With Lost Planet 2 approaching it feels appropriate to remind readers that Dead Rising, Gears of War, and Resident Evil characters will be included in this title via character customization. We have seen this type of high profile feature before with Yoda/Darth Vader/Jedi Apprentice in Soul Calibur 4. Solid Snake appearing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is another example. While these cameos peak our interest, have they ever delivered on the exciting prospect of bringing your favorite unique characters to life in a new universe?
Cross over characters are sometimes deeply intertwined into the plot/premise of a game in some way however cases like this are very rare and usually involve a lot of planning. For an example of this look to Cross Edge, a role playing game put together by Capcom, Nippon Ichi, Namco Bandai, Gust, and Idea Factory for publishers Compile Heart (Japan), NIS America (North America) and TecmoKoei (Europe). This title attempted to satisfy fans of the Darkstalkers, Disgaea, Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia, Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires, Atelier Marie and Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy franchises all at once. Unfortunately for the realm of action/shooter titles, these cross over characters are usually just there for show in a game like Lost Planet 2.
Exactly what this accomplishes for the end gamer when said appearances sometimes seem like little more than mock advertisements is uncertain. Nintendo Wii gamers were never able to experience Metal Gear Solid 4 so Solid Snake ends up essentially a PlayStation commercial in Brawl. More importantly, this all makes some gamers wonder if such a large follow up title like Lost Planet 2, which looks amazing on its own, should even need to have name drops like Marcus Fenix and Albert Wesker to appeal to them.
On the one hand, people like to play as an unexpected character. It does keep things fresh. Customization tools are great. Unreal Tournament 3 features game mods on PC and PlayStation 3 which has allowed gamers to play as Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Master Chief (Halo), Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII), Marcus Fenix (Gears of War), and many other popular gaming icons through widespread online support. Lost Planet 2 brings the ability to play as your favorite character and is going out of its way to officially support some of the most in demand. Overall it seems like this type of character injection takes away from the actual title itself, but in the long run having vast character customization will solidify replay value for many users who desire to make their own virtual identity.
On the other hand we have seen Uncharted 2 bring over characters from Resistance 2, Infamous , and Killzone 2 which are purely available for multiplayer online. Users have to buy these similar to the many costume/skin micros-add on packs released by other publishers, however shooting some one wearing one of the alternate skins is free. The fact that character assets such as costumes sell in huge volume from Capcom and other publishers means that there is a chance Lost Planet 2‘s extra characters will come at a price. Have Capcom and Epic Games realized the business opportunity for marketing and exploiting Marcus Fenix because of his popularity in Unreal Tournament 3 modification? We will never know for sure but it seems very likely. Now I wonder if these gaming giants will capitalize on the demand that exists and change what started out as a free mod skin into premium download content.
While these virtual cameos may look and sound epic, they really add little to nothing for the game play experience when there is no depth to their presence. For example, if you take such a notable character as Albert Wesker and you bring him into the Lost Planet universe, but the only time he is there is for multiplayer, gamers are going to collectively sigh as they sense a huge missed opportunity. Basically what Capcom is doing in my eyes is teasing us. Just try not to be disappointed running around in multiplayer with characters that have nothing to do with the game. The Gears of War cameos are perhaps the most shocking of all but still do not intertwine with the story line. So while Uncharted 2 and Lost Planet 2 strive to be great multiplayer experiences, and these cameos definitely help that area of the game, the shock factor will quickly wear off within minutes of the first match. Instead of adding to a game cross over characters typically serve to take away from it by constantly reminding you what games you aren’t playing.
If you are a huge fan of a character that is doing a cross over cameo, you would probably rather play the game the character came from than Lost Planet 2. It will be fun to play with them in other game universes, but for those who are not familiar with these characters you gain nothing from their appearance since they have no involvement in the story. Unless Capcom proves me wrong with interwoven stories it looks like the only purpose of Frank West (Dead Rising), Marcus Fenix (Gears of War), Albert Wesker (Resident Evil) and the Monster Hunter character model are to have some skins. Let us hope these are free and that the character customizations Lost Planet 2 offers are as limitless as they seem. Until cross over appearances are more than just eye candy and advertising I do not think they achieve much for the overall gaming community.