September 02, 2013
Having dabbled in the desert for Lost Planet 2, Capcom has embraced the cold once more for Lost Planet 3, the first game in the series to be outsourced to a western developer. In this case, it's Spark Unlimited, the studio behind Turning Point: Fall of Liberty and Legendary. So far, so uninspiring then. But here's the thing. Lost Planet 3 isn't nearly as bad as you might think. Nor is it all that good either.
Things start off promising enough, with new protagonist Jim Peyton telling the story of how he came to the icy hostile planet of EDN III to make his fortune as a freelance contractor for NEVEC (Neo-Venus Construction). He's in it for his wife and kid back home, as you're frequently reminded with video calls from Peyton's missus, Grace and Jim's own recorded videos he sends back home. Lost Planet 3 is a prequel to the events of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, but feels like it's something entirely different, and not always in a good way.
First of all, Capcom's MT Framework engine is out of the window, and in its place is the ever-reliable Unreal Engine. That means that Lost Planet 3 plays like pretty much every Unreal Engine 3 third-person shooter you've played a thousand times before, albeit with the established Lost Planet formula of shooting countless Akrid creatures native to EDN III in their glowing orangey jaffa cake bits. LP3's core shooting mechanics are solid, and blasting Akrid into bits and gathering the glowing T-energy they spill forth is familiar and fun to begin with.
But then it starts to grow tiresome once you've entered yet another hive bristling with the same Akrid you've already blown away what seems like a million times already. What happened to the towering Akrid nasties from the first two games, you'll wonder. And you will eventually encounter the larger category-L Akrid, and even tangle with a massive category-G monster in what proves to be one of the most irritating boss battles in the game. Yet it never musters the same wow factor that the first two games' gargantuan beasts managed to inspire.
The game is fairly evenly split between exploring caves and snowy tundra on-foot and in your big stompy Rig (a huge bipedal mech that's a precursor to the previous games' weaponised VS mechs), but it's these latter sections in your Rig that at times prove to be the most tedious. Fast travel isn't unlocked until later in the game, so you'll spend a large chunk of time laboriously and slowly stomping through snowy ravines to your next destination. You can listen to music and your own custom soundtracks in the confines of your Rig if you like, but it does little to stave off the boredom.
At times, Lost Planet 3 looks genuinely pretty, with some truly eye-catching snowy vistas, but later in the game things start to slip. Textures start loading in late, areas need to load on the fly and the frame-rate begins to stutter. We have no idea why this happens, but it does. It's a scuff on what is an otherwise solid, if somewhat average game from a visual standpoint. Oh, and those Dead Space comparisons from early previews of the game? They prove to be completely unfounded too. There are moments that seemingly ape Visceral's sci-fi series, but there are no scares to be found in Lost Planet 3 whatsoever. Attempts at scares, yes. Actual scares, no.
Lost Planet 3 still has its moments however, with one or two of the boss encounters proving enjoyable, while the Rig's first-person viewpoint provides some interesting combat challenges, as you block, counter and attack enemies with your claw and drill attachments (and later on, a natty welding torch). Upgrading your Rig and Jim's abilities also provides added impetus to explore EDN III and revisit areas to unearth new secrets. Whether you can actually be bothered to go back and endure these areas a second time will be down to how big a sucker for punishment you are. Of course, if it's achievements you're after, then you'll have to revisit certain locations with your new magnetic grappling hook and ability to hear the mating call of the rare Albino Tarkaa.
Completing your bestiary, collecting every audio and text log, and purchasing every upgrade will take a long time and a lot of T-energy, which now serves as your currency rather than a means of staying warm and alive. As well as progressing through the story itself, the majority of achievements relate to these optional fetch quests, as well as the game's multiplayer, which takes up a hefty portion of the list. Thankfully, the multiplayer achievements are relatively headache free, requiring the completion of objectives and scenarios rather than grinding, although unlocking every cell of the progression sphere will take a long, long time and stretch your patience to the limit.
This wouldn't be much of a problem if Lost Planet 3's multiplayer wasn't such a shoddy mess. In the space of just three matches, we managed to fall through the map, die and wait an interminable amount of time for the respawn counter to kick in, alongside a number of other issues that utterly marred what is otherwise a decent multiplayer experience. Multiplayer offers survival modes and a range of interesting objective-based 5v5 scenarios to tackle, pitting NEVEC against the Snow Pirates, all of which would be infinitely more compelling if not for the irritating problems that plague each and every match. It's nothing that can't be patched of course, and hopefully in time LP3's online component will be up for scratch. For now, it's severely lacking in polish.
Ultimately, the same goes for the rest of Lost Planet 3. It's a game that is at times genuinely entertaining and at others an infuriating and tedious grind. For an 8-10 hour game to feel much longer is no mean feat, but Lost Planet 3 manages it just by sheer virtue of being able to intermittently bore you to tears. For the most part however, Lost Planet 3 is by no means a bad game, and on occasion it comes close to being pretty good. Jim Peyton and the rest of the game's supporting cast are mostly likeable and easy to empathise with, and some of the moments in your Utility Rig are enjoyable enough, but all in all, Lost Planet 3 should probably be left on ice.
Jack Wall's score has a few memorable sci-fi cues, but is for the most part entirely forgettable. The tunes inside Jim's Rig offers some nice twangy folk music to listen to, or you can have your own custom playlists. Voice acting is middling, and sound effects are serviceable.
Sometimes attractive, sometimes ugly, Lost Planet 3's visuals are inconsistent throughout. There are some eye-catching sights to behold, but there's some fairly uninspired design on show too.
It's hard to fault Lost Planet 3's core mechanics as a third-person shooter, but you can most definitely fault the boring cover-based bits against dumb-ass enemies and the interminable stomping through the snow in your Rig. A patchy experience that proves infuriating and doesn't fare much better online.
A good lengthy campaign that lasts around 10-12 hours joins a solid multiplayer component that's unfortunately riddled with irritating problems in dire need of patching. It's an annoyingly inconsistent package.
A perfectly decent achievement list that ticks most of the right boxes. Like the rest of the game, it's serviceable, but ultimately uninspired.
A disappointing entry in the Lost Planet series that occasionally shows flashes of potential, but ultimately ends up being marred by numerous problems, Lost Planet 3 manages to eke out a mildly compelling story and a solid multiplayer mode. More akin to the first game, Lost Planet 3 will nonetheless leave you cold.