Ten years after the events of Lost Planet and apparently it’s all change on the human colony of EDN III. The conflict between the Snow Pirates and colonial mega-corporationn NEVEC continues, but it’s the battle against the planet’s other inhabitants – the ‘orrible Akrid – that has had the biggest effect on EDN III. With the Snow Pirates at war with the giant alien beasties over thermal energy (or T-ENG), the effect on the planet has been profound. Once stuck in the middle of a vicious Ice Age, EDN III has been warmed, although how it happened is up for debate. Some say the enormous Category G Akrid are to blame while others suspect vast underground reservoirs of thermal energy. Either way, snow and ice have, in places, given way to lush, tropical jungles meaning you’ll have a pretty new game world to explore in Lost Planet 2. And with a new EDN III comes a new apay in(Capco}’s s ylanet 2c A’d wequel. This is a game geared entirely towards the four player co-op experience.
This much is obvious from the Campaign menu screen which gives you the option of a Quick Search for co-op partners or a custom session. Hidden away at the bottom of the list is the option to create your own game (and set the other three player slots to private) which you’ll need to do if you plan to take on Lost Planet 2 alone. You’ll then find yourself fighting alongside three AI team-mates which, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, is nowhere near as satisfying as playing the game with friends. But, more on that later.
As we embark on our first mission in the game we’re told we need to go on an Akrid hunt in order to activate our Harmonizers, the new regenerative health equipment in Lost Planet 2. This is achieved by collecting T-ENG – once you have enough you can activate your Harmonizer at any time by holding the start button, replenishing your health. Of course, you’ll have to be smart about when you use your Harmonizer – balance is another central concept of the gameplay in Lost Planet 2.
Not only will you have to keep a constant eye on your T-ENG and health levels, you’ll also need to watch the Battle Gauge closely. Operating a little like the ticket system in Battlefield games, the Battle Gauge is basically your ‘game over’ meter. Every time you, or one of your team-mates, die the Battle Gauge will reduce and you’ll fail your mission when it reaches zero. However, until it reaches empty, you’ll have as many respawns as you like, giving the campaign in Lost Planet 2 a distinctly multiplayer feel. As your Battle Gauge falls when a team-mate dies too, you’ll need to try to keep them alive for as long as possible. Luckily, the game allows you to distribute T-ENG to your team-mates with the aid of a Supplier tool, activated by holding Y and hitting LT. Simply aim at your health-challenged squad mate and hit LT again to fire a ball of T-ENG at them. Understandably, this will come in very handy when playing in co-op and should play an important role if playing solo too. Unfortunately, from our time with the preview build, it became obvious that you’re going to spend an awful lot of T-ENG helping out your squad due to the slightly ropey AI.
While your comrades are pretty good at sticking close to each other, they’re not great at shadowing the player and you’ll frequently find them in battle positions that aren’t exactly what you’d call intelligent. It’s frustrating to donate some T-ENG to a squad mate only to have him run head first into a group of enemies and die immediately afterwards. However, that’s not to say the AI is useless, just a little inconsistent. Your team will target and take down enemies with some skill but it’s when you reach the sections designed for co-op play that you may encounter some trouble. One such moment happened in another mission in which we were searching a tropical environment for the Jungle Pirates. Having discovered a mine, complete with enormous drills, we’re instructed to turn on four power generators to start the drills and keep them running for 90 seconds. Sounds pretty simple, yes? Four generators, four squad mates. Easy. Sadly, this was not the case in our playtest as the AI refused to defend the generators and instead collected in a group of three (taking on enemies, admittedly), while I ran about from generator to generator, restarting them when necessary. What would no doubt be quite a simple section alongside human players is made unnecessarily awkward by the AI. Now, if Lost Planet 2 is anything like its predecessor, you can expect some seriously tough moments later in the game and we’re not convinced the AI will be up to the task of assisting you.
Nevertheless, we’re intrigued to see how the AI holds up during the enormous boss battles which the series is famed for and which we can’t wait to get stuck into. While questions remain about playing Lost Planet 2 in single player, we suspect taking on 100ft beasties with three friends may well be a blast.
Check out our preview of the Lost Planet 2 competitive multiplayer modes.