One of the game’s big innovations is the importance of thermal energy – you need to collect it to survive the crippling cold, and it also recharges your health when you’re hit hard by enemy fire. This doesn’t just make a neat alternative to the usual health-pack system, it also keeps you scanning the area for possible sources of the stuff (oil drums, fuel tanks and the like) and the fact that Akrid and humans leave energy behind when they die ensures that you have to throw yourself into combat just to keep your supply maintained. Clever stuff.
That’s not all. Other 3D shooters have thrown in mechs and combat suits to add a little variety to the game, but Lost Planet successfully integrates them into the core gameplay. As your hero progresses through the game’s levels, he comes across a wide range of ‘Vital Suits’ – VS for short – with different armaments, capabilities and even vehicle transformation functions. Stomping around in them is a lot of fun, particularly in levels where your main foes are human ice pirates or sinister government forces. Nothing feels better than obliterating an enemy so much smaller and weaker than your heavily armoured self.
And kudos also goes to Capcom for equipping your character so well. The weapons cover the usual bases – machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher – but each packs a meaty punch and the slow reloading on the heavy arms adds a real tactical dimension to their use. Energy weapons, meanwhile, are innovative and exciting, taking time to charge but with effects that make it worth the wait. As these use thermal energy for ammo, they also demand considered use. Best of all, most weapons come in heavy variations for VS use, and these can be ripped off a VS and – provided you don’t mind the extra weight – used to batter bosses or take down larger enemies with relative ease.
Even movement shows signs of the magic Capcom touch. For a start, they’ve actually made a grappling hook work; always accessible from the X button, it’s a crucial part of navigating your way through the levels, and encourages you to make full use of vertical spaces for sniping or sneaking past enemy emplacements. The third-person camera and quick rotate buttons work well, and the auto-aim is neither too sensitive nor too vague. And while we’re throwing out bouquets, let’s chuck one to the audio team. With its thunderous explosions and booming gunfire, not to mention a fantastic score, they’ve done a truly brilliant job.