Rather than continue down the winding path of the previous two games, Capcom have decided to focus much more intently upon portraying a more realised narrative. Will this new step be in the right direction or stagger helplessly against the frozen winds of the tundra?
Blue collar working man James Peyton is our main focus in this prequel, an everyday family man working off planet simply to provide for his wife and child. A refreshing change from the generic space marine to say the least. After transferring to EDN III, an inevitably hostile planet rich in both T-energy and carapace sporting monsters, James not only has to contend with the Akrid dwellers, but also missing important stages of his child’s early life making his plight starkly relatable.
Kicking things off in style, we’re treated to an atypical Capcom intro. Facial expressions and overall fidelity are high as we learn snippets of our protagonists past, present and future goals during the opening scenes. Expectations are raised as we are introduced to the basic mechanics of the game, a sturdy pistol with infinite ammo is the first toy to play with; along with a revamped aiming system that discourages ‘off the hip’ firing. An umbilical link to the nearby mech grants faster health regeneration, an ammo counter, local radar and other useful HUD elements too. Stray to far away however, and the link is severed, leaving you feeling strangely alone.
What could have been an interesting concept, never fully realises however. My initial intrigue of puzzle sections or venturing too far away and subsequently hot footing it back to relative safety were brushed aside upon realisation that you in fact spend an inordinate portion of the game completely separated from your mech. It feels like a missed opportunity and stings to the point of irritation when you clamber back inside after yet another long trek alone.
Due to it being a relatively pretty game, load times are long, especially in the hub sections. With only approximately four or five legitimately useful NPC’s, including shops, to converse with, it takes a long time to check for newly unlocked content or side missions. The lab alone requires a load screen to the level it’s on followed by another load screen, a lift and a decontamination chamber. Let’s also not forget we must to do this again for the return trip as well. On the slight plus side, some of the load screens house probably the best parts of the game i.e. the vidcom chats between our everyday hero James Peyton and his wife back home. These are insightful, occasionally devastating and full of the game’s best voice acting. So much so, that I looked forward to these sub-plot snippets far more than the main narrative’s progression.
After the initial meaty punch of the semi-auto pistol at the start, I was looking forward to the ensuing diverse and imaginative arsenal to come. Instead, I received every generic weapon you can think of, all capable of devastatingly meagre damage. The shotgun, despite it’s lowly upgrades was obviously the star, but in fairness it didn’t have a lot of competition. Upgrades are present and attainable via collecting T-energy (orange goo) that falls from enemies. Regrettably they don’t make a huge difference as ammo is easily replenished throughout the levels. A good job too, as I don’t think I’ve ever bared witness to so many infinitely spawning enemies. They can be stopped via destroying a disturbingly graphic hole on the wall, yet sometimes it can be difficult to push the waves back enough to get shots on target.
Enemy design is limited at best, leaving you fighting the same mundane creatures time after time, corridor after corridor. Later on you will simply get swarmed by the same Akrid you’d dispatched previously, adding an unnecessarily predictable challenge. Boss fights can be entertaining despite being a little too ‘spongy’, they will attack with repeating patterns that, for the most part, are easy to avoid. One visually arresting feature being that they noticeably degrade the more you destroy them. Every so often, a creature will appear that requires you to utilise your mining mech to help rip various appendages off. Despite being poorly hidden QTE’s, they do offer some gratification and are principally the only real use of the mech in combat.
Graphically, Lost Planet 3 has it’s eye catching moments, specifically in the cut-scenes where the facial detail has time to shine. The outdoor locations themselves look fine, especially the sheer brutality of the icy storms, yet there’s only so much fidelity and colour a desolate plateau of frozen wasteland can have. Inside, it’s more of the same, abandoned stations, military posts and the like come hand in hand with metallic sheen and endless corridors. Following in a similar vein to another ‘3rd person, slightly scary, frosty, hostile planet with aliens everywhere-em up’, there is a lot of seemingly extraneous backtracking. Limited fast-travel does alleviate some of the woes, yet it’s still never fun to retread old ground in video games, especially with linearity such as this.
Whilst sharing some parallels with Dead Space 3, there is still a unique experience here, the story and characterisation alone is believable enough to enthral and engage, even if the combat doesn’t. Linearity troubles, long load times and some wonky shooting keeps this from realising it’s potential as an alternative Lost Planet experience.
Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and PC.