Lost Planet 3 – PC
Developer: Spark Unlimited
Release Date: Aug 27, 2013
Reviewed by Mark Smith
Review Score: 3.5 of 5
I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to Capcom’s Lost Planet franchise. I enjoy the concept and the cool (pun intended) alien settings, but I also dislike games that rely on some arbitrary “timer” to add unwanted and unneeded tension to the experience. I nearly finished the first Lost Planet but my stamina was quickly beaten down by the constant need to find thermal energy lest I die. I ultimately walked away with enough negative memories that I didn’t even try Lost Planet 2. I always told myself I would check it out when it went on sale, but it went from a year of being at full price to not being on shelves at all. When I heard that Spark Unlimited was going to try something new with Lost Planet 3 I decided to bundle up in my best thermal undies and check it out.
Despite the 3 in the title this third installment of Lost Planet takes place before the first two games as we visit E.D.N. III decades before the original game in a series of stories being told by a dying old man. It is in these stories that we meet and share the adventures of Jim Peyton who looks a lot like Noah Wyle from TNT’s Falling Skies, only with a bushier beard. Jim is a freelance engineer who has been hired to perform routine maintenance on the facility and engage in whatever contract work the base commander assigns him.
To help him complete his assignments Jim has his own Rig, a fairly massive mech that can be upgraded throughout the game to increase its usefulness. Outfitted with a claw and a drill, your Rig has limited combat abilities at first, assuming you are fast enough to grasp an akrid in one hand and drill him into T-eng pulp with the other. Depending on the situation the game will often lock you in your Rig but ultimately you will almost always have to exit the safety of the cockpit and venture out on foot.
At this point the game turns into pretty much your average third-person shooter. You have a suitable arsenal that can be expanded with new and more powerful weapons and any weapons you own can be upgraded to increase their effectiveness. The pacing of the game and the balance of weapons vs. the limited types of akrid is pretty good as long as you make regular visits to the weapons shop on base.
Speaking of the base; perhaps my biggest complaint with the game is the constant and needless backtracking around this three-level facility. Between the bunks, the lab, the command center, the docking bay, the Rig upgrade facility, and the weapons store you will be forced to endure countless elevator rides (load sequences) and at least an hour of your game time will be walking the frozen halls of your base. You’ll be summoned to the command room to be given orders that could have clearly been radioed to you only to be told to go to the dock, whereupon arriving at the dock you are told to visit the lab that you just passed by on your way to the dock. ARGH!!! And why must I manually walk my mech through two slow-to-open blast doors every time I leave the base. You’ll be amazed at how much time you spend actually NOT playing Lost Planet 3, and this is on a very fast PC – I sympathize with what the console gamers must be going through.
But once you do get to actually play the game Lost Planet 3 is fun if not somewhat repetitive. They try to mix up the variety of missions with a few major set pieces but most of the grunt work is blasting enemies, collecting T-eng, and zipping around the rocks with your grappling gun like Batman. The game has a fairly complex story that tries to work in an environmentally conscious message about energy conservation while at the same time encouraging the genocide of the native inhabitants. Yes, you will be killing a lot of akrid of all shapes and sizes, and as expected the larger ones require a bit of precise targeting to locate that vulnerable sweet spot. Your Rig offers a bit of a safety net, but if it takes too much damage it will eject you and force you to fight on foot while it self-repairs. A handy bungee cable will snatch you back to the cockpit with the tap of a button when nearby.
Graphically, Lost Planet 3 is a mix of chilling exteriors and lifeless cutscenes. There is an odd disparity between the next-gen textures of the frozen alien world and the rather flat dull textures of the characters in the conversations. There is a lot of detail in the textures but it’s all flat and looks slightly off and the lip-synch is questionable. The interface is an shameless rip-off of the Dead Space menus as are the voice and text memos you will collect. Designers need to learn that I will listen to your memos if I can continue to play, but if you force me to stop and read a page or more of ramblings that do nothing but add flavor, I’m probably not going to take the time…especially when I have 2-3 more elevator rides to take before my next mission.
The audio experience is much more engaging with voice acting that ranges from good to awful, chilling sounds of howling winds; especially in those Emperor Class storms and the horrific alien noises for the various akrid. I enjoyed the various audio logs and seeing Jim viewing his video messages from his wife back on Earth. Jim’s relationship with his wife was probably the most believable thing in the game, and you really felt his urgency on getting through his tour of duty on E.D.N. III and getting home to his family.
But despite Jim’s sense of urgency, I sadly felt none while playing the game. While the first few hours entertained me with a modest sense of awe at the alien landscapes and the spectacle of a frozen hurricane, once I settled into the rut of wandering the bases, upgrading weapons and my Rig, and going out on slightly repetitions missions, the game became more of a chore than entertainment. At least I wasn’t on the constant quest for T-eng to simply stay alive. You now collect the orange goo as currency, which is used to purchase new gear and upgrades.
Lost Planet 3 also offers up some multiplayer options for up to ten players, and while some of these modes have objectives other than killing the enemy, shooting is what you’ll pretty much be doing most of the time. And since we’ve already established that the on-foot shooting isn’t that much fun, why would you want to keep on doing it with other people? And if you are looking for mech combat then just go play Hawken or Mech Warrior Online.
If you enjoyed – really enjoyed the first two games then Lost Planet 3 might be working checking out, and those with a casual interest in another alien bloodbath shooter on a frozen planet might want to check this out when it goes on sale, but Dead Space 3 already set the bar for frozen alien worlds and Lost Planet 3 comes up a bit short on story, combat, and overall player engagement. There were moments of inspiration, but I ultimately came away wanting more.