Discover the secrets of your past and travel a dangerous, frozen road.
PC Release: June 26, 2007
By Ian Coppock
Oh God. Oh God, no. No! Not Lost Planet! Well, this day was bound to happen eventually. I’ve been putting off reviewing this game for the better part of 10 years. By now, any reader casually acquainted with the English language will know that this review may not be kind to its subject matter, but it will be fair. There’s a lot to discuss with a game like Lost Planet; a decent chunk of it has to do with delaying this review, and the rest has to do with a recent re-examination of the game for just this review. Fasten those seat belts, folks. We’re in for one heck of a ride.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a third-person shooter developed by Capcom, a company better known in recent years for its bizarre, schizophrenic behavior and less as the pioneer behind the original Resident Evil. From abruptly cancelling anticipated games to refusing to sell a good chunk of its catalog outside of Japan, Capcom produces no shortage of odd behavior (though it’s no Konami). It also produces no shortage of odd video games, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition being one of the oddest in the last decade. Though it presents a few novel concepts, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition ultimately leaves players with more questions than answers. Usually, the primary question is “Uh… what just happened?”
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition takes place in a sci-fi future, wherein humanity has exhausted earth’s resources and taken to the stars to find more. E.D.N. III, a planet rich in raw materials, is one such planet that humans settle. Despite being locked in an eternal ice age, E.D.N. III provides an ample bounty of resources for its colonists to enjoy. However, just like when the dwarves of Moria awaken the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings, the colonists delve too greedily and too deep, unleashing a swarm of hibernating aliens called the Akrid. These monsters reduce the planet’s population to ragged bands of snow nomads, turning once-prosperous colonies into war-torn husks.
It is against this backdrop of snowy apocalypse that Lost Planet‘s story begins, honing in on a nomad named Wayne. In the game’s prologue, Wayne and his father Gale attempt to destroy a massive Akrid nicknamed Green Eye, but Gale is killed and Wayne barely escapes with his life. Getting lost in a snowstorm, Wayne loses consciousness and wakes up in the company of three new nomads, a stoic explorer named Yuri and brother-and-sister pair Rick and Luka. Yuri informs Wayne that he’s been frozen solid for 30 years, and that the mysterious device latched onto his arm was probably the only thing keeping him alive. It’s definitely kept him from aging. With only scattershot memories of his past life to guide him, Wayne embarks on a new mission to slay the Green Eye and avenge his father. His new friends, apparently having nothing better to do, join him.
Wayne’s monster hunt is not the only goings-on on E.D.N. III. A mysterious organization called NEVEC appears out of the shadows, and they sometimes board the team’s trailer to speak privately with Yuri. After Yuri vanishes, Wayne realizes that NEVEC intends to warm E.D.N. III to make it more habitable. Because he’s apparently insane, Wayne decides that this project needs to be stopped, and that continuing to freeze his butt off is the only way to save mankind… or something.
That sentence is not a typo, folks. The big bad guys in Lost Planet: Extreme Condition are the people who want to make E.D.N. III warm, so that people can actually live on it. And for some reason, the game expects players to think that’s a bad thing. The only organism that could sanely prefer ice-cold weather to habitable temperatures is a polar bear. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition has no polar bears.
So yeah, almost immediately, it becomes clear that the narrative of Lost Planet is comically ridiculous. There’s a whole host of other problems that’ll be delved into later in this review, but the premise of the game is literally to stop a group of scientists from making the planet habitable. There’s no advantage, at least that the game divulges, to keeping E.D.N. III a ball of ice, and the only rationale that Wayne presents for stopping NEVEC is “They’re bad! And I’m good! We must fight them because reasons!”
To be fair, expecting a coherent narrative from Capcom is like expecting compassion from a student loan debt collector, but this is just stupid.
Wayne’s crusade across E.D.N. III is carried out in third-person. He can wield any number of guns found in the frozen landscape, including the standard fare of pistols, shotguns, assault and sniper rifles. Wayne is also able to somehow wield weapons several times bigger than his person, lending credence to the theory that his physiology is part-ant. He has a grappling hook that can be used to vault onto out-of-reach surfaces, and is a crack shot no matter the weapon he’s wielding.
Wayne can also hop aboard any number of Vital Suits, also called VSs. These powered exoskeletons are heavy-duty fighting machines, sporting over-sized weaponry and allowing Wayne to reach out-of-place areas. There’s an impressive variety of these machines in Lost Planet, from skinny one-man scout walkers to much bigger war-bots. Piloting these mechs can be a lot of fun, and it also makes slogging through the snow and ice a lot easier. To ensure variety, Lost Planet‘s levels provide a mix of on-foot and behind-the-wheel combat.
Guns and mechs are all well and good, but Lost Planet‘s most novel mechanic is its thermal energy system. An admittedly interesting and well-implemented piece of the game, the thermal energy counter is a device that keeps Wayne alive in the cold. Thermal energy can be picked up from alien corpses and destroyed machines, and the counter will steadily decrease as Wayne moves about the level. Players therefore have to manage not only their health and ammo, but also the amount of time they have before they freeze to death. It’s a novel mechanic, but the sheer amount of thermal energy lying around usually keeps frostbite at a distance. Thermal energy is also needed to power the various machines that Wayne can drive.
As for combat, Wayne will face a huge mix of Akrid and human enemies throughout Lost Planet. The game starts players out on the easy side, battling against small Akrid monsters and a scattering of snow nomads, but upgrades to much bigger Akrid and NEVEC’s professional military as the game progresses. The firefights in Lost Planet are fun, but they’re nothing that shooter fans haven’t seen before. The true combat spectacles in Lost Planet are the titanic Akrid monsters encountered at the end of some levels. That said, the boss fights in Lost Planet are usually frustrating, drawn-out affairs, where creatures have multiple stages of weakness and repetition. The very last boss battle in particular is an exercise in patience, springing entirely new mechanics on the player instead of what they’ve been practicing with throughout the whole game.
Lost Planet‘s environments offer a lot more variety than one might expect from a frozen planet. Wayne spends most of his time on lonely slogs throughout the blizzard-ridden landscape, but he’ll also venture into ruined cities and underground hot spots. Most levels follow a predictable pattern, beginning with Wayne in a snowy valley and ending with him having descended underground or into a cave. The snowy, industrial and underground palettes are the three main types of areas encountered in Lost Planet, and all of them are replete with enemies. Though these terrain sets give the game some diversity, they’re usually encountered in the exact same sequence, making the game feel repetitive.
The other problem with Lost Planet‘s environments is that they all feel so empty. There’s so much space for interesting backstory or visuals that goes completely unfilled throughout the game. In some levels, Wayne will spend upwards of 20 minutes walking through empty warehouses, giving the game a hollow atmosphere. There is a slight sense of desolation that comes with traversing these empty areas, but it could’ve been so much stronger with some well-placed visuals and backstory.
The narrative that this game informs only gets more confusing after its paradoxical premise. The dialogue writing in this game is terrible; the cutscenes are cheesy, and the conversation feels forced. The voice acting is hilariously bad, sounding more like the English dub for an anime than professional voice work. This makes most cutscenes that the game presents come with a heavy dose of cringe. Again, this is a Capcom game, so it’s hardly a surprise that the dialogue is awful, but it’s not any less awful in Lost Planet.
On top of that, the actual meat of the story makes Lost Planet one of the most confusing video games in years. The plot lurches wildly between Wayne’s pursuit of the Green Eye and his pointless journey to stop NEVEC from warming up the planet. Supporting characters come and go without warning, over-stuffing the cast and changing entire facets of their personality with no warning or buildup. The game’s story lurches back in forth chronologically as well, jumping forward a year, jumping back a decade, jumping forward again a few days. It’s just a complete crapshoot. Even the worst video game narratives usually have at least one redeeming or interesting factor, but not Lost Planet: Extreme Condition.
There really isn’t much more to say about Lost Planet. Its mech-driving is pretty fun, and its thermal energy mechanic is pretty interesting, but it’s impossible to sell this game on those two points alone. The environments feel pretty uninspired, and the narrative, if this point somehow hasn’t been hammered home yet, is pretty bad. Granted, this game isn’t at the Resident Evil 6-level of Capcom failure, but it’s not much higher up the ladder. To add insult to injury, this game’s PC port suffers more than a few bugs, including desktop crashes and occasional stuttering. Lost Planet, like a lot of mediocre games, starts out with great ideas, but its schizophrenic execution leaves players out in the cold.
You can buy Lost Planet: Extreme Condition here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.