The Five: Lost Planet 2
The Skinny: Lost Planet 2 comes in out of the cold, ditching the subarctic climes of the original game -- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition -- for deserts and jungles. (It's the same planet, but all the ice has melted. No, really.) Hands-on demos at TGS 2009 left some mixed impressions.
1. Cooperation makes it happen. The most notable new feature of Lost Planet 2 is the ability to play the campaign with up to three friends filling out the rest of your team. (You can have computer-controlled drone allies, too.) Whenever someone on the squad dies, points are depleted from a community pool, and if the pool reaches zero, you fail. The game keeps track of who's screwing up, of course, so you know who deserves the purple nurple for sucking the most. On the altruistic side, you can see the health meters of all your comrades and divert some energy to the neediest in the heat of battle.
2. Boss battles are so freaking massive, it feels like the game is compensating for something. It appears that the basic Lost Planet 2 mission goes like this: Kill a few snipers and/or generic bad guys, blah blah blah, OMFG HUGE BOSS HIT THE WEAK POINT FOR 20 MINUTES! Some marketing genius will get The Lonely Island to play at the launch party for this game.
3. Thermal energy now stays put. In the original Lost Planet, I was always obsessing over my thermal energy (or T-ENG) because the omnipresent cold weather slowly drained away this life-giving mojo. Now that your home turf has warmed up a bit, T-ENG drains only when you use it in a weapon or to restore stamina. Less obsessing is a good thing.
4. It's tough to shake the Gears of War Jr. vibe. This series is still taking its cues from Gears of War. The cinematography. The way your character moves. The cover system (although everyone has stolen that). The ugly reptilian/insectoid monsters. Lost Planet 2 doesn't do much that's new. It simply does everything bigger.
5. The aesthetic details are a silver lining. I'm talking about the HUD, the menus, etc. This is somewhat ineffable, I admit, but I always appreciate when a game has enough design sense to make the interface elements complement the world. Games such as BioShock and Mass Effect do a great job of this; games like Oblivion, not as much. Lost Planet 2 has a unified look that makes it easier to immerse yourself.
The Crispy Forecast: Lost Planet 2's emphasis on big, shoot-the-red-weak-spot boss battles may seem like a great idea for the player who wants to skip right to dessert. But this dessert is like a pack of Double Stuf Oreos. First you rejoice -- twice the stuff! -- and then once you dig in, you feel queasy and wonder where your dignity has gone. You realize there is such a thing as too much. Lost Planet 2 is shaping up to be gaming's double helping of sugared lard.