To say that Capcom understand multiplayer would be something of an understatement: their Monster Hunter series is (probably) responsible for 16% of Japan’s GDP, though its decidedly Eastern flavour – and fiddly controls – have yet to catch on in the West. Lost Planet 2, on the other hand, paints itself with an unmistakable Western twang from the get-go. It knows what Western games like, and it’s going to give it to them alongside a bevy of mech suits and plenty of female characters with some very bouncy bazookas.Even though the multiplayer hasn’t changed too much in concept from the original, it’s still remarkable to see it in action. Japanese developers don’t normally make games like Lost Planet 2. Think about it: a deathmatch-orientated online multiplayer game that supports 16 players? It just doesn’t happen. Except it has, and fans of the original’s cult multiplayer mode will hit the ground running. Those more familiar with Gears or Call of Duty might take a couple of hours to get their bearings, but they’ll never find themselves too lost – right trigger still shoots after all.Character animations have been greatly improved for the sequel – the game uses the latest iteration of Capcom’s agreeable MT engine – but they follow the original’s lead of making everything seem weighty and challenging. Explosions cause characters to flinch whilst covering their face for instance. Drops cause them to crumple as they hit the ground and the game’s many protracted leaps of faith cause limbs to flail around with a slight hint of terror. They might look like larger-than-life Japanese stereotypes – or you can choose from Marcus Fenix, Albert Wesker and Frank West – but they shuffle around with genuine human authenticity. Most importantly, they make the giant weapons scattered around the maps, including ones that can now be plucked off mech VS’s, seem really heavy.Capcom are also pushing their impressive character customisation features, letting players mix-and-match their appearance with head, torso, legs and backpack options. The range of potential permutations is huge, allowing for plenty of serious and comedy options. It’s clear Capcom are taking some direct cues from Monster Hunter here, which means we can all look forward to making characters with armour over their torsos and only boxer shorts down below.There are also a bounteous stable of perks to fiddle with, as is the norm these days, though the only ones made available in the demo were “Conserve T-ENG” and “Lifesaver”, which slowed the speed you lost the series’ all-important thermal energy (T-ENG) and allowed you to retain HP even after you deplete your supply of T-ENG, respectively.Two game modes, both returning from the original, are currently being promoted above the others: Team Elimination and Post Grab. They’re both standard Team Deathmatch affairs, with Red and Blue factions engaged in their never-ending squabble over which primary colour is the coolest. It’s blue, for the record. In Team Elimination you score points by taking out enemy players and in Post Grab you score points for, well, taking out enemy players and holding onto Data Posts scattered across the map. If you’re doing more killing than you are dying then you’re on the right track, basically.{PAGE TITLE=Lost Planet 2 Hands On page 2}Another mode that’s reappeared, this time from the Colonies expansion, is Akrid Egg Battle, which plays like capture the flag only with red and blue eggs that spawn at random locations. In my personal experience it makes a nice change from Team Elimination but lacks its universal appeal, and it’s definitely frustrating when you’re completely unable to locate the egg. Other modes are promised but have yet to be revealed.One match in multiplayer is now often made of two rounds, with both teams getting a chance to spawn on each side of the map. The game keeps an aggregate score and declares an overall winner at the end, which neatly manages to sidestep any potential complaints about one side getting access to the best vehicles or most advantageous positions. It’s a simple touch that adds a lot to the game and also makes me wonder why so many other big-name titles, such as the recent Bad Company 2, don’t do it nearly as well.It also means the developers can have some fun with the VS’s. It’s now possible to ride giant insectoid Akrids – with a few mechanical implants to keep them obedient – and the aggregate feature means maps can pit a team armed with Akrid against a team sporting VS’s whilst knowing full well they’ll get to swap in a few minutes. A clever touch. There’s also new VS’s that can be piloted by two (or more) players – one drives whilst the others shoot – and even some that can be combined, like Transformers, to create monstrous killing machines. It’s fancy, but a bit cumbersome to actually get working.I get the distinct impression Lost Planet 2 understands the nuances of online gaming far better than the original. Matches feel like they’re just the right length of time to stay interesting, for instance, and are always moreish enough that you’ll want to launch another straight away. I played for two hours and completely lost track of time; probably a good sign. One thing I did notice, though, was that the frag limit on Team Elimination – set to 50 by default – would very rarely be reached, but it’s entirely possible the 16 of us playing were just terrible.The maps are generally excellent, too. One of the highlights was Friction, set in a smoky factory, which was a daunting mass of pits and conveyer-belts liberally sprinkled with industrial gears, pistons and fires almost as dangerous as the steady flow of enemy grenades. NEOS, a space station, also stood out, lowering the gravity and providing launchers that fling you across the map. But the undisputed star of the show was Cube, a simple map set in a humongous over-lit arena with an exuberant announcer and a cheering crowd. I haven’t had as much fun with rockets since Quake III Arena.In many respects Lost Planet 2’s multiplayer is similar to its predecessor, but to say it’s the same experience as the original wouldn’t do it justice. It’s a tighter experience that exhibits a greater sense of control. Capcom do their best to understand multiplayer, and Lost Planet 2 is a game that feels far more aware of its audience. It probably won’t be able to dethrone Modern Warfare 2’s stranglehold on the online world come its release in May, but it should definitely be able to give it a good run for its money.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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