Previews// Lost Planet 3

Posted 25 Apr 2013 16:24 by
You might be looking forward to the gorgeous weather this summer, but on your PC and home consoles, winter is coming (again) courtesy of Capcom. But, while Lost Planet 3 features a lot of series mainstays - the insect-like enemy Akrid, planet E.D.N. III and the cold weather conditions - its campaign design and direction feels very different to its predecessors.

Developed by Spark Unlimited, rather than in-house, the result is a game that is more story-driven than Lost Planet 2, but also feels less linear and slower paced than the original Extreme Condition. Itís also, confusingly, a prequel to the first title, rather than a sequel. Maybe Lost Planet 4 will take place in another dimension, or something.

You play as miner-for-hire Jim Peyton, who get contracted by a corporation called NEVEC (Neo-Venus Construction company) to earn some credits for his family back on Earth. You might remember this outfit as being the antagonist of Extreme Condition, but in Lost Planet 3 itís simply an organisation that aims to create a habitable environment on E.D.N. III.

Thermal Energy isnít used for survival in the cold, but rather acts as a form of currency this time around. It nicely ties in with the role of NEVEC and Peytonís mining operations. As a result, saving up enough TE will allow you to purchase new items and weapons. After an opening section which sees Peyton securing a convoy back to the NEVEC base, gameplay is broken up into separate missions (of both the story and side quest variety), which in turn features two distinct modes of play.

After accepting a mission at the base, the first part of the job is traveling to your destination. Peyton gets around E.D.N. III using a Ďrigí - a huge mech that features a drill and a claw arm, as well as a pair of very stompy feet - which feels pretty weighty and almost makes you feel like youíre plodding around in a work loader from Aliens.

Once youíve safely arrived at your destination, the play transitions to the more traditional third person shooter variety that you remember from past Lost Planet games. Only this time, the action I played at the start of the campaign seemed to suggest a slower-paced affair, almost taking on a Ďsurvival horrorí kind of atmosphere.

After rescuing a missing miner from a horde of Akrid at a colossal ice cavern, Peyton is given an optional objective to explore the area further and collect a payload from an automated mining drill. Since its contents are full, the drill has stopped working - and itís been this way for quite a while, allowing for a number of a spider-like Akrid to create a nest in the area. This is where things get a little creepy, as Peyton has to crawl through narrow spaces and risk facing a surprise attack en route, and while escaping the cave.

As you leave, a snowstorm rages and Peyton has to race back (in the rig) to base in order to stay safe from the weather. But first, he has to secure the baseís support structure so the whole NEVEC operation doesnít billow away into the expanse. This is where the rigís claws come in handy, grabbing three bolts and using the left stick to wind them into the supports.

All in all, itís a very different approach to the tried and tested Lost Planet experience. Spark Unlimited has clearly gone to great lengths to try and keep the best of the seriesí gameplay while ultimately trying something new. The result, while initially pedestrian, is a bit of a breath of fresh air at the very least.

Spark has also tried to take on the Lost Planet multiplayer mode, with a number of scenarios that feel like a lot of fast-paced fun. Of these, players can engage in a number of level-specific competitive challenges that tie in to the single-player campaign, as well as a straight-forward deathmatch.

Perhaps the best of these was Sparkís take on Capture the Flag - where players must kill a huge Akrid in the middle of a map and then take the vial it spits out to the opposing teamís base camp. It opens up a lot of intense stop-start play that generates quite the atmosphere when playing with friends.

If the developer can keep up this frantic, diverse fun throughout the entirety of the multiplayer mode - and can tap into the potential of a more engaging and open-world affair in the single-player campaign - then Lost Planet 3 could well be an interesting twist that fans can appreciate.

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