Lost Planet 2 Multiplayer: Hands-on Impressions
So I’ve spent the last week or so getting my snow-pirate on and testing out the new beta release of Lost Planet 2’s multiplayer component. The beta offers just one map for players to try out called “Turbulent Jungle”, which attempts to show off little bits and pieces of what the eventual product will offer.
To be brutally honest, it’s not looking like anything special so far.
That said, the game is of course still in beta, so it’s far too early to start heaping judgement upon it. All I can do is tell you about my experiences so far, which haven’t exactly filled me with confidence for the final product.
Without boring you with a Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions recap, here’s just the happenings since the end of the last game: Ten years have passed and the colonisation of E.D.N.3 (or just plain old ‘Eden’ if you’re not a fan of acronyms) is essentially complete. The desolate ice planet from the first game has been transformed into a lush jungle planet. Players take control of a Snow Pirate, the name given to soldiers on Eden and pits them against a native race of fierce insect-like creatures called the Akrid.
The multiplayer test map, Turbulent Jungle, goes a long way to show how far E.D.N. has changed. Rich vegetation covers the ground and water flows freely around the map. Most buildings are covered with crawling vines and moss, showing that the terraforming has possibly exceeded it’s original expectations. Using both this and the single-player demo as a guide, I think we can say for sure that we’re in for a visual treat when the full game arrives, as not only do the environments look fantastic, but the player models and weapon effects too.
But who cares about pretty graphics, right? What will really be effecting our decision to buy Lost Planet 2 is how the game plays, and this is where things started to go a little bit sour for me.
First of all, yes, beta build and all, but if you want to show me how to play a game, don’t tie the controller map to a loading screen that only takes two seconds to complete. Seriously. It took me around four games to actually familiarise myself with the controls, and I’m still not actually certain I’ve got the whole range down pat.
Which was a serious problem for me, because the controls are one of the first things that I took issue with when I began playing online. These are the clunkiest controls I think I’ve felt since Gears of War, and at least Gears had a good degree of precision when it came to moving your hulk around. Presumably hindered by their Vital Suits (or VSs), Snow Pirates practically stumble their way around the map at standard speed. When you jump it’s akin to helping a friend move a fridge sans-lifter: there’s a lot of effort for not much distance. This would all be fine, except that one of the game’s highlights is the ability to use short range grappling hooks, which happily fling the player across the map with a minimal amount of effort. There’s seems to be a great deal of inconsistency as to how much your player weighs. When players want to sprint, you can only gently steer your player to match the built-up momentum, but you can leap horizontally like a cat if you want to do a combat roll.
Then there are the mech suits to try out, which in some bizarre role-reversal, feel the exact opposite. Maybe they’re just better tuned or sport particularly good shock-absorbers, but from the moment you climb into a large scale VS you actually manage to gain a better control over what you want your player to do. This is one of several reasons why many maps (at least in the team-based matches) become a game of “who can jump in the gigantic mech first”.
There are only two modes available to test on this beta, Data Post Grab and Elimination. Data Post Grab splits the players into teams and pits them against each other in a battle for control points, where as Elimination is a simple, free-for-all deathmatch. Personally, I actually favoured Elimination.
Everyone is probably thinking that I’m nitpicking a bit here, but this really was what I was thinking as I played through all the matches: Everything about controlling your character feels like it has the tiniest split-second delay. It can get quite maddening. Let me give you an example about what’s got me bitching so hard.
So in Data Post Grab, to actually capture a Data Post you (and several of your team-mates if you want to speed things along) have to get to a post and continuously tap B to claim it for your team. The problem is, the game gives you a certain amount of leeway when it comes to tapping the button, so when you notice an enemy jump into view it actually takes around a second for the game to realise that you’ve stopped tapping and you’d like your gun back so you can defend yourself. In said second, your enemy has already had ample chance to lob a grenade straight at your forehead, which you won’t have a chance of hell in avoiding once you’re disengaged from the post.
This is why, quite frequently, you’ll see a squad of players crowded around a Data Post, but only one or two activating it. If a whole squad pitches in to help out, you can be sure a well placed grenade will award someone from the opposite team with an instant killstreak.
Elimination is a different affair, and despite reservations over the control physics, I had a lot more fun just duking it out with hostile Snow Pirates online. If Turbulent Jungle does show off one thing apart from the pretty graphics, it’s Lost Planet 2’s ingenious use of both horizontal and vertical warfare. Players can pin themselves to walls, ledges and even ceilings to set up ambushes, which results in some rather frantic action when you load up a server with 16 players at once. Mechs become less of a deal-breaker, as any player with a mech will automatically find himself the target of a dozen of angry grenades. Scalable walls and ladders offer many vantage points for snipers to set up shop, but climbing ladders leaves a player almost completely defenseless and easy prey for any sharp-eyed opponent.
In the end, the whole experience is kind of generic at this point, which is probably the reason behind my apathy. So much so that it makes me wonder why Capcom bothered to release a beta build of the multiplayer in the first place. It looks like some interesting elements will be going into the full product (there is an entirely inactive experience, customisation, perks and levelling element currently attached), but if Capcom were looking to put their best foot forward on this beta I’m not sure if they’ve made a good impression.
I’m now looking forward to finding out what other multiplayer modes are going to be included in the full game, especially if they resurrect a few of the more popular modes from the original. But for the time being Lost Planet 2 might be staying lost for me come release day.
Lost Planet 2 will be released on the 11th of May, 2010 via Capcom. I played the multiplayer beta for a week on the Xbox 360.
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