Sadly, however, it’s time to replace the bouquets with bricks. Lost Planet constantly fails to engage. The culprits? Well, personally, I’m blaming the level designers and the AI team. 90 per cent of the time the levels are unquestionably dull; the scenery may be spectacular but the gameplay itself is a linear trudge through a sequence of chambers, dispatching Akrid, ice-pirates or government forces in methodical and predictable fashion, with little to raise the pulse-rate or push your shooting skills to the max.
There’s no real sense of pace or drama, and when the game suddenly decides to up the ante, it does so through brutally unsubtle means: throwing vast quantities of enemies at you in wide open areas where the most sensible course is just to get through to the next checkpoint as rapidly as possible. Compare it to Halo, where the ever-changing combat situations had you constantly adjusting your play style, or even Gears of War with its nervous racing from cover to cover, and there’s really no question which is the most engaging experience. The levels pick up occasionally, when you find a new VS or have to tackle a particularly vicious bunch of Akrid, but it’s hardly a game of memorable moments.
The AI, meanwhile is pitiful. You can’t blame the Akrid – they’re a bunch of swarming insects, after all – but the humans show no sign of intelligence or organisation, and when you think Half Life could simulate both nearly a decade ago, there’s really no excuse for that. Partly as a result, most of the main levels are almost pitifully easy, even on the medium difficulty level.
Doubtless some of this comes down to the fact that Capcom focussed its attentions on the boss battles. True, the scale is impressive, the boss design awesome, but neither of these things make these epic scraps enjoyable. In most cases, it’s just a matter of finding the weak point then slugging it out, doing what you can to maintain thermal energy and health in the face of frequently overwhelming special attacks. In some cases, these attacks are so enormous that you’re swept off your feet for seconds at a time, with the vast majority of your health wiped out before you get a chance to recover. It says something about a game when in one mission, on medium difficulty, it took me under twenty minutes to sweep through the level then over fifty to battle the boss at its conclusion. It leaves you with a quandary: turn the difficulty down and cruise through the game, or keep it on medium and have an experience with mountainous peaks of trickiness.