Lost Planet: Extreme Condition casts you as the dubiously named Wayne, set adrift on the blizzard-wracked ice planet of EDN III. Wayne, in the time-honoured manner of all game heroes, takes things Very Seriously Indeed, and wants to exact revenge upon the monstrously huge Green Eye, a kind of gigantic turtle-thing that killed his Dad.
Standing between you and Green Eye are endless snowy wastes, snow pirates and some extremely large (and, yes, snowy) Akrid, the planet's natural inhabitants. The game is divided into a dozen missions that will see you ploughing through the opposition from a third-person point of view, using a standard array of weaponry - shotguns, machine guns, plasma rifles, grenades and so on - and occasionally hopping into a Vital Suit. A Vital Suit is basically a mini-Mech, with attachable weaponry and a few extra skills, such a jumping, hovering or squirting out smokescreens. Aiding you in all this is your ability to absorb Thermal Energy, which acts as both life restoring supergoo and VS powering fuel. Thermal Energy is dropped by all life forms in the game (after you kill them), as well as exploding Vital Suits, barrels and fuel tanks.
Lost Planet is not a game that mucks about when it comes to serving up a spectacle. The prologue attains the kind of Awesome Hugeness that most games might aim to reach after about ten hours. Everything is big and loud and tooth-rattlingly explosive. And it looks simply wonderful. Creatures both big and small are brilliantly designed and animated and the scale of things is often genuinely jaw-dropping. This is a game full of "wow" moments, a game to show off to people. If you have the machine to run it at full spec, it's difficult to imagine any other game currently available that can offer such a gushing firehose of eyecandy. Even cranked down, the visuals are still a sight to behold. Capcom really should be commended on the effort put into Lost Planet's visuals.
The sound is equally impressive, if a little on the relentlessly cacophonous side of things. Every screen filling explosion is matched with a sub-woofer embracing, neighbour-hating sonic boom. Add in the constant chatter of gatling guns, rocket impacts and the alien squeals, howls and roars of the Akrid, and you've got yourself a very full soundspace indeed.
So, as an audiovisual demonstration, Lost Planet is second to none. As a game, though, a number of problems quickly come to the fore. Most obviously, the game wears its origins as an Xbox 360 title loud and proud. All the in-game control options refer to the Xbox 360's controller. Absolutely fine if you're using a Xbox 360 gamepad connected to a PC but let's be honest - you're not, are you? Why would you, when there's a perfectly decent mouse and keyboard sitting right in front of you? It feels like a strangely indifferent decision by the developers to not even change the Xbox 360-centric in-game menus. It can't be that hard, surely?
The mouse control has the typically mushy feel of a console port. No amount of fiddling with the mouse settings provides the tight, crisp control that the game needs. There's a vagueness here, a kind of floating dead spot that tends to kick in at just the wrong time. Add in the fact that our hero can't actually look directly upwards - why, exactly? - and it feels as if the PC is wearing Lost Planet like an ill-fitting suit. A nip here, a tuck there and things would be markedly improved. As it is, it just feels baggy.
The gameplay quickly reveals itself to be a series of short walks to an end of level boss, at which point you are required to die repeatedly until success finally manifests itself through a combination of luck and grim determination. There are a number of obstacles - swarms of creatures, precipitous cliffs and so on - between you and the Uber-baddy at the end of each level but they function more as speed bumps than real challenges. There's very little that'll stop you getting through to the end of level, and as impressive as the end of level boss-monsters are, fighting them can be a joyless affair. Essentially, they crash about while hurling down all manner of death upon you. Most of the time, if you keep moving, you can avoid taking too much damage while slowly whittling away at the monster's damage bar. There's usually a point, though, at which you've hit all the obvious damage points, worn out a few Vital Suits and things grind to a (very noisy) standstill. BangCrashWallop, the monster delivers an unavoidable deathblow and the Mission Failed screen pops up. Again.
These end of level slugfests tend to take ten minutes or more to play out, and a lot of this time is spent staring immobilised at a smoke filled screen, as yet more paralysing heck thunders down upon you. Sooner or later you will triumph, but it's difficult to know why, sometimes. It's a shame to see such large scale spectacle reduced to incomprehensible screens of rubble and ice, while some ticked-off beastie bellows away out of sight behind a dustcloud. A wider angle on proceedings would have added some much need clarity. Each mission offers a reasonable amount of replayability. You can have a crack at a different difficulty level, or try for a better completion time, or even try to hunt down all the hidden Target Markers in a level - collect them all and feel special! Quite why you'd bother is a question you'll have to answer for yourself.
It's also fair to say the game suffers from a kind of "spectacle fatigue". It bigs things up so vigorously right from the opening seconds that it doesn't really have anywhere to go. It's not that Lost Planet eases up on the spectacle, it just immediately plateaus and continues to strike the same - very big and very loud - note right the way through. There needs to be some downtime, some contrast, some change of pace. It's odd to say, but one building-sized snowdemon can start to seem much like the next after a while.
There is a multiplayer element to Lost Planet but seeing as absolutely no-one is playing the game online, it's kind of redundant. At the time of writing, your best option is to try to get a LAN game going with buddies or set up an online match and see if anyone turns up. Good luck.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition isn't exactly a bad game, it just rings a little hollow. The sheer supermodel good looks almost justify the price of admission and if you're looking for some snowbound, Starship Troopers style insecticide, this should keep you happily covered in goo for a day or two. Ultimately, Lost Planet pins its hopes on the idea that looking good and being loud is enough. Well, maybe for a short while, but you'll quickly move on to something that can offer more.