Huddled up to one of 16 screens set up inside Capcom's San Mateo lair, expelling precious Thermal Energy (T-ENG) in battles against compatriots of the gaming press, it became evident that the years spent since the first Lost Planet's release has brought about more than a thaw on E.D.N. III. Beyond a few contextual highlights, little breath was spent on explaining what Lost Planet 2 is about from a story's standpoint. Instead, this event was all about using various mechanical suits to crush opponents in multiplayer mayhem and to get a taste of how competition has evolved on the terraformed alien planet.

From the start it became evident that any who played Capcom's first Lost Planet title will assuredly feel comfortable with the sequel in terms of control, pacing and weaponry—to an extent. Like the franchise's premier, the default control scheme can be a bit of an enigma if you're accustomed to the western-developed style of action shooter. Maneuvers like rolling to avoid machine gun fire or zooming in require dexterity of the digits, and may not fit the bill as “intuitive” by most. Once you get a handle on the controls, you then have to learn to abide by the game's rules of slowly switching inventory on-field, and holding some buttons while spamming others to perform an array of actions, the newest of which causes you to repair objects.

Though headache inducing at first, each of the game's nuances contribute to a deceivingly complex third-person action experience that's more about forethought and recognition than reaction time. From the five maps and various game modes we played, we learned LP2 discourages lone-wolf tactics, instead asking players to support each other as they pick up ammo or capture Data Posts in order to initiate spawn points. There will undoubtedly be those who thrive in the relative slower paced gameplay, especially with the community-driven addition of a sprint button, but battlefield dominance will be earned through superior teamwork.

After watching one writer accidentally blow himself up with a grenade as he pressed the wrong button to snipe an enemy, and moving beyond my own controller-caused blunders, I was able to better understand how the game's new MT Framework 2.0 engine impacted our matches. Not only has the monochromatic snow of the past game been ditched in-favor of a rich color palate full of wild greens in “The Great Outdoors” and “Turbulent Jungle,” and dark, ominous blues of nighttime seaside cliffs in both “Thunderpeal Precipice” and “Dual Complex,” but things like shoulder-tall grasses in “Pirate Fortress” (a classic map from the original game) and other foliage exist as more than stagnant set pieces made for ambiance. As they sway and shutter from player movement or grenade explosions, the vegetation in the game adds a believable dynamic.

As Ryan McDougall, marketing coordinator at Capcom, explained it, the new engine not only allows for the environment to “come alive” and react to in-game action, but such life is also crucial in creating natural camouflage. His argument is hard to disagree with, since the addition of the grasses in “Pirate Fortress” made it easier to hide from passing opponents in vital suits (VSs) while crouched in the thicket. Unfortunately, this same hiding spot is not an ultimate death trap since a tight camera perspective makes it nearly impossible to see other footsoldiers.

Similarly, the addition of bigger, badder vital suits isn't necessarily all for the better. These robotic exoskeletons, ranging from small suits of mobile armor that slightly increase the amount of damage you can take, to bio-mechanical Akrids affixed with human weaponry—notably flying manta ray-like mounts and human-sized, flamethrower-toting termite cavalry—are more varied than before, proving there is certainly plenty to play around with this time around. According to McDougall, there are even VSs that are able to connect together Voltron-style, though we didn't have the opportunity to witness this firsthand.

Yet, for all of the creative variety, it was the biggest of them all that was the least impressive in terms of functionality. A large four-legged Akrid acted as a walking fortress that accommodated up to five players (one pilot and four gunners); but no matter which position I jumped into, the perspective was again too close and the creature itself too obtrusive to get a good bead on any of our scurrying opposition.

Perhaps “Thunderpeal Precipice” just wasn't the venue to showcase such a monster, being a longer-than-it-is-wider map, with little open area to pluck off meager personnel. Luckily, Lost Planet 2 is meant to be a game of customization. More than just choosing which competitive game mode to play, where to play it, and which VSs to play with, customization is meant to allow the player the opportunity to personalize their experience.

Though we didn't get to tweak our profiles, we were told as you level your character (chosen from one of five factions) you can decide to which type of class you want to apply experience points. Not only will you have the ability to change the way your character looks and upgrade the weapons you use, but you can also take advantage of newly implemented “Abilities.” Nothing new to the seasoned online player, you're now able to augment your character with two Abilities in the game lobby, affecting different attributes from the amount of T-ENG you drain to how quickly you can repair VSs.

Walking away from Capcom's multiplayer event, it's hard to not appreciate the improved competitive element of the Lost Planet franchise. However quirky and niche the first game might have been, the ability to jump into walking tanks and grapple onto ledges created a unique online experience. Taking such a solid core experience, the addition of  more weapons and VSs to pilot, and a boost in the game's graphical fidelity, Lost Planet 2 is set to be a more complete multiplayer package than it's predecessor. Not to mention, things only get better with several new game modes, like the all-against-two “Fugitive” mode and capture-the-flag variant of “Akrid Egg Battle,” both making for a more robust set of gamplay options than before.



You'll have the chance to taste Lost Planet 2's multiplayer side April 21, but here's a 360 code for early access starting March 31: WFVWR-6Y9M9-PJDYK-DWW8F-J9863. Check out our Twitter account for more codes @Gamers_Hell




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