One of the fundamental gameplay dynamics of the original Lost Planet involved the perpetual hunt for thermal energy. Without it your character would instantly expire, and the constant countdown to your own demise did give that game an enjoyably nervous kick. The only problem was that many gamers found it hard to stifle their natural desire to explore the game’s fascinating world, and were often caught off-guard by its seemingly open-ended structure. This was never a problem for the many people who tuned into it, but players of a specific disposition ended up being left somewhat cold by it.

If you subscribe to the belief that this was indeed a fault with the original title, you’ll be thrilled to note that that particular mechanic doesn’t exist in Lost Planet 2. If the original was an ever-so-slightly confused game that succeeded despite itself, then this sequel is a resounding, tub-thumping success that doesn’t have any qualms about keeping everything unfussy, focused and streamlined. Its a full-blown action game, and the appearance of a couple of unlockable characters in the Xbox 360 version (namely Marcus and Dom from Gears Of War) should alert everyone to the tone that it has chosen to take.

It also deserves to be feverishly lapped up by anyone who has been recently yearning for a full-tilt four player co-op experience. Call Of Duty: World At War allowed four players to tackle its campaign simultaneously but it was patently obvious from the off that this wasn’t the ideal way to play it. Aside from Valve’s bitty but wondrous Left 4 Dead franchise, the only real contender of note thus far has been Halo 3: ODST; a hugely enjoyable and polished experience in four player co-op, but one that was also perilously short-lived.

But Lost Planet 2 (and this fact is obvious at every turn) has been designed from the ground up with four players in mind. Even when you’re playing alone, you’re accompanied by three (reasonably sharp) AI squad mates, and for the most part the mission structure appears to have been inspired by the likes of DICE’s Battlefield games. One of the first you’ll encounter involves having to capture five control units at an abandoned mining complex, and then guard against several waves of enemy attackers until they activate. Teamwork and communication are both paramount.

Thrilling (and progressively more taxing) boss battles have always been Capcom’s forte, and whilst the original Lost Planet was definitely no slouch in that department, the sequel unequivocally trounces it, and is packed to the brim with moments of gleaming brilliance that’ll probably be talked about long into the next console generation. Besides being astonishing to behold (the giant Akrid are almost as eye-popping as the Titans in God Of War III) their AI is also tailored to co-op play. All of them respond to prolonged noise, so balancing the fight with the rest of your team is essential. Short bursts of fire coupled with constant movement is what’ll usually win the day, and this should be a chore, but instead offers up a similar brand of back-slappy excitement to the aforementioned Battlefield series.

The game is visually more adventurous and varied than the original, even though the sequel once again takes place on the planet of EDN III. It is set ten years on and a drastic shift in the planet’s climate has begun to melt much of its snow, and this allows for some sumptuous tropical vistas and even deserts. The plot is still macho and hokey, but the cutscenes are much improved this time; fast paced and way over the top, they involve and excite far more than they did in the original. This is an immensely good-looking game and despite how extraordinarily busy it can get at certain junctures, amazingly, the framerate never seemed to falter.

The grading scheme that emerges at the end of each mission is well-rounded and balanced, with sharp teamwork and a hefty kill tally resulting in experience points that can be used to buy new weapons or customise your character. The bountiful deathmatch-style multiplayer modes are as effortlessly compelling as they were last time, and will keep you more than busy after you’ve completed (and probably re-completed) the excellent campaign. Lost Planet 2 is a superior sequel, and a formidable package.

Watch the Lost Planet 2 trailer here…

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