There are few things quite as disappointing as when a franchise begins a rise to popularity with a strong, original title only to have the sequel be a letdown of monumental proportions. This is especially true when a title offers an almost absolutely different form of play than its predecessor, essentially altering the superb underlying mechanic that served to make the original so exceptional. Such is the case of Lost Planet 2, which did away with the strong, dynamic single-player of the original in favor of drastically multiplayer-centric play.
The original Lost Planet, which put players in the boots of snow pirate Wayne on E.D.N III, a Hoth-like planet on the other side of universe was perhaps one of the best single-player experiences in the early days of the Xbox 360. Pitting players against not only the elements and forces of the vile human corporation, Nevec, but the insectoid Akrid as well creating an atmosphere where the challenges come from all sides and seem more similar to obstacle-laden side-scroller Contra of the NES era than the all-too-accessible titles of the time. Complete with mounting VS walkers, or Vital Suits, the game had everything a die hard sci-fi or shooter fan could want.
So then how did the sequel fall so far away from the mark when the original was a bull’s-eye?
Prior to the release of Lost Planet 2, Capcom went out of their way to illustrate the changes E.D.N III was undergoing, creating entirely different environments for players to explore along with slews of newer, bigger and more monstrous Akrid than the first title ever served up. So, judging from the single-player of Lost Planet, Capcom should have had a winning formula already in their possession. There was just a few small problems that culminated in turning Lost Planet 2 into a smoldering, bit of steaming wreckage.
Marketing before the release of the game focused on seemingly two primary factors, both of which I mentioned before. Sprawling, beautiful landscapes that utilized the power of their respective consoles to make the planet pop out in all its glory like never before and giantdamn Akrid designed to make players expressly download content into their pants in terror. This neglected to mention that the game was no longer centered on a single character moving through a cohesively designed story, driving towards an ultimate goal. The story arch of the original had been turned to papier-mâché, weaving a story amongst multiple factions on E.D.N III in a fashion that would make Quentin Tarantino have a major aneurism.
While the game was accessible, and that termed is used very loosely in this case, by a single player, the design behind Lost Planet 2, which catered to multiple players becomes slap-in-the-face apparent not before long. Each level feels like a chaotic multiplayer match, with uneven, unclear objectives that ultimately resolve to nothing more than running, gunning and capturing nodes. Occasionally, players are graced with the ability to pilot a VS or get their hands on some exceptionally heavy firepower, but these slim moments are too few and far between to tie the game together enough to be tolerable thereby making the underlying fun factor suffer in an irreconcilable way.
It wasn’t so much that the game ended up being multiplayer that earned so much scorn so much as Capcom essentially neglected to mention it in a succinct way before the game ever released. Seems like a pretty big feature to mention when a majority of the popularity surrounding the first Lost Planet was derived from its campaign as opposed to its messily clustered multiplayer. It would be like a sequel to Bioshock being made that was intrinsically designed for multiplayer action, when the original was renowned for its staggeringly good single-player. But that is exactly what Capcom did and then seemed to act surprised when Lost Planet 2 had such a polarizing effect on everyone who played it, gamer and critic alike.
But without remorse, everything about Lost Planet 2 came off as broken, ungainly and as nothing more than a vigorously pronounced middle-finger to fans who had loved the original so much. It was such a divergence from the original that following my review of the game, discarded it at my local Gamestop like an unwed teenage mother leaving her child on the steps of an orphanage. Not because it was a game that would never be played again, which was a guarantee, but out of the fact that it was a bad game and having it in my collection all but ruptured my spleen with rage. To date, Lost Planet 2 is perhaps the greatest marketing bait-and-switch that Capcom ever pulled off and it breaks my heart because the original was such a well made experience.
Hopefully, were Capcom to make a third Lost Planet, they’d learn and take as many cues as they could from what made the first such a memorably exquisite experience as opposed to the disarray that was the sequel. When people buy into a trilogy, they expect The Empire Strikes Back, not The Temple of Doom. If Capcom removes their heads from their asses and pulls it together, a final iteration in a Lost Planet trilogy could not only leave gamers with fond feelings towards the franchise, but easily establish itself as an impending series to be continued on the next generation software. That is, unless Capcom feels they need to switch it up on gamers.