Capcom’s recent business decision to outsource most of its games design has been, to say the least, lacklustre, on one hand we do get to play continuing adventures of many of our favourite game series, but on the other they do end up as very average final products, which are surely tarnishing the once great Capcom name. Sadly yet another of those titles is Lost Planet 3.
Tough the original Lost Planet was not without its faults, for me it still managed to be an engrossing and quite original game with some fantastic ideas and visuals, the sequel however pretty much ignored what made the first game good, thawing out EDNIII, making it co-op game but kept the same infuriating control system. With Lost Planet 3, the reigns have been passed over to Spark Unlimited, who have decided to go back to the deep freeze that was EDNIII before all of the events of Lost Planet took place, this time playing as Jim Peyton, one of the first humans settlers to arrive on EDNIII who works for NEVEC, collecting the essential resource Thermal Energy to try and solve Earths energy crisis.
Jim is basically the handyman, a bob a job fellow that will get up to whatever is required, be it repairs, locate and rescue of other settlers or some general T-Eng harvesting. After a rocky start with a crash landing on entry to EDNIII, the game starts off introducing you to the day to day aspects of working on such an inhospitable planet and it is in the initial first few hours that really appealed to me, the strolling in your Rig through the white tundra, if the silence is too much you can replay some old video message footage from your wife or even play some appropriate “big rig” style country/rock music tracks that she has sent you as you get to work. You know those thermal poles located all over the Lost Planet 1 and 2, well it seems it was Jim that placed them, wandering around the landscape, waiting for your thermal indicator to ping (usually in an Akrid infested area) and then planting it, returning now and then to collect its harvest. As Jim you will also get asked plenty of favours from other colonists, with the more you take on earning you even more T-Eng, which this time around acts as currency. It is after a few hours of getting used to the game that, just like any other job, it starts to get tedious, the Akrid you constantly fight against are like the annoying customer you always try to avoid, your boss, once respected, now you realise they are a jobsworth and not to be trusted and just like any major corporation, what is on the outside is always not quite what occurs behind the scenes. Initially a NEVEC man, things soon start to feel a little off and before you know it, you are aware NEVEC are up to their old (or new? being a prequel) tricks as it is not just the Akrid that lurk on the inhospitable landscapes of EDNIII. Once the story gets started in earnest you are able to enjoy a pretty good tale split up with plenty of side quests to extend the gameplay, swapping between your Rig and on foot action quite frequently.
A huge improvement on the action elements of the game are the controls, now more in line with what we are used to on third person shooters, as rather than Capcom’s insistence in doing things their way, we get simple reticule aiming, turning the game mechanics into more of cover based shooter with ducking and sprinting controls, though this is really underused. Apparently, even though humanity has the tech to travel to these far off places, the materials and parts used are often not up to the job, with the on foot action being broken up with Jim having to repair pretty much everything he comes across, fiving broken door and locks, lifts and sentry guns. Thought the controls have been brought up to date, the actual action is a little dated and samey, wondering around derelict rooms or open fields shooting away at an at times seemingly endless amount of Akrid, the initial thrill does sadly wear off. Though Jim does not have to rely on T-Eng to keep alive, staying in close proximity to his trusty Rig offers certain advantages, mostly the ability to quickly change weapon load outs and resupply ammo, it also updates your heads up display, giving you a map with radar, vital when wandering around looking for a place to plant a T-Post.
When you climb into the cockpit of the Rig you are graced with a first person view, staring out of the cockpit, with just the glass between you and sub-zero temperatures. The controls are again what to expect for a first person view, with shoulder buttons using each arm and blocking, the huge machine lumbering with mechanical precision through the snow. Due to a NEVEC ruling you are unable to weaponise your Rig, though do not think you are unequipped to deal with the hostile inhabitants as you can crush the smaller Akrid under your metal feet and even duke it out against some of the larger ones with your left grab claw and right drill arm, which with some assistance with on screen icons, lets you block, jab, grab and drill away at the soft orange weak spots of each Akrid menace. The Rig acts your primary mode of transport, walking around the many areas that unlock as the story progresses. Giving a slight nod to the Metroid games, the world of EDNIII is also opened up gradually with the drip feeding of vital equipment, starting with your grapple hook, you later get upgrades that allow magnetic locks and zip sliding from your Rig’s cockpit, letting you wander around and try to find the many hidden paths for you to explore.
Graphically the game uses the brilliant contrasting environments really well; the bright white snow landscapes are just as oppressive as the dark and dingy corridors you often find yourself in, though you will find yourself fighting the same old Akrid on far too many occasions. These frightening beasts pop up everywhere, from the facehugger like Tarkaa that skitters everywhere, large rolling Dongo’s and the huge crab like Vorgg. For the most of the time the game engine manages to deal with the action, though on some of the more packed sequences, for instance the drill platform sections when you are tasked with a horde like scenario, the game noticeably drops the frame rate.
Though the co-op from Lost Planet 2 has been removed, there is still an online component in the way of a more classic Deathmatch style set up. With two warring factions, you get to fight as teams across a few maps under certain rules; with Extraction having you collect T-Eng from T-Posts, Scenario sets up defensive and offensive situations, a Team Deathmatch and the now obligatory Akrid Survival horde mode. The fights themselves feel better under the new control system and unlike the solo campaign, online also offers the return of the VS mechs, armed to the teeth and ready to unleash hell on incoming enemies. Your online persona is able to slowly rank up with every successful win, allowing you to use a unique sphere style upgrade system, granting many different and personal choices to be made when ranking up, which in turn should offer a more varied battlefield.
Lost Planet 3 was a complete surprise to me, having pretty much writing off the series after Lost Planet 2 I had no expectations and early on I was really enjoying the game, however after the initial few hours of play the gameplay does get a little samey, but I did still enjoy the majority of the game and whilst not as good as the first game, it is still a worthy addition to the Lost Planet series.
Learn more about EDNIII whilst battling lots of Akrid
More suitable controls
Can suffer from severe framerate drops on certain areas
Action gets repetitive quickly
More could have been done with the Rig
Words by Ash Buchanan