Have you noticed how video games and movies seem to be borrowing from each other's closets these days? You can hardly tell them apart anymore. Movie producers are dressing up their action flicks with frenetic video game pacing and even creating films directly from games (Resident Evil, Doom, etc.). Video game developers are similarly flexing new console muscles by arraying their work with high-powered graphics and Hollywood luster.
Capcom's third-person shooter, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, is a perfect example. In it, you wade through arctic frontiers worthy of Dr. Zhivago while battling screeching Starship Troopers-like ginormous bugs.
Needed: A Killer Snow Blower
The story takes place in the not-too-distant future when the planet Earth is all used up. The people pick up their Al Gore statues and move on to a frozen world they call E.D.N. III. But it turns out that the insect inhabitants of this snowy planet want to shake this human infestation out of their antennae. Mankind figures it might be best to move on, too, until it discovers that the unique thermal energy (T-ENG) flowing through the veins of these creatures is a resource worth fighting for.
We play as Wayne, a young man who is revived after being discovered frozen solid in the snow. He has no memory of his past except that his father was killed by a creature named Greeneyes (a giant centipede/alligator/rhino thingy) which he vows to find and destroy. In the meantime, he helps his small band of new-found friends battle bus-size bugaboos, fend off a rival gang of snow pirates and undermine a large corporation called NEVEC that's exploiting the planet's energy sources.
Things get a bit convoluted from there as we're introduced to a bunch of people who come and go and are difficult to keep track of. One central character is Wayne's kind-of-girlfriend Luka who doesn't really do much in the course of the story other than look pretty while standing around in her specially tailored snowsuit. (Despite the bitter cold, she and the game's only other female wear very form-fitting suits that are low-cut enough to expose cleavage.) But the story and characters don't really matter anyway since there's essentially only one thing this game cares about—blowing things away.
Turning Up the Heat
Wayne gets the job done with a wide variety of weapons: machine guns, shotguns, plasma cannons, grenades, rocket launchers, laser rifles and large robotic suits of armor that usually come equipped with a Gatling gun and a buzz saw. He finds and wields this deadly arsenal (with occasional punctuations of "h---," "d--n," "b--tard" and "b--ch" for effect) on 11 missions that run through a range of locations from open snow-blown fields and mountainsides to deserted buildings and underground insect hives. The result is tons of splattered and dismembered bugs, and a number of bloodlessly dead snow pirates. The dead fade away quickly, or freeze and shatter, leaving behind a red pool of thermal energy—which actually becomes an important part of the game.
Because of the cold, Wayne's thermal energy is constantly being consumed to keep him healthy and warm, which gives the game a perpetual ticking clock. (No stopping to smell the roses ... it's too cold for roses, anyway.) When his energy level runs down to nothing, our hero is literally iced. Fortunately for Wayne, he has a special device on his arm that collects those left-behind blobs of thermal energy. Of course that's not so fortunate for every other living thing because his need for T-ENG amounts to an incentive to kill and drain as many multi-legged critters and snow pirates as possible.
Leaving Me Cold
Deliberately looking for positives, I can say that Lost Planet sleds clear of the grisly gore and entrail-splattering of Deadrising and Gears of War or the up-close headshots of other popular titles such as Rainbow Six: Vegas. The game also has appealing challenges, such as making your way past a gigantic earthworm that spits explosive fire balls or besting a prehistoric-looking centipede while trudging through thigh-high snow drifts. And then there's the aforementioned advances in gaming and graphics technology that turn this video game into cinematic eye candy.
But there's still a disquieting chill running down my spine about the idea of shooting monsters (and heavily-suited humans) and then "feeding" off the essence they leave behind. You can say that the bright red pool is T-ENG and not the blood it looks like. But you don't have to jump to conclusions to have it all feel slightly morbid and vampire-like. Which makes this T-rated game—Hollywood sheen or not—all the harder to, um, sink your teeth into.