Lost Planet 3 preview
by Andrew Yoon, shacknews.com, May 22, 2012 8:00AM PDT
"Is this a reboot?" I asked a Capcom representative at a recent preview event. I had to ask, because Lost Planet 3 was not what I thought it would be. Beautiful, atmospheric, and intense, Lost Planet 3 is the rare game that goes completely against expectations, and offers something refreshingly new and exciting.
It's an odd admission to make, given the awful turn the franchise took with Lost Planet 2. Perhaps taking too many cues from Monster Hunter, Capcom's sequel became too multiplayer-focused. Battles against the game's many towering enemies felt like grinds, with the game's "shoot the glowing weak point for half an hour" gameplay growing thin. And with the franchise now in the hands of a developer as unproven as Spark Unlimited (Turning Point, Legendary), it's no wonder I was skeptical. However, after thirty minutes of hands-on time, I would say Lost Planet 3 is the game I always wanted Lost Planet to be.
On paper, the Lost Planet franchise certainly sounds like a winner. You rappel over buildings, fighting giant alien bugs with giant mechs that can shoot lasers. And Spark Unlimited has ensured that the core tenants of the franchise remain intact with Lost Planet 3: rappelling, giant alien bugs, and laser-shooting mechs, of course. However, the tone is incredibly different. Instead of making yet another arcadey third-person shooter, it's as if Spark asked "what if this were a living-on-a-frozen-planet simulator?" The end result is a much more serious approach to storytelling and gameplay--one that makes the overall experience so much more compelling.
The demo begins with Jim, Lost Planet 3's new unassuming lead, on a quest looking for therman energy. As he jumps in his mech, you get a great sense of scale and weight. You tower above everyone else as you make your way to E.D.N. III's frozen terrain. As you progress forward, a storm kicks up. Electrical interference distorts your in-cockpit HUD, and it eventually gets encased in ice, forcing you to evacuate the mech. That's when things get really interesting. An Akrid attacks, jumping onto your head. The camera zooms in, and you fight it off by trying to aim your knife with an on-screen reticule. (It's not unlike fighting off zombies in the recent Walking Dead game.)
After fighting off a few more scorpion-esque creatures, I realized that this was not going to be like any Lost Planet game before it. A fight with just a small number of enemies felt dangerous--and the intimidating purple sky and blowing winds made the mood no more comfortable. Later in the demo, Jim enters an abandoned research facility. Of course, the lights go out and Jim must try to find his way out--surviving attacks from wandering Akrid that jump from air vents. That's when I fully accepted that Lost Planet 3 isn't an arcade shooter; it's a survival horror game.
While much of the demo plays to common sci-fi horror tropes, Lost Planet's mechs help make the experience feel fresh and unique. It's one thing feeling helpless against powerful alien foes--but what about when you're in a massive robot? Halfway through the demo, you fight a Akrid "mini boss," a scorpion-esque creature that towers above you. While that encounter simply proved the gunplay was competent, encountering that creature again while in the mech proved to be a much more visceral experience. The monster is much faster than your mech is, and every strike it lands adds cracks to your battered windshield. However, time the right bumper at the right time, and you'll be able to grab its claw. Using one analog stick, you try to pin the arm as the beast tries to resist. Using the other analog stick, you aim your mech's drill and try to rip its arm off. As you dismember the Akrid, Jim can go in for a finishing blow, by drilling the creature's glowing back. This wasn't a canned cinematic, or a QTE. What made this experience so memorable was because it was all happening during gameplay.
My time with Lost Planet 3 ended after that encounter, but not before seeing a glimpse of a psych evaluation. Given its new survival horror focus, could Spark be taking inspiration from Dead Space?
With such a drastic change in tone, Lost Planet 3 might as well be a reboot of the franchise. The single player has definitely drawn me in, but will Spark be able to impress with multiplayer as well? Lost Planet 3 will be available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2013.
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.