However hard other developers may try, Capcom remains the master of the heart-in-mouth, adrenaline-soaked boss fight. The sandworm thing that the four of us are currently trying to kill is about 50 times the size of the cannon-mounted freight train that we're fighting it from. Every time it emerges from the sand with an ear-shattering, screeching roar to gobble up another carriage as if it were a Smartie, we all instinctively reel back in our seats. Lost Planet 2 has a shot at being the best euphoric four-player monster-killing experience since, well, Monster Hunter. (Yes, I know I namedrop Monster Hunter in practically everything I ever write. Take the hint, people!)
"The original Lost Planet was a bit of a tough sell," explains producer Jun Takeuchi. "Being a Japanese science-fiction shooter that has giant robots, a lot of people [at Capcom] were asking 'is this actually going to shift any units?', so it was a bit of a struggle to get the support for the first game. But it got great reviews, it sold beyond our expectations, and there are a lot of people out there looking for a sequel, so getting the support for Lost Planet 2 wasn't a problem."
The Tokyo Game Show demo is two levels quite different from the jungles we've previously torn apart. The first is a near-deserted settlement peppered with square mudhouses (and, naturally, the requisite selection of weaponry and mech suits to pick up and shoot things with). After our team of four finish clearing snipers off the roofs, two massive dinosaur-like lizards with glowing red weak spots on their underbellies announce their arrival with camera-shaking roars.
Lost Planet is a third-person blaster, sure, but it does involve a lot of thought. You don't just empty clips at a huge monster until it falls over, you have to work out a strategy with your team-mates. The massive dinosaurs we're currently fighting find their way around by sound, so if you start happily firing away at weak spots as soon as one stands up to have a look around, you'll be swiftly crushed as it comes charging towards you at terrifying speed. We quickly learn to stand stock still as soon as we see one start to raise itself up on two legs - the tension is palpable.
"The most important progression we wanted to make from Extreme Condition was the introduction of four player co-op, that's really the key feature of this game that everything else revolves around," says Takeuchi. Co-op is essential to the game; though you can play through on your own with AI companions, it's only half the experience (or perhaps a quarter). It adapts contextually around four different players with different preferences - if you've got shotguns equipped as your short-range weapon, for instance, you'll see a shotgun lying on the ground where your friend might see a pistol. It's ludicrously customisable, too, letting you change every detail of your character's helmet brim and underwear as well as every imaginable gameplay option.
Lost Planet may occasionally take cues from Gears of War when you're happily splashing around in the guts of boss monsters, but there's something distinctly Japanese about the environments, creature design and blast-happy pace of the gameplay. It feels more like Earth Defense Force than Call of Duty, even if it's the latter that Takeuchi has namedropped in the past. "I feel that being developed by a Japanese company made Lost Planet a little bit different from what people had been seeing in shooters up until then," he says. "I think that what made it a hit with the people who played it was the unique sort of world that it took place in."
Extreme Condition's frozen alien planet gave the developer a lot of scope for imaginative boss monsters and impressive weather effects, but the new, thawed-out E.D.N III is a refreshing change of pace. It's still irrefutable, acronym-heavy Japanese sci-fi - Lost Planet 2's thematic departure from the unwelcoming icy tundras of its predecessor isn't a concession to convention, but an opportunity to expand into verdant jungle settings and vast deserts, and conjure outrageous new oversized enemies to match these new environments.
"At the end of Extreme Condition, the humans who were living on the planet started an artificial melting of the ice that covered the whole planet, and so LP2 takes place 10+ years after the that," says Takeuchi, explaining the change in setting. "You're going to see how that global warming and climate change has changed the planet of E.D.N.III and created many new environments. In terms of the story, you'll see how what the humans who were living on the planet attempted to do didn't go exactly to plan and actually created more problems for the people living there."
Something of a commentary, perhaps? Takeuchi grins. "One of the themes that's important to the game, both in gameplay terms and in story terms, is the use of thermal energy, which powers pretty much everything on the planet and is extremely important to everyone living there. They end up competing for it, fighting for it and killing each other over it - so it's probably possible to see a link to something that's happening on our own planet there."
The second level we're shown really emphasises Lost Planet 2's co-op centric design as well as its awesome, huge-scale cinematography. Grappling between the carriages of a moving freight train, a gigantic sandworm suddenly emerges from beneath and starts snapping at it. It's literally the biggest monster I've ever seen in a videogame, dwarfing even Extreme Condition's gigantic aliens. "One of the biggest features of Extreme Condition was the massive bosses that you had to face off against, so what we've done in Lost Planet 2 is find ways to create those monsters that will be fun for four players," says Takeuchi. We flee back to the mounted cannon halfway down the train, and one player starts blowing the massive thing's scales off with it whilst the other three run around madly trying to find, load and prime the shells. It kills us, quickly and unceremoniously, in true Capcom style.
Takeuchi is confident that Lost Planet 2 is going to be huge; Microsoft won't let him give out specific numbers, but the downloads for the Xbox Live demo are already close to surpassing Resident Evil 5's, and a new, different demo went up on PSN on Thursday. "Lost Planet 2 is a title we've got a lot of faith in," he says, emphasising Capcom's support for the project. "I definitely think it's going to become one of our more important IPs in the future." As a four-player co-op shooter with a Japanese feel, it's likely to win over the EDF crowd as well as Gearsheads - it's got all of the aesthetic grandiosity and big-budget impact of other classics of its genre without the tiresome machismo or generic setting.
Lost Planet 2 is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010.