Debuting on the Xbox 360 earlier this year, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition didn't exactly set the next gen console scene on fire, but it
proved to be an enjoyable take on the third person action genre, featuring a lot of action in an interesting setting. Not too long after the 360 release,
Capcom along with Nvidia announced a PC version was in the works, which has just seen release in the past week or so. Touting some PC specific enhancements
such as expanded multiplayer and higher visual
quality, Lost Planet PC says the right things on paper, but it ultimately can't shed the dreaded "console port" tag.
Lost Planet tells the story of a human race trying to survive on a distant planet that is dominated by frozen tundra. On this planet are
hostiles in the form of creatures known as
the "Akrid", who have given the humans a lot of trouble since their arrival, until the mech warrior like 'Vital Suits' were created to combat them.
The human controlled character, Wayne, is an experienced pilot of the VS, and as the story goes, a near death encounter leaves him with temporary amnesia as
into a conflict he is still trying to fully understand. This is where you take over, and the game unfolds.
With 12 single player missions to complete, there is a reasonable amount of gameplay to be had in Lost Planet's single player element, which has a
very Japanese anime feel to it. One thing you will notice while playing LP's single player mode is how quickly the game gets into the action. In fact, after
the introductory sequence detailing the storyline, I was dead within the first few minutes of play. While this was not so much related to the difficulty
than it was a result of confusion over objectives, the
game nevertheless wastes absolutely no time getting into the thick of the action at all. At first the game can be a little confusing as very little about the
interface and what you have to do is explained, but things become clearer as you progress.
For those who have not played the 360 version, Lost Planet is basically your stereotypical third person action game, with a few bells and whistles
attached. Your character, Wayne, can carry two weapons at a time, and these range from the expected machine guns and shotguns, to chain guns and sniper
rifles as well as a few special weapons here and there, not to mention you can pilot the various war machines available throughout the game that have weapons
of their own. To add a dimension to the gameplay,
not only do you have a general health bar, but also a "T-ENG" level, which represents how much thermal energy you have, allowing you to withstand
the harsh environments of this alien planet. Your T-ENG level goes down every second automatically and can also be used to fuel certain functions such
as jumping in VS's, and Wayne will die if it depletes entirely.
To keep your T-ENG up, you must kill enemies, or other objects that may have an energy source to tap into. While the game obviously makes sure you are
given a fair chance to never run out of T-ENG, it is not so easy that it doesn't play a factor, so it does successfully add a dimension to the gameplay
beyond your health. On top of this, it means you really have to be on the move to keep your energy up killing enemies on a regular basis, so it also helps
make sure the action is thick and fast. The enemies you
encounter in this game are quite varied, ranging from almost harmless flying spine like things to absolutely titanic beasts that may require a
specific tactic to defeat. These guys are usually used as level bosses, which is just one example of Lost Planet's conformity to action game
standards. The guns and machinery you have
access to are all quite powerful, and the game tends to make sure plenty of ammo is around for you to expel. Combined with your need to continuously kill,
this makes for quite
a lot of action, and quite a lot of fun too.
The major problem with this game comes with its linear nature, and its repetition. Not only are the levels very straight forward, but the level design is
extremely repetitive, because as the storyline demands, you are on a frozen planet, so the vast majority of the game is spent out in the snow. LP would
probably make a great game to play on a hot Summer's day for this reason, but otherwise you could be playing two entirely different levels and you'd be hard
pressed to know it based on appearance. Combined with what
really is quite generic action gameplay, Lost Planet just doesn't manage to keep a very fresh experience for very long, making lengthy sessions
The end result of this is basically a PC game that feels like a console game. This isn't necessarily always a disastrous thing considering consoles at the
moment match up quite well with PC gaming technologically, but just about everything in this game reeks of a console port - the "thrown together at the
last minute" style menu's, the identical gameplay to the 360 version, the checkpoint saving system, the controls which, by the way, are far better
experienced when using the Windows compatible Xbox 360 controller -
surprise surprise. The game supports it right out of the box, which is great, but when a PC shooting game is best enjoyed on a gamepad than a mouse and
keyboard, there's a good chance the reason behind that is because the game was never designed for the PC in mind, and this is the case here.
This is not intended to be a shot at console shooters, but the reality is quite a lot of PC gamers out there just don't enjoy playing console designed
games on their PC's. Personally, I'm not too picky, but even if you do look past the console feel with Lost Planet, you're still left with gameplay
that is, while enjoyable, effectively not pushing the boundaries in any way shape or form. It is a very generic playing game despite the somewhat unique
approach with T-ENG to keep the action flowing,
which is successful, it's just that a mechanism that keeps the flow of the gameplay steady won't help that much when the very gameplay it regulates is
Seeing as the game is basically identical to the 360 version from a gameplay standpoint, it would have been nice to see Capcom deploy the new
framework that allows 360 and PC gamers to play together via Microsoft's Live network, although in fairness only one title does this at the moment -
Shadowrun - and that's a Microsoft published title. What LP does feature for multiplayer is basically run of the mill stuff, such as team elimination,
capture the flag etc for up to 16 players. While I acknowledge
the PC version is only brand new on the market, I actually had a lot of trouble finding anyone online to play with so once again it's a shame 360 and PC
gamers couldn't join up with Lost Planet as it would have definitely improved this area. As far as other online components go, such as updates,
Lost Planet PC is actually a Steam powered game so any future patches or downloads should be easy to obtain - in fact there was already one
pretty hefty update that came down right after I installed
If there is one aspect to Lost Planet PC that completely defies normal console port logic however, it is definitely the graphics and the
visual options on offer. While I won't list every little visual tweak you can make in this game, lets just say LP fills out its options menu screen,
including options such as a maximum resolution of 2560x1600, different levels of HDR quality, the ability to toggle Multi-GPU on and off, and many, many
more. The end result is basically a good to great
looking game that will definitely need a high end, multi cored, multi GPU'd beast of a PC to fully tame. While we did only game in DX9 rendering, it still
looked pretty darn good so for those keen gamers in DX10, you can expect a visual feast here. If you don't have a great PC, don't be too concerned
though as the game can scale back significantly.
Lost Planet PC is far from a bad game, but it is clearly a console port and while some attempt has been made to take advantage of the PC platform, these
are mostly technical in nature so the impression I get is that more attention was given to making this a great tech demo than a great PC game,
perhaps as a quick way to cash in on eager hardcore gamers looking to take advantage of their new and expensive DX10 hardware, as LP is one of the very few
DX10 PC games out right now. This isn't a terrible
thing, but make no mistake - if you can't stand console ports, you won't be able to stand Lost Planet PC. If that is something you don't overly care
about, some decent action gameplay can definitely be had here, so I recommend it to those who didn't get a chance to play it on the 360 and don't mind
playing a rather linear console native game on their PC.