going on simultaneously gives Lost Planet 2 a suitably frenetic, kinetic feel. You won't play a shooter this year packing anything like as much simultaneous mayhem, with players screaming down their headsets, blasting, dying, and killing all around you.
There are also at least five standout set pieces in the game which will take your breath away; it's just such a shame that these monster adrenaline highs are so few and far between - certainly less so that you'd conceive a shooter with giant guns, mega mechs and oversized beasties might contain.
Visually, the game marries imaginative character, mech and enemy designs with an engine that only drops frames under the most extreme of duress, and though it can look ropey in the texture department on occasion there's enough sheer imagination here to forgive one or two slips - especially during an epic train chase under the scorching desert sun.
We're also staggered at the sheer amount of goodies packed into the proceedings; grabbing the various treasure boxes that crop up after kills allows access to credits and unlockables. These range from new Emotes (funky poses) to nicknames, costume unlocks and weapon upgrades.
Assuming you're into this kind of thing, expect to sink hundreds of hours into pimping your Fight Junkies, NEVEC Black Ops, Femme Fatales and co. Indeed, there's a level of Japanese obsession with knick-knackery we've rarely encountered outside of the most hardcore of tactical JRPGs - we just wish there'd been more time sunk into level design or sorting that wonky team-mate AI out, personally.
In the final analysis, Lost Planet 2 is a real curio and almost a great shooter, but a litany of frankly bizarre design decisions have made the whole disappointingly less than the sum of its potentially brilliant parts. Fans of the original's single-player campaign will be befuddled, but online-inclined gamers will lap up the multiplayer banquet being served up.
It's a really hard one to mark, because essentially because the core direction of the game has shifted seismically. We simply can't stress this enough; if you're planning to play this game on your lonesome, STAY AWAY; if you're all about the human co-op and the multiplayer modes go ahead and jump right in. This is undoubtedly some gamers' idea of blasting heaven; it just isn't quite ours.
Misses the mark one moment, hits the big time the next. A real mixed bag of a game
- Epic monsters, boss weapons
- Awesome co-op/online
- Crap on your tod