If Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is your quintessential videogame roller coaster ride, alternating swiftly between cavernous depths and giddy, bullet-flecked heights, and Grand Theft Auto 4 resembles a building-sized, perilously unbounded Dodgems rink, then Capcom’s new third-person romp Lost Planet 2 is a series of giant adventure playgrounds, all tunnels, ladders, ramps, platforms, garishly painted moving parts and wanton messiness.
It’s set once again on the planet of E. D. N. III, which has undergone something of an ecological renaissance since Mr Previous Protagonist worked his world-saving magic in the original. Besides snow and sheer ice, there are now pockets of tropical greenery, swathes of desert and stormy beachfronts, criss-crossed but not yet conquered by the settlements and industries of humanity. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the wildlife: volatile, many-formed Akrid monstrosities still infest the crust, regularly throwing their spiky insectile hats into the ring alongside the high-tech headsets of the campaign’s warring human factions.
The six-episode campaign spun from these colourful materials wants to be some kind of ensemble piece, a grand tapestry of war, saddling up with each faction in turn before bringing all five together for the ultimate throw-down. That might have worked if the script were serious about the task of stretching characterisations across so broad a narrative framework, but it’s more interested in yelling about experimental weapons and ‘category G Akrid’ and rendezvous points than getting you to actually like people, or even telling you what they’re supposed to be doing, and why. Just distinguishing one character from the next is a struggle, as they all wear jazzy faction-specific face helmets.
Mind you, there’s a certain method to the madness here, as the plot’s lack of focus prevents it from getting in the way of what is, at heart, a multiplayer sandbox shooter you can tackle with AI bots. Each episode breaks down into three to five half-hour chapters, and those chapters further collapse into the aforementioned adventure playgrounds: large, tiered environments stuffed full of things to gang up on, hide from, distract or flank, capture, annihilate or defend.
The gun-toting is of the two-at-a-time variety (plus one kind of grenade) and offensive offerings are split between the classics – shotguns, snipers, pistols, n00btubes and machine rifles – and Major Overkill variants such as heat-seeking lasers and Gatling guns, generally found clipped to the shoulders of the game’s returning monster mechs or VS Suits. You can also, of course, pilot the VS Suits themselves, which come in an exciting range of flavours: twin-propellor helicopters, shape-shifting tanks armed with rocket pods, nippy plasma swordsmen, enormous, four-seater ambulatory dreadnoughts with more guns than an issue of Men’s Health, right on down to junky hoverbikes and mounted turrets.