Hell is other people. Misery loves company. Everything's better with friends. Poor third-person shooter Lost Planet 2 sits somewhere in the middle of these extremes, trying to work out what went wrong.
Unfortunately, the answer is simple: it doesn't understand the difference between being a great singleplayer shooter and an addictive cooperative multiplayer shooter. Whenever it turns its attention to one side, it chokes on problems from the other, making neither as satisfying as they deserve to be.
When it works, there's plenty to like. Lost Planet 2 is a great-looking gun-game, with excellent pyrotechnics, some phenomenally cool set-pieces, and unapologetically gargantuan bosses of the kind that we just don't get to see enough of on the PC. God only knows what's going on in the story, full of acronyms and alien monsters and constantly jumping around between sets of basically identical characters on the no-longer-frozen world of E.D.N. III, but it hardly matters. You pilot stompy mechs, and they make stuff explode. Who needs a reason to enjoy big explosions?
Unfortunately, the campaign that was meant to distinguish it from the crowd ends up being by far its weakest element. For starters, there's no singleplayer mode, only the option for an all-AI team which doesn't take orders and has the collective intelligence of a kumquat. These grunts are fine at basic enemy killing, but any area that demands even a little actual teamplay instantly becomes an exercise in pure frustration. The only good thing about playing solo like this is that you can watch the hamfisted but important cutscenes through to the end without being peer-pressured into hitting the skip button.
With other humans on board, Lost Planet 2 becomes closer to the game it was meant to be, but still can't resist shooting itself in the foot. For starters, there's a limit to how many times you can die and respawn, which means lots of replaying thanks to both accidents and appallingly explained objectives. Instead of encouraging you to act as a team, it just makes you cross every time someone screws up, and the price of failure is far too steep for pick-up groups. Missions go on for far too long, fighting the tougher bosses quickly becomes tiring, and the increasingly cheap deaths mean that your best chance of getting satisfaction out of the later levels is to buy a keyboard that looks fun to smash.
The most frustrating part of all this is that it's not the core game at fault so much as the often silly rules laid over the top. The obvious comparison is that where our own Left 4 Dead 2 went out of its way to be an approachable co-op shooter, Lost Planet 2 just shrugs and tells you to suck it up. That's hardly uncommon in imported games like this, but it could have met us closer to halfway.
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