Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

It's snowing next-gen destruction!

Since we saw it last, Lost Planet has got big. Like 'Hollywood blockbuster' big. The game's opening thunders along like a monster mash between James Bond and Godzilla. A hulking behemoth destroys your city while you fight a retreating battle by its feet, dodging falling debris. The pace and scale is staggering and as far as prologues go, it outstrips everything seen thus far on Xbox 360.

And the thundering pace doesn't let up. Exposed to a longer stint of the game from this new five-mission preview has allowed us to get a better grasp of how the earlier Xbox Live demo fits into the game proper, as we're constantly aware of the hostile alien environment. If the sheer cold doesn't kill us, rampaging Akrids that live in the wilderness or renegade Space Pirates will.

So if you thought tackling that hulking four-legged Akrid in the trial version was impressive, place a cushion between your
legs; you'll need it to rest your jaw on. Whether you're plunging through frost melt into a teeming Akrid infestation, or clinging to a mountain side as a huge Mothra-type creature soars overhead dropping fire eggs, this preview shows that the demo was only the tip of the iceberg.

Cutscenes now break up the different missions and radiate with that high-standard Capcom flair; great cinematic presentation and classy character designs of central lead Wayne and his companions really set the scene for the unfolding storyline. The same can be said for the Space Pirates and Akrids, both of which present numerous foes that could have easily been end-of-game bosses in another developer's game. Capcom instead sprinkles these delights through every objective and snowy plain.

While the bleak winter environments set Lost Planet firmly apart from other generic sci-fi, war-torn titles, it's also the foundation of the central game mechanic - one that becomes apparent after playing through some of the longer missions. The intense cold drains your heat gauge, a gauge that in turn sucks up energy from deposits left by enemy remains. If that gauge hits zero, you're moments from death. The result is a constant awareness of this ticking bomb, and it forces you to plunge neck deep into situations where otherwise you'd tread cautiously.

You're pushed to take risks, huge exciting risks, in order to survive. Every drop of energy you obtain is another step away from death's door. The bigger the enemy, the greater the dropped energy, meaning you're motivated to spar with the larger foes, lancing weak spots with gunfire for the huge energy spurts that spatter the frozen wastes.

It's a great system, implemented beautifully, and it pushes you into being hugely gung-ho. We've yet to be tired of charging into near-suicidal situations and walking out unscathed through a combination fancy footwork and a rapid trigger finger. Facing off against a towering insectoid invigorates you rather than making you snort at the impossibility of surviving.

It perhaps comes down to the arsenal selection, which is coming together very nicely. A two-weapon limit means juggling your choices every time you tread on some new Akrid killer. Exploding enemies at pointblank range with the shotgun infuses us with satisfaction every time and already the sniper rifle has become a firm favourite, with the screen flashing a proud red when snagging a successful headshot.

The Mechas are also promising some individual designs. We've played around with a transforming variant that enabled us to switch from biped walker to snow speeder at the touch of a button - meaning we could boost across the plains. The controls are still a bit cumbersome, and backing up against a cave wall while riding a Mecha caused the camera to stick awkwardly behind us, but we expect these issues to be ironed out before release.

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