When I reviewed the original Lost Planet: Extreme Condition in 2007, I noted how derivative it all was. It welded a third-person shooter onto a story and setting that was grafted together from bits and pieces of John Carpenter’s "The Thing," "Alien," and "Starship Troopers" (not to mention a baker’s dozen of iconic games). It also had ludicrously bad voice acting and a forgettable plot; but for all of that, it looked great, and it was still pretty fun.
I only mention my impressions of the first game because while Capcom's Lost Planet 2 sports a new—and even beautiful—coat of paint, overall it remains a hodgepodge of ideas that never coalesce, and exhibits gameplay mechanics that actively work against the player trying to go it alone.
Lost Planet 2 was obviously designed from the get-go with four player co-op as the primary mode of moving through the campaign. This is all well and good, that is only if you can wrangle four buddies into playing...and if their own games coincide with your levels...and if you can navigate the unfriendly matchmaking system. From the ersatz gamertags floating above the AI's heads to the multiplayer lobby starting each mission (even those offline), the emphasis is on playing Lost Planet 2 with other people, it's just too convoluted to do so.
Of course, you can always wait (and wait, and wait) for the game to match you up from the pool of online players, or you can team up with the game's brain-dead AI. While the squad AI in Bad Company 2 or Army of Two left a little something to be desired, those computer-controlled teammates were MENSA-level geniuses compared to the knuckle-draggers which fight beside you in Lost Planet 2. Since completing most of the levels in the game require simultaneous, coordinated action (usually involving repeatedly mashing the B button to activate some machinery), the player's inability to give orders to the AI squad—along with its general inability to function autonomously—means that repeated failure is guaranteed.
While the first game was frozen to the icy landscape of E.D.N. III, Lost Planet 2 carries out its campaign over a much more varied, and beautifully rendered sequence of settings throughout warmer climates. The snow fields return, but lush jungles, industrial levels, and deep space environments are all colorful and interesting additions. Likewise, the insectoid Akrid and the human space pirates show that attention to detail was at least paid to one aspect of the game; similarly, the bosses are huge, imposing, and impressive. Pity, then, that the graphical splendor is in service of characters without personality or even names, a story that drifts aimlessly, and voice acting that is generic at best. Again, Bad Company and its sequel demonstrated that you could create a bot squad with real wit and personality, a lesson totally ignored by the design team of Lost Planet 2.
At nearly every turn there are design decisions at odds with one another. The levels are large and interesting but the mini-map is of little help, for example. The voice acting is tepid but the musical score is epic and overall sound design is effective. The most egregious and infuriating coupling has to be the combination of poor mission design and direction, and the checkpoint save system that forces the repeated play of sometimes hour-long missions. Whether this archaic checkpoint system is used to artificially boost game length or just a misguided attempt to create 'tension,' either way it fails miserably.
The original Lost Planet was a big hit with multiplayer fans, and it is clear that Capcom gave most of its love to the commetitive aspect of the sequel as well. All of the expected, standard modes (deathmatch, elimination, king of the hill) plus a few new ones (such as a stealth mode) are spread over ten, well-designed levels, with DLC already on the way. There are lots of options for character customization, weapon tweaks and upgrades, and even unlockable emotes to taunt your opponents or congratulate your teammates with. To take advantage of this customizability, fortunately, experience points earned in the single player campaign can be spent on the multiplayer side (and vice-versa).
In short, if Lost Planet 2 was a budget-priced multiplayer-only title, it would be hard not to recommend it; unfortunately it's a full-price game with a seriously flawed single player experience. If you can find four, like-minded buddies, Lost Planet 2's co-op campaign offers some spectacular boss battles and stellar graphics. If you're a lone wolf though, be warned and be prepared: The single-player campaign is a full helping of frustration served with a side order of irksome, albeit with a dollop of shiny graphics on top.