Lately, Capcom has seemed unsure of what to do with their games. Resident Evil is scary, then it’s not, then it is. The “more mature” (read: grey, brown and gritty) Dead Rising 3 is searching for the elusive “Call of Duty” gamer. Now, Lost Planet, a series that started out as a moderately serious third person shooter turned wacky co-op uber-boss brawler in Lost Planet 2, is going serious again. Capcom seems to have lost quite a bit of confidence, unsure of which direction to take their games, and the result has been an increasingly fragmented fan base.
But this isn’t a critique on Capcom’s unusual business decisions, it’s a review of Lost Planet 3. Let’s see how it turned out.
Lost Planet 3 takes place on the frosty, Akrid-infested planet of E.D.N. III. It’s set before the events of the first two games, so the planet is still very much in the middle of an ice-age. This means there aren’t any lush jungles or arid deserts seen in Lost Planet 2, and a sore lack of variety in the environments overall.
The game follows Jim Peyton, a contract worker and newcomer to E.D.N. III who just joined the Neo-Venus Construction company, or NEVEC, so he can support the wife and child he left on Earth. Jim’s job as a Utility Rig pilot is to brave the planet’s harsh weather and hostile inhabitants to mine its precious thermal energy, which NEVEC is looking to use as a solution to the growing energy crisis on Earth.
I immediately fell in like with Jim, a hard-working blue collar man who only wishes to work hard enough to provide for his family. He’s a guy that’s easy to relate to. It was a little jarring at first, seeing a realistic and wholly likable guy in the follow-up to Lost Planet 2 — a game that was void of even one relatable character.
The one-sided video logs sent between him and his wife ended up being one of the most interesting things about the game. I looked forward to seeing the next one, because they felt real and made me care for Jim as a character. While the game spends more time developing some characters over others, as a whole, Lost Planet 3 has a very strong cast.
The story and characters are strong enough — it’s in the mechanics where Lost Planet 3 really stumbles. There were a plethora of odd design decisions that could have made the game less frustrating. For example, the “umbilical tether” between Peyton and his Rig, which gives him radar, ammo counter, etc. Basically, when you’re near your mech, you have a HUD. However, when you stray too far from your mech, you lose it all.
The grapple hook — one of my favorite things about Lost Planet 2, because of how fun and easy it was to use — has been dumbed down quite a bit. Now, it’s for situational use only, meaning you can’t use it when you want. If a ledge can be grappled, you can do it, but you’re not longer free to use it whenever you like. The auto-grapple feature has also been removed, so if you fall from a cliff and don’t press a button, you’re a goner.
The combat needs a lot of work. The guns don’t feel very substantial, even when they’ve been upgraded, and the aiming is floaty. It isn’t finely tuned to the level it we’ve come to expect from third person shooters, and this can make the (many) areas where it’s you and a couple dozen Akrid far more frustrating than they should’ve been.
Jim’s arsenal of weapons is largely a mixed bag, with some weapons — like the fantastic pistol — that really stand out, and a few that do so for all the wrong reasons. Lost Planet 3 has, hands down, the worst shotgun I’ve used in a video game. The melee attack, too, is a mess, in that it’s an entirely pointless addition to Peyton’s arsenal.
What really doesn’t help this is the dull selection of enemies. If anything, the Lost Planet series is known for its creative array of monsters, so it’s a little alarming that Lost Planet 3 falters so horribly in this department. The Akrid range from the familiar — like the three-legged Sepia and roly poly-esque Dongo — to the nonsensical, which includes lightning spewing wasps that explode when slain.
Where it felt like Lost Planet 2 threw out a new enemy every ten minutes, Lost Planet 3 introduces them significantly more slowly. It’s this fact and all of the above that makes the combat in this game a laborious and often unrewarding slosh from one level to the next.
Developer Spark Unlimited has decided to take a more open world approach to the series with this installment, introducing side quests which can be acquired by chatting with various important NPCs that have been scattered about the main base that serves as the hub world.
Completing the tasks that are given to you is optional, but the rewards can be hugely beneficial, as they can include large caches of thermal energy — the form of currency on E.D.N. III — new equipment and upgrades, among others. Sadly, the side quests aren’t very good, with a majority of them forcing you to backtrack through a previously explored area for something or the incredibly annoying “go here and kill X amount of X” quest that’s the bane of many an MMO player.
Lost Planet 2 was far from a perfect game, but if there’s anything it did really well, it’s the scale. Hopping in a giant mech to take out an even larger Class Whatever Akrid was so much fun. In Lost Planet 3, your Utility Rig is your home away from home. It’s a powerful mech that will save your life more than once, and for the most part, its a positive addition to the game.
With that said, I can’t help but feel like its potential is never fully realized. The Utility Rig is a critical feature in this game, but I never had any real fun using it, nor did I feel powerful striding across the frozen planet in one.
If you find yourself craving that distinctly Lost Planet flavored multiplayer, fear not, as Lost Planet 3 has four multiplayer modes to keep you occupied when the campaign just isn’t enough. In Akrid Survival, two teams of three players compete to survive against waves of Akrid, before fighting each other in a death match. The other three modes split players into two teams of five. In Extraction Mode, teams must extract the most thermal energy in a certain amount of time, Scenario Mode tasks teams with random offensive or defensive objectives and Team Deathmatch is pretty self explanatory.
Lost Planet 3 replaces the zany four-player co-op of its predecessor with a stellar story, relatable characters and a solid suite of competitive multiplayer modes. Narratively, it’s a huge, bounding leap forward, so if you’re the type of gamer who prefers solid storytelling over finely tuned gameplay, you might not mind the change. However, if you enjoyed the mad brilliance that was Lost Planet 2’s weird, comical world and epic Akrid boss fights, you may find this entry more than a little disappointing.
The Final Word: Lost Planet 3 has heart. The story and characters might be enough to keep you engaged, but the repetition and toned down scale may be a turn off for some fans.