If you read Xbox World 360 magazine this month, then you'll encounter a fascinating sit-down with Capcom's Jun Takeuchi - high profile producer of such AAA titles as Resi 5 and this: Lost Planet 2. Helming the former has made Takeuchi-san a controversial figure with gamers, to say the least, but the guy clearly has vision... and whopping iron balls.
Unfortunately, the latter proves that either he lacks the production resources or - perhaps more crucially - the ability to actually execute these grand designs. Welcome to the development paradigm that encapsulates our return to the lost planet known as EDN III.
Cast your mind back to the arctic original and you'll probably recall fond memories of a hit-and-miss campaign that nevertheless packed in a hefty array of mechs, incredi-guns, Godzilla-sized boss scraps and blazing set pieces - ably bolstered all the while by a surprisingly sprightly multiplayer component. So what does Takeuchi do? He takes this million-selling blueprint, dumps the (admittedly duff) protagonists*, removes almost all of the ice from the equation, rejigs the way T-ENG is used and switches focus to concentrate almost exclusively upon multiplayer. Like we said, balls of iron.
We might as well come out with it straight away; bereft of fellow human players, and forced to rely on your daftly-named AI 'squad mates' like Master Frog and xgdst59, Lost Planet 2 is an unqualified stinker. Capcom suggested they knew less about artificial intelligence than a refurbished Breville sandwich maker with Resident Evil 5, and this simply proves it. Bots contribute precisely nada in the way of objective fulfillment - preferring to stand around and pull off silly Emotes while you're getting on with the business of murder and activating gazillions of data posts.
This in itself is criminal, but when you're occasionally required to defend two separate co-ordinates a good minute's run away it becomes hair-tearingly frustrating watching them muck about. We don't like to throw the term 'broken' about, but at times Lost Planet 2's AI comes mighty close. There's just no connection to these bozos; indeed they're so bereft of personality we even yearned for the return of Yuri and his pirate pals Luka and Rick. And that's no mean feat.
Thankfully, enlist some human comrades and the entire experience perks up hugely. It's still hamstrung by the same litany of rubbish mechanics as the original - a puny grappling hook that's beyond useless, sluggish knock-down animations and the sense you're controlling a clapped-out dump truck rather than a sprightly warrior - but conversely it's still boasting the same great hooks.
The Vital Suits are back, bigger and better than ever (keep an eye out for the catchily-named GAN-37: Type 1 and GAB-25M Type: 2), your arsenal has been significantly bolstered and the new Category G Akrids make the beasties you butchered in the original look like puny, deformed midgets. Shame the actual Akrid count is miniscule now - the majority of the foes you'll face are dull humanoid types and far too many missions feature mindlessly repetitive industrial complexes.
Also, the 'plot' makes The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus look positively simplistic. The prelude, a nostalgic trek through an infinitely dull icefield, sets the tone for what's to follow perfectly; that is, an uneven mess. As an experiment to create a gripping campaign mode which perfectly integrates co-op multiplayer, it fails on almost every level. Bleurgh.
The original LP was wonderfully, commendably old school in its approach to the shooter genre, all globule pickups, power ups and epic boss showdowns. Disappointingly, this almost feels like a regression. Bereft of its iconically chilly setting, random trudgings through jungle, desert, underwater and urban locales only contribute to a disconnected, disjointed feel - especially when they vary wildly in quality.