What makes matters worse is that the level designers seem to have realised how simple and unimaginative some of the stages are, and have tried to spruce them up by adding bizarre routes and obstacles that force you to break out the old platforming skills. But it just doesn't work. One example saw us climb out through the roof of a cavernous snow pirate base, only to be confronted with a cliff on one side, and a certain-death drop on the other. We uncovered a VS (ie, a mech) by digging it out of a snowdrift, and used it to try and jump up the side of the cliff. After sliding back down a few times, we managed to gain footholds on what we assumed were bugged-out sections of rock and eventually leapt onto the summit; which turned out to be our intended destination. But all the way through, it felt like we were cheating, and we half expected to get to the top of the cliff to discover the sort of void you come across when you're trying to break out of the gameworld. It was one of the most tragic pieces of level design we've seen on the 360 so far, and certainly not an isolated incident in this game.
You do get some assistance when you're navigating through the ill-conceived icy-wastelands of EDV III. Hitting T-Eng waypoints (which you open by rapidly tapping b under a hail of attacks from various Akrids) throughout each level not only restores your health, but also updates your PDA and shows you the right route to take by shooting out a bright beam of light in the direction you should be heading.
ICE TO LOOK AT
Thankfully, one aspect of Lost Planet that does stand out - and it makes trudging through the mediocrity of each level well worthwhile - are the bosses. The end of mission Akrids are colossal, and as you can imagine, they're tougher than Mike Tyson in a steel suit. Get knocked out of your VS while you're taking on the sort of monster that would eat Gears of War's Corpser for a mid-morning snack, and it usually means a quick, messy death for our Wayne. In keeping with the game's regressive feel, they've all got specific weakspots - and yes, you have to hit these to inflict the massive damage - but sometimes it's tricky to even find where they are. Fighting these creatures on anything above Easy is a real challenge, and one that harks back to Ninja Gaiden on the old 'box. If you're the type that sniffs at next gen games for being too easy we reckon these are the aliens to give you that hardcore fix you've been craving.
These epic boss battles wouldn't work, though, if Lost Planet wasn't a seriously handsome game. Being able to see every tentacle and pulsating Thermal Energy sack on the Akrids is a real bonus, especially when you're working out how to beat them. Nailing the smaller ones with a shotgun makes the Akrid fly apart in a satisfying mess of green-blooded chunks, and blowing up a band of snow pirates by shooting a nearby explosive barrel generates an extraordinary flame effect, followed by plumes of next gen smoke and a shower of dislodged snow. Impressive, especially on that HDTV you really should have invested in by now. The only drawback with these intense visuals (and we can't believe we're going to say this...) is that they can sometimes be too much. During boss fights, or encounters with other mechs, the amount of explosions and smoke being flung around onscreen means you're completely blinded and unable to either pick out a target to return fire at, or avoid incoming missiles.
Oh, and unless you're packing a rocket launcher or one of the ridiculously large mech-weapons that can be lugged around while you're on foot, you probably won't survive the encounter with body intact.