Here we are in the grips of winter — the prime video game playing season if ever there was one. Yes, as snow, sleet and hail patters against the window, there's nothing quite like curling up on the couch with a controller and… catching a virtual chill.
"Lost Planet: Extreme Condition," a new game from Capcom exclusive to the Xbox 360, gives new meaning to the phrase "the weather outside is frightful." Warm and cozy as you may be, your teeth will start chattering the minute this third-person action shooter takes you to the snow-covered planet of E.D.N. III, which doesn't look so much like Eden as it does Hell after it's frozen over.
And, frankly, Hell has never looked so good. "Lost Planet" — one of the more anticipated titles of the season — is packed full of gorgeous visuals that truly bring this sci-fi landscape to chilly life. In fact, the icy eye candy is so pretty, it will almost make you forget the problems that otherwise mar the game. Almost.
According to the story here (which comes off a bit like an awkward cross between "Aliens" and "The Thing") humans have struggled to colonize E.D.N. III for some time. But if the subzero temperatures don't kill them, the not-so-friendly natives — a race of buglike creatures known as the Akrid — certainly will.
You play a young man named Wayne who suffers from amnesia. What little you do remember is that an Akrid called Green Eye killed your father and that what you do well is fight. And fight you will.
"Lost Planet" certainly has a lot to offer in the way of engaging and swift-moving action. For Wayne, taking on the Akrid — which come in an assortment of colors and flavors — as well as rival bands of snow pirates (yes, snow pirates) is the order of the day. And you'll help him do so by sending him into battle either on foot or from the driver's seat of a Vital Suit — giant fighting machines that put humans on more even footing when it comes to taking on the Akrid.
The game provides a nice assortment of Vital Suits for Wayne to jump inside of and they add a truly fun dimension to the fighting. One of the suits, for instance, transforms from a two-legged battle bot into a swift-moving snowmobile-like machine. Another model has the ability to leap into the air and hover there.
Meanwhile, Wayne comes armed with a grappling hook, which adds a bit of spice to way he maneuvers around these frigid vistas.
But what truly keeps the action clipping along is the constant hunt for T-Eng (thermal energy). As I mentioned, the weather outside is frightful and that means you'll have to make sure Wayne is constantly using the Harmonizer device on his arm to juice up on pools of thermal goo that spew forth from the Akrid when he kills them. Without T-Eng, Wayne will fast become a popsicle.
While all of this makes for some seriously fun and, at times, frantic game play, "Lost Planet" isn't without its flaws.
For starters, Wayne moves at a maddeningly slow pace and aiming his weaponry also feels unusually sluggish. In the context of the story it does make some sense. After all, he spends a lot of time trudging through snow and he's always wearing heavy, weather-proof gear. And that would slow any chap down. Still, it doesn't feel particularly good to play. When fighting is the heart and soul of a game, you want your character to respond and respond quickly and sometimes it feels as though our boy Wayne has downed a hefty dose of sedatives.
While the developers did try to address these issues, for instance, by making it so Wayne spins around 90 degrees quickly when you press the bumper buttons, the net effect is that the controls become more complex than they need to be.
And then there's the story — jumbled, silly and at times nonsensical. Enough said.
Negative points aside, "Lost Planet" provides plenty of great action and lots of pretty pictures. It'll encourage you not so much to escape the wintry weather outside, but to embrace it.