A lot of weird things happened to me while I was in LA, but few of my E3 experiences were quite as odd (or as enjoyable) as being eaten by a giant, multi-legged alien lizard thing, fighting my way through its guts and then being pooped out the other end. Welcome to boss battles, Lost Planet II style.
The boss in question was the salamander-like giant that Wez mentioned in his last preview, but this time the whole battle was available to try in glorious, four-player co-op. It really was special, too. As Wez observed, this game has arguably the best graphics that Capcom has ever produced. It's visually stunning, and as luck would have it, it's also a good deal of fun to play, even under the hectic conditions of E3.
What with this being a boss fight, our plucky quartet was faced with a simple objective: kill the big beastie. The best way of doing this, we were told, was to get inside him and attack his guts. Before doing this, however, it was essential to wear him down a bit by attacking his multiple weak spots. In theory, my fellow journalists and I should have formed a detailed plan for how to fight the monster, but unsurprisingly we all ran off to do our own thing - exploring the controls and new toys, and generally marvelling at how bloody gorgeous everything was.
At a basic level, Lost Planet 2 looks and handles like any other third-person shooter. As with the previous game, you're limited to carrying two weapons at any given time, but this relatively limited arsenal is complemented by a range of additional gadgets and rides. Foremost among these is your grappling hook - a handy little tool that makes it a cinch to climb the local scenery, zipping up to a cliff-top sniping perch. During the E3 demo, I found that a bit of grapple-exploration was necessary to reach some of the area's hidden armaments - my favourite being a ridiculously large rocket launcher that dwarfed my character as he held it.
More fun and games was to be had with the Vital Suits - the Power Loader-style mechs that are also making a welcome return from last time. Aside from making you feel like a total badass, these robotic mounts offer you a way to dish out some fearsome firepower at the price of slower movement. Once you get in one of these things, you may find it quite hard to get out again, since there's something extremely moreish to the way they stomp about; unfortunately you're not able to climb inside the monster while you're wearing a VS though, so they could only take us so far in our mission.
After a short period of messing around, our battle group got down to brass tacks. In true Resi 5 style, the monster's vulnerable parts were helpfully coloured a bright fiery orange, clearly standing out against the rest of his dark frame. Despite the colossal size of our opponent, I was surprised to find that it was quite tricky to keep any given target area within my sights for long. My colleagues soon opted for the tactic of grappling to high vantage points around the valley and taking pot shots from there, while I pursued the riskier tactic of running around by the creature's feet.
Needless to say, this strategy soon resulted in me being stepped on and crushed to death. You've got to be doubly careful when playing this game in co-op, as everyone uses the same pool of lives. You can supplement your stockpile by activating Data Posts dotted around the map (and in fact it's useful to do this, since they also act as alternative spawn points) but the bottom line is that you'll fail the mission if everyone is careless.
Thankfully things went a bit better following my swift reincarnation. I jumped back into a Vital Suit and headed back into battle with our enormous foe - and this time one of my buddies hitched a lift by clinging on to the side of my mech (a subtle but very cool ability). This time I was a little more careful in my efforts to evade the boss' lumbering limbs, and I succeeded in nailing one of his knees with a barrage of machine-gun fire. The leg was torn clean off, and a few seconds later one of the other players managed to take out one the large spikes on the creatures' back. The lizard moaned and collapsed to the ground with a loud crash. A message popped up on screen: "Infiltrate the creature!"
This was our chance. The window of opportunity for climbing inside the monster's gob was a relatively small one, but somehow three of us managed to get in there. It was surprisingly spacious in there too, but there wasn't much time to admire the view: as soon as we started to blast the creature's internal organs, we were attacked by swarms of spindly parasites. While these bugs weren't particularly dangerous individually, there were so many of them that I soon became overwhelmed and separated from my team-mates. Then I took a wrong turn (or perhaps a wrong sphincter) and wound up slipping around in a fast-moving gutter of stomach juice. Moments later, a brief cutscene showed me emerging from the lizard's "brown portal".
We never did manage to take down the brute. We came very close to depleting his gargantuan life bar, but then someone got squished and took the last of our lives. I can't say I minded that much, because the whole scrap had easily been the most fun boss battle I'd had all year. Yes, the graphical detail in Lost Planet 2 is amazing - but it was the way the lizard moved and felt that made it so memorable. When you get close to the model, you genuinely feel like you're standing next to a gigantic, living creature. It looks heavy, and when it dives into the nearby lake for cover, it makes a massive great splash. It's detail like this that sells the whole sense of immersion, and I applaud Capcom for getting them so right. My expectations for this game are now bigger than ever, especially since I've heard that the lizard boss is one of the smallest in the game. If that's true, I can't wait to see his siblings.
Lost Planet 2 will be coming to the Xbox 360 and PS3 this winter.