Review: Lost Planet 3

Lost Planet 3 - Featured

In Lost Planet 3, players uncover new revelations about the ice planet of E.D.N. III, by returning to the volatile and unpredictable conditions that have become synonymous with the series.

Story
Set 50 years before the original, Lost Planet 3 centres on blue collar worker James (Jim) Peyton, who has taken a high-risk contract for Neo-Venus Construction (NEVEC) on the harsh and hostile planet of E.D.N III. NEVEC has discovered a new form of thermal energy that they are extracting from the planet and using to power Earth as its own natural resources dwindle.

Dealing with sub-zero conditions, constant storms, the indigenous alien Akrid and some of the most unreliable machinery ever made by man, it’s clear that this type of work is extremely dangerous. This level of risk is reflected in Jim’s pay and we learn that he is doing this solely to put food on the table for his wife and son back home on Earth.

Utilising his colossal Construction RIG (a 50ft mech that acts as your primary tool for drilling and transportation) Jim sets about impress the bosses and take on as many contracts as possible.

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What plays out on the planet is a rather run of the mill narrative involving the usual intrigue and deception that arises when large corporations are put in charge of a means to monopolise a source of energy, coupled with the constant fight to keep legions of hostile Akrid at bay. However, it is not the complexities of plot that makes Lost Planet 3 great, but rather the characters and the relationships that they cultivate.

Jim is an unassuming character who often finds himself in the role of a hero through his can-do attitude and his desire to get an early ticket home. His extremely expressive facial animations, coupled with some very high caliber voice acting mean that Jim is able to convey a range of genuinely plausible emotions, making you think and feel.

Jim’s interaction with his loving wife Grace also goes a long way to showing the lonely existence that the folks on E.D.N III lead. Throughout the game, Jim and Grace send countless video messages back and forth giving updates about what each other are missing. These are often interspersed with a bit of humour but make you feel a pang of a sadness when you hear that Jim has missed their son’s first steps, started school etc. Grace also sends you playlists of their favourite music to listen to whilst travelling around in your R.I.G, whilst a picture of her stuck on your dashboard serves as a constant reminder of why Jim is enduring such a horrible vocation.

Tense, dramatic, hilarious and often moving, Lost Planet 3 tells a good yarn with a few major plot twists. What really bolsters the narrative is the consistently good acting from the main cast.

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Gameplay
In keeping with previous titles from the series, Lost Planet utilises a 3rd person perspective while navigating on foot. Aim and shoot mechanics seem greatly improved and feel extremely responsive with combatting foes. Like previous games, the strategy for fighting the giant insect like aliens can be summed up in a single phrase – “Aim for the orange blobs”. These are the conveniently glowing, amber weak spots on the bodies of the larger enemies and shooting these will cause massive damage, enabling you to gain a quicker kill.

Upon death, Akrid will drop some orange goo, which can be collected as Thermal Energy and used as currency to buy new weapons and upgrades back at base. Sadly the choice of weapons on offer are rather lacklustre, with only one or two that provide anything above the average pistols and shotguns that we’ve grown accustomed to.

The Akrid provide a good challenge though with many different varieties, each requiring a set of tactics required to avoid a pulping. Unfortunately, all too often it seems that the developers believed that throwing a number of small and weak enemies at you every three minutes is providing a challenge. It’s not, it’s just annoying.

In addition to this, at around 10 hours in, the game feels the need to “mix it up a bit” and you find yourself fighting against waves of AI clumsy mercenaries. These dopey shooters could scarcely hit a barn door and like me you’ll find yourself resenting every shoot out that you get thrown into.

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That said, the gameplay in Lost Planet 3 is notably diverse, with the most important and welcomed addition being Jim’s Construction RIG. Taking on a first person perspective when controlling the RIG, players are able to use tools like the drill-arm, mech fists and the claw-like grabber to deal massive damage to the larger species of Akrid.

Combat in the mech provides some entertainment due to the ability to block and counter the incoming attacks of the enemies like the giant alien ice-crabs. If it sounds a bit like a Pacific Rim type scenario, that’s because it pretty much is. Giant robots for the win! Some of the Akrid bosses can only be defeated using the RIG, while others must be taken down on foot. It’s unfortunately that you only get to fight one enemy that requires you to combine these combat styles, as a bit more freedom to choose would make a massive difference.

You will also use the RIG to navigate the world as you stomp from objective to objective. Watching the shadow of your massive mech stomp across the icy landscape is a beautiful thing and gives you a feeling of immense power. Stomping around can soon loose its appeal though and it is great that the developers had the foresight to introduce a fast-travel option as you progress.

All in all, there is plenty to do with a generous provision of side quests and secondary objectives. The environments misrepresent themselves by masquerading as one big open world, but the reality is that these are simply several medium-sized areas which are connected by a series of bland frosty tunnels.

Massive boss battles, tense gunfights and engaging vehicle combat. Yes indeed every so often this varied mix of gameplay will work perfectly, giving you sections of 3rd person shooting Nirvana followed by an immensely novel boss fight. Unfortunately these moments are seldom and what lies in between is stilted and incredibly ordinary.

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Multiplayer
It would be surprising if Lost Planet 3 didn’t include the obligatory online offerings of team deathmatch, capture the flag and company. However, Capcom have added an interesting dynamic which sees objectives evolving over the course of a single match. For example, what starts as co-op bug hunting quest can rapidly change into a 10 player game of King of the Hill. This grants a good variety and keeps the multiplayer feeling surprisingly varied.

There is also a basic XP and skill progression system, but coupled with the generic weapons & shooting mechanics, the online modes are unlikely to blow your mind.

Presentation
Lost Planet 3 looks wonderful. From the first moment you hop in the RIG and leave the base you will be in awe of the realistically inhospitable planet that has been created. Devastating ice storms, avalanches and towering icicles are all rendered spectacularly. My only criticism is that a lot of the wonderful scenery is inaccessible due to a huge crevice or invisible wall.

The motion capture for facial expressions are also extremely well realised with particular detail put into Jim’s face. To make the most of this, Jim never (ever) wears a helmet, even when out and about in the sub-zero temperatures of E.D.N III. This is explained at some point by Jim explaining that the collar of his environment suit creating a [insert scientific explanation here] that stops his noggin from freezing. Scientific foolery aside, it is impressive to see his hair and beard developing a fine layer of frost over time and it’s little details like this that demonstrate the developers wonderful sense of vision.

The orchestral score is very fitting creating a sense of isolation and mounting tension in the quiet sections of the game. Then there’s the smooth Bluegrass playlist (courtesy of Grace) that can select from whilst in your RIG. This is a refreshing departure and is designed to give Jim some home comforts while working away. A nice touch.

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To sum up
Lost Planet 3 has its share of shortcomings but does a lot of things extremely well, creating an experience which is enjoyably diverse. Like E.D.N III, what appears to be bleak on the surface is in fact filled with central core of passion and ambitious ideas. It’s also refreshing to see an entry in the series which is fuelled almost entirely by narrative and great characterisation.

The franchise has come a long way since the first game at the beginning of this generation. It feels like everything is moving in the right direction and when the next generation comes, we’re confident that Lost Planet won’t be left out in the cold.

PopBucket Review Score 7

Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

Lost Planet 3 is available now on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Author: James Sterling

Associate Editor (Game) for PopBucket, avid gamer and educating folks about the Wilhelm Scream since '98. Show him some word-love.

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