Like the first game, the action in Lost Planet 2 takes place on the world of E.D.N. III. However, this time around (due to severe climate changes) the familiar Hoth-like icescapes take a back seat to new urban, jungle, desert, underwater, and outer-space environments. Player-piloted mechs (called Vital Suits) also return, alongside a satisfying array of enormous weapons.
The game's "Campaign" mode can be played cooperatively via a two-player, split-screen mode or online with up to four players. Though the story is convoluted, poorly written, and filled with interchangeable masked characters, the game's varied locations keep things fresh. The Vital Suits are fun to use (even if most of them really just amount to mobile turrets), and sense of scale found in the boss battles is matched by few other games. The personal grappling hook also returns, but is implemented as a rarely-useful afterthought.
Team-based objectives and multi-stage boss fights often require the manning of numerous "battle-stations" spread out across the map, though there are quite a few less-compelling filler levels that pit you against hordes of generic human enemies.
Lost Planet 2's competitive multiplayer modes include variants of deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination, and capture the flag, as well as a "Fugitive" mode that pits hunters against weaker opponents. The inclusion of Vital Suits and some gravity-bending levels in multiplayer can make for some fairly fun and chaotic battles online. Player customization options and other rewards can be purchased with points earned in-game, adding some more life to multiplayer.
Now, the bad news: If you're primarily looking for a good single player experience (and value your sanity), Lost Planet 2 should be avoided at all costs. From the moment the game's main menu appears, it's clear that playing the game solo is not what Capcom intended. For starters, getting a single player game started requires that the player counter-intuitively "host" a game, at which point the number of AI players can be set to three.
In single-player, your band of AI cohorts are identified by fake names that are apparently meant to mimic the online IDs of real players. Fighting alongside AI teammates with names like "DEATH SUMMER," "zz Mike13 zz," and "DevDev Booday," sort of flips the bird at single-player immersion. Far more aggravating is the fact that you'll often glimpse your computer-controlled compatriots standing huddled together like a bunch of pacifists on Quaaludes idly looking on while a massive Akrid repeatedly pounds you into jam.
Accomplishing feats like capturing and holding four checkpoints by yourself, or manning the half-dozen battle stations on a giant cannon while the rest of your team takes a tea break are frustrations that occur with regularity during a single-player session. As busted as the team AI is, I wouldn't go so far to say that the single-player campaign in Lost Planet 2 is broken - it's just far from fun.
Battling Lost Planet 2's giant bosses is exponentially less fun in single-player. Each war of attrition is spent whittling down a giant beast's sizable health bar by blasting its glowing weak-spots. By focusing your firepower on these vulnerable areas, you can blow off the beast's limbs, temporarily staggering the enemy before the limb regenerates. Unfortunately, this means that the only way to really gauge your progress in one of these fights is to monitor the boss' health bar. In one particular fight against a giant salamander-looking Akrid, I must have blown the same one of its regenerating limbs to pieces half a dozen times before the battle's conclusion.
At the end of the day, I can't recommend Lost Planet 2. There's some fun to be had playing through the game's main campaign cooperatively, and the competitive multiplayer is competent enough to be fun for a weekend or two, but it's light on staying-power. Those looking for a good single-player experience will end up feeling left out in the cold.
Lost Planet 2 was developed by Capcom and released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on May 11, 2010. A PC version is forthcoming.