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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Xbox 360)

I'm currently playing Lost Planet: Extreme Condition for the Xbox 360.

For those who don't care about the details, here's the short version: Best new Xbox 360 game of 2007 (yes, it's the only one so far), totally worth the purchase, truly now-gen, and easily an 8/10 or 9/10 (it's one of those games that makes me re-think my "actors don't do decimals" rule).

For those who care about details, here we go.

First and foremost, I'm glad Capcom keeps shelling out the quality Xbox 360 love. Both this and Dead Rising are Xbox 360 exclusives, both are fantastic games, both really make you feel like you're playing a now-gen game, and both are critical and popular (if not AIAS) darlings. The detail is amazing (both in-game and in cut scenes). The animations for getting into a "VS" (mech') are intricate and solid. Explosions are the bomb (seriously, sorry). The buggy Akrid are lifelike and freaky (I hate anything scorpion-based; which probably stems from young Atari ST Dungeon Master exposure). Snow Pirate battles are intense, and the AI's not half bad.

Sound is amazing (the Soundelux folks are unarguably incredible). Though 5.1 is not quite as impressive as Dead Rising, it's more than solid. It's not that it's in any way sub-par -- Dead Rising just does such an exceptional job of crossing channels (for example, during cut scenes when an NPC runs from in front of you to behind, then up and over a flight of stairs from your right to left).

And the music in Lost Planet is something else. I'm so glad I picked up the Special Edition SKU to get the audio CD musical score. It does what a good movie score for a good movie does -- remind me of powerful/memorable moments from the film/game. (As an aside, there's a good interview with Jamie Christopherson about scoring the game over at

While the graphics and details are fantastic, the cut scenes don't quite measure up to those in Dead Rising, largely for cinematic reasons. Dead Rising's scenes feel like deliberate mini movies -- directed; composed, and very tight. Lost Planet stumbles a bit here, with the cut scenes tending to "ramble" (cue hero handing coffee mug to girl meaningfully).

In addition, while the overall sound is good, that's largely with the music and sound effects, or in-game audio. The voice acting in the cut scenes isn't fabulous, but I think that's largely due to the directing/composition challenges mentioned above (though there are some painful anime tropes realized in the cut scenes.

Game play is pretty good, if a bit "trudgey" at times. The main mechanic that needs some work is also one of its coolest -- being able to swap out or remove and use VS big guns. The problem is since it's the same "B" button used in all scenarios, you can accidentally get in/out of a suit, or attach/unattach a weapon -- usually as you're running from a massive Akrid, and getting out of (or not getting into) a VS costs you the level.

On the upside, checkpoints are better than I thought they were going to be, so you don't usually have to start too terribly far back. And the grapple mechanic (though I've seen it beat up other places), to me works really well and consistently. It admittedly took some time to get used to, but not much at all.

Overall, a fantastic game. Capcom released a demo of this game nine months ago, and it arguably won at the time as the most solid console demo ever released -- and they just upped the quality from there. More impressive, when they released the multiplayer demo later in the year, they actually listened to gamer feedback, and incorporated changes into the final game. They also did things like include a survey in the Official Xbox Magazine to get additional feedback. Very cool.

Again, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition for the Xbox 360 is a fantastic game, and a good play throughout.

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