Bit of a strange one, Lost Planet. When it was first announced at the back end of 2005, there was a nationwide shrug and sigh session as we all prepared to dismiss the game as another plodding mech adventure conceived to help sell a handful of 360s to the Japanese. Next came an E3 reveal and then - more impressively - the Live demo, which was a mindblowing showcase of the ability of Microsoft's white wonderbox to deliver top notch, rock solid, alien-blasting gameplay and top notch, rock solid, alien-blasting visuals. In one short download, we'd gone from apathy to ecstasy. January 2007 couldn't come quick enough and the hype machine was working triple shifts. But now it's finally here, we've got to admit, we're starting to feel slight but undeniable twinges of disappointment.
More of that later. First, some context: some time in the distant future mankind discovers an icy out-world, which they name EDV III. Catchy. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the humans decide to try and settle a colony on EDV III, which all goes splendidly until they encounter the native species: the insecty, Akrid. Aside from being UTTERLY MASSIVE ALIENS with an apetite for mashing humans, the Akrid produce a fuel source within their body called Thermal Energy (T-Eng) that is rather handy for powering machinery and electronics. So this makes the humans more determined to stick around on EDV III and, to try and counter the Akrid threat, they bring in enormous man-piloted mechs called Vital Suits. Which is where you come in; filling the snowshoes of disastrously-named lead character, erm, Wayne, a spunky young VS pilot with a secret. He's on a mission to rid the planet of Akrid and get even with the space-monsters for offing his Dad in the first, superb level.
Of course, this elaborate sci-fi plot is just padding for several hours of handsome-looking man versus space-beast blammo. The super-size of the Akrids serves as a good excuse for the developer to shoehorn a selection of Japan-pleasing mechs into the game, and the 360's near God-like power has allowed Capcom to go overboard with the sort of fire, dust and snow effects that make graphics whores (like us) "Oooh" and "Ahhhh" constantly. It seems like a winning combination. And it should be a winning combination. In fact, it should be one of the greatest shooters on the 'box by a long, long way - but sadly, Lost Planet feels like old footprints melting in slushy, yellow snow.
The main problem with the game is that the action is too vanilla. Each stage follows a very specific formula that, on paper, reads something like this: angry cutscene; shoot snow pirates/aliens; shoot large (but not boxer-soilingly so) mid-level boss; shoot more snow pirates/aliens; shoot unfeasibly big end of level boss; angry cutscene; and repeat. It's the standard shooter formula we've been playing for years, and it makes Lost Planet more one-dimensional than a Vin Diesel performance. Whether you're fighting snow pirates, Akrids or both, combat never reaches fever pitch until you encounter something huge - and even then, mid-level boss fights are unlikely to have you breaking out in a cold sweat. No, it's mostly a case of circle-strafing while you empty your clip into whatever the auto-aim picks out for you. In fact, the auto-aim can be a massive problem if you're trying to kill clusters of enemies by blasting explosive barrels or Akrid nests, because it won't pick them out if there's anything else nearby.
SNOW THE LINE
Of course, this might not be such a problem if the levels weren't so painfully linear. EDV III may be a massive ice world, filled with the sort of natural wonders that'd get David Attenborourgh's heart pumping like a jackhammer, but when you're ploughing through each level it feels more like a series of white, grey, and occasionally orange corridors. Think Brute Force on ice.