We've been playing the Lost Planet multiplayer for the past couple of days through an arrangement with Capcom. All Xbox Live users will be able to download the multiplayer-enabled demo today and get some gaming in ... if the tryptophan hasn't incapacitated them.
The demo comes with one map called Pirate Fortress, although if you pre-order the Lost Planet Collector's Edition on "White Friday" (11/24), you'll get a code that allows you to download an additional map called Dilapidation. If you've played the single-player demo, then you've played Pirate Fortress. It's exactly the same level (except you can't go in that sort of warehouse/garage area), with power-ups and additional weapons scattered all over the place. Dilapidation is much more closed in, set in the ruins of a burned out multi-story building with an underwater area (your player is equipped with some kind of fancy futuristic scuba gear that doesn't even release bubbles) and multiple tunnels and dark corners to hide in.
The gameplay and graphics seem much improved over the single-player demo, and there are a lot more weapons to choose from as well. They include sticky grenades, frisbee-like (go Tron!) disc grenades, and our favorite -- dummy grenades. Pop the pin on one of these and an inflatable dummy of you will sprout up, leaving the real you free to sneak off into the shadows and take someone out. There are also more powerful rifles to pick up, like an EM Laser and an Energy Rifle that can be charged up to release shots that'll knock you on your ass.
You can still pilot Mechs (also known as Vital Suits) around the map. There are two in Pirate Fortress, and a hidden one in Dilapidation. They have extremely powerful weapons, but are fairly easy to take down with the frisbee grenades or weapons that have a charge-up ability, so use 'em at your own risk. We didn't find the one that morphs into a snowmobile, although on the two maps we played there wouldn't have really been much point with nowhere to go.
The grappling line has also been improved since the single-player demo. If you fall off the edge of a steep drop, your grapple will automatically latch onto the edge and save your butt. You can disengage it by hitting X, or move the left thumbstick up or down to ascend or descend the rope. This was a nice touch, and came in handy when getting chased all over Dilapidation, which features from pretty steep drops. Beware that if you get shot while on the hope, you'll drop right off of it, and that's not normally a good thing.
None of the matches we got into featured more than four players, because only an extremely limited amount of people had the advance demo. We're hoping that changes once the demo hits the marketplace and goes wide. The games can support up to 16 players, which would make matches on Pirate Fortress more interesting (it's so huge), although it would be a kill-fest on maps like Dilapidation which is smaller and more stealth-oriented.
Our major complaint is about the score, however. If you look on the left-hand side of your screen, you'll see your Thermal Energy bar, and underneath that, in super-tiny Lilliputian numbers ... the score. It's nearly impossible to read unless you're about a foot away from your television (yes, we're on HD), so it was pretty pointless to even have onscreen. Other than that, things are pretty minor. The same shadow glitch that appears in Gears of War (you can see the player's shadow through walls, under floors, etc) is extremely prevalent here, although we're willing to forgive small things like this since it's still a work-in-progress (we hope). Oh, and our biggest small gripe -- check out the size of that blade hanging underneath your player's backpack. We're dying to melee other players with it, but it's not usable. Such a tease.
Joystiq played with DeaconBlade 360 of Unscripted360 and GODFREE from Gamertagradio last night, and they uploaded the video from the multiplayer sessions. Check it out, and don't worry -- we pwned them bigtime (at least, once we double checked the score with a microscope we did). Thanks for the game, guys!
Check out the demo, eat some good food, and look for us online.