Things always get curious towards the end of a console generation, I reckon. There's this palpable feeling of hope in the air as gamers all around the world look to the future, preparing themselves for the possibilities of what their new toys can bring, the new franchises that will be born and the current ones that will receive a new lease of life.
At the same time, we also look at our current machines, the ones that will still be supported for a good few years yet and are now being pushed to their limits.
Consider some of the titles that are coming out over the next few months. Look at something along the lines of GTA V
, a game that's taking a well worn formula and trying to blow it up into something huge, something so mindblowingly crazy that it'd almost be impossible to have considered doing a few years back.
These are such games that dreams are made of, and though it's tough to get to such standards, this should be the kind of stuff that developers are looking to reach for. Big. Brave. Bold.
Last week a copy of Lost Planet 3
landed on my doorstep. It's a series
that I know has its fans but my previous experience has been little more than a hands-on demo of the second game at Comic Con a few years back. Coming in fresh to an established franchise shouldn't be too much of an issue though, should it? In went the disc, click went the start button, and we were away.
Now, apparently LP3
is going back to its roots, focusing on story as much as gameplay. As someone who likes such an approach, this is Good News.
Opening on an old man's death is slightly less than good, sure, but at least it was a stirring start that aimed straight for your emotions, complete with "Grandfather, noooooooo!" shot before we zoom back to the same chap as a much younger man.
Lost Planet 3
is told in flashback, giving the dev team a chance to tell the story before the story that everyone apart from me knows.
Now, from the very start, I didn't feel any attachment to the rugged chap called Jim who was apparently going to be the saviour of this godforsaken ball of ice that masqueraded as a planet. As cutscenes rolled by, it was obvious that he and his Mech - sorry, Rig - were very welcome indeed as it seems that nobody else in the bloody place were in any way competent at their work.
Here's where things started properly breaking down for me. I like my games to at least make basic sense. You can come up with some of the most ludicrous stuff but as long as there's some modicum of explanation, I'll be alright with it. Lost Planet 3
requires some pretty serious suspension of disbelief, and as the game went on I found things more and more ridiculous.
First premise: Jim is there to earn money to support his family back home on earth. That's fine. But how is he to earn said money? Why by collecting the blood of the Akrid, the species that inhabit the ice planet, because this blood happens to contain some mystical thing called Thermal Energy.
No further explanation, just blow the crap out of everything and collect the glowing blood left behind. Oh, and all this is done in the medium of an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter that somehow manages to be one of the most boring experiences I've had in a life of video gaming that goes back nearly three decades.
Now, this isn't to say that LP3
is bad. It's not bad at all, in fact it's a perfectly serviceable game. Everything seems to work fine, graphically it's alright...
It's just really, really boring. It feels like there is literally nothing new in there that hasn't been done before, albeit with a glittering cover of ice and snow all over the place. Wandering about completing mini-mission after mini-mission triggers countless achievements which I suppose is meant to give you a sense of progression, but it felt to me like I never got the chance to do anything meaty.
That's also down to the near constant loading screens. You're merrily playing away, shooting the gunk out of yet another pulsating alien sphincter thing, when you move into a new area.
Immediately you're taken out of the game for a five to ten second loading screen before being allowed to continue on your way - and at this late stage of the console cycle, that's pretty fucking unforgivable, especially on a title that's exclusive to the system. Countless other games manage to make things smoothly transition between areas, and not doing so is an annoyance.
Really, the game is let down by these constant little irritations. Odd design decisions pop up all over the place making me wonder whether I'm just being curmudgeonly, but fuck it, I'm not!
Things like only having a minimap on your screen when you're in close proximity to your rig make no sense at all. In 2013 I can pinpoint my location on the planet to within a couple of metres using my bloody phone, so why the hell can't I see where I'm going in my giant bastard robot suit of the future?
I'm wandering about obliterating immense vagina monsters with a claw that has no effect on huge icicles (and in fact passes right through them most of the time). I'm using a giant drill on the icicles but don't seem to be able to spear the vagina monsters with it.
No-one on the planet seems capable of doing anything, and despite being utterly overjoyed to see me on my arrival, they barely talk to you outside of cutscenes.
Lost Planet 3
does a lot of stuff, but none of it is done as well as the games it borrows from. The third-person sections aren't as solid as Gears of War, for example. The mech - sorry, rig - areas are slightly better, but don't come up to the level of something like Steel Batallion
The story barely compares to even older and battier games along the lines of Singularity
, and when everything in a game isn't quite as good as previous games that it tries to emulate; well, what's the bloody point?
This is a time when we should be looking forward and dreaming of glorious new heights in gaming. Lost Planet 3
feels firmly stuck in the past, and while fans of the series (and there must be some out there to warrant a third game) may get a kick out of seeing the origins of their gaming universe, I'm left wondering why Capcom even bothered.
It's pretty to look at in places
Mech bits are alright I suppose
Easy points for achievement whores
Oh God! the loading times
Utter, utter nonsense
All been done before in better games
SPOnG Score: 4.5/10
Final thoughts: it ain't terrible, but it sure ain't good. Life's too short to play boring games, so put your money into something you'll enjoy that does everything Lost Planet 3 does, just better.