While Japan continues to ignore the Xbox 360 for its big black competitor, Japanese developers are starting to somewhat realise the power of the system with a few recent titles, some of which are amongst the best seen on the 360. Lost Planet is the latest for the 360 from Japan, and is a game which somewhat came out of no where. For months not much was said about Lost Planet, but it the game Microsoft are most pushing right now, and with good reason. Lost Planet is a fast paced action game, with huge boss sequences and some exciting combat, and it doesn't try to be something it's not
In Lost Planet you play as a young man named Wayne. At a young age, Wayne witnessed his father's death while fighting the Akrid - an alien life force inhabiting a world the human race has tried to colonize after destroying Earth. The problem is that the world is too cold for humans and they must continuously mine a heat source to remain alive. The only source of heat happens to be the Akrid, and so the war begins. There are a few more elements to the story and it contains the usual friction between colleagues. Really, the storyline is probably one of the weakest elements of this game.
You control Wayne from a third person perspective which gives an extremely good perspective on the size of the levels and enemies that you come across. The game is very much a run and gun shooter and the requirement of keeping your heat levels up forces the player to find enemies quickly and you won't just find yourself tackling small alien enemies, humans have come along for the party as well as some of the most detailed and beautiful boss characters you have ever seen.
There are a few elements to Lost Planet which make it a smart shooter rather than just run and gun though. The first of course is the fact you need to keep Wayne warm either via finding heat sources, or taking control of a VS (Vital Suit). When the Vital Suit is used, Lost Planet quickly becomes a mech combat action game. These vehicles control extremely well and do not dominate the game, instead becoming a useful tool to use against some of the larger enemies and during longer missions. It's definitely something you don't really need to rely on.
As well as this the game heavily uses location based damage. Each of the Akrid enemies have a weakspot which glows orange (and happens to be the energy source). Hitting there will take the enemy down much quicker than just shooting randomly. The human enemies also take more damage to the head than the legs for instance. It is this which can demonstrate just how intuitive the game is. There is never really a point that you get stuck (other than a tough combat area) and the game pushes along at a fairly rapid pace. You will find yourself about two or three missions into the game before you know it and before it becomes any kind of a serious challenge.
However the game is still quite a challenge. The enemies operate in two forms - power in numbers or just so big they take a while to take down. It is possible to run past every enemy, but the mechanic where you must keep warm stops this from occurring the entire game. Often however you will have no other choice than to run it would seem. The AI is not very intelligent and they use attack patterns over and over again. Lost Planet has many things that remind us of arcade shooters from yesteryear, but nothing as much as this particular attribute.
There are a few annoying aspects to the game as well. It is, at its core, a very repetitive title but pushes along at such a pace it doesn't become all that noticeable except in one very frustrating mission which could stop people playing. It's worth pushing on however as it is the only frustrating section of the entire game. Also, the online component probably isn't as fleshed out as it could be as well as the fact that despite being one of the most pretty games on the system, the menus could have easily been a placeholder during the beta testing phase of development. However the game does move past these flaws relatively easily and they don't impact the enjoyment felt all that much.
One of the things which really stands out with the game however is the graphics. The art direction is, in a word, sublime. From the first, lengthy and detailed cut scene through to the actual gameplay and ending credits you will be in constant visual wonder as huge explosions and massive enemies use the Xbox 360 graphics and processing power to the max. It is this which really makes Lost Planet stand out as one of the best 360 games around. It may not be as detailed as Gears of War, but it does come a close second. However the sound and voice acting is a little more disappointing. The voice actors sometimes feel very stiff and not like they are talking to each other, but there are other times the cut scenes really come off. It really is very hit and miss.
As touched upon above, you will also find a multiplayer component to the game. The single player game is vastly superior to multiplayer but you will still find a solid online component to play around with. One thing we noticed is that generally the maps are significantly smaller than the sections of the single player side. The developers have built a very intimate combat situation, and even with only a few players you will find a pretty solid game.
Lost Planet probably is the first must have 360 game of the new year. The fact it has come out in January will have it forgotten by November, but while Wii and PS3 fans wait for the next big thing, Xbox 360 fans have a very solid shooter. It has a very Japanese style to it, it's very arcade-like, and it's one of the best titles on Xbox 360 as a result. The bottom line, 360 gamers must play this game.