With the release of the original Lost Planet on Xbox 360 in 2007, Capcom was taking a very brave step into a new world of game development. In essence, Lost Planet (and Capcom’s accompanying Dead Rising) signalled a new direction for the company that represented its intention to make games for a global audience with more Western sensibilities in terms of design and style.
Lost Planet 2 attempted to break further ground with its inclusion of an ‘always on’ co-operative feature and returned as a direct sequel to the first, complete with everything we knew and loved about the series: Huge insect-like creatures, satisfying gunplay, nimble and useful Vital Suit (VS) mech exoskeletons, and an off the wall adventure set on the storied colony planet of EDN III.
Lost Planet 3 is set to shake up the series once again by acting as a prequel to both of Capcom’s previous games while taking us back to the planet where it all began.
Capcom’s James Vance, executive producer on Lost Planet 3, took me through a very impressive gameplay demonstration of the title during E3 2012 to give me a good idea of what players can expect when the game arrives next year, while simultaneously answering my questions and putting a few worries to rest.
We started out fighting against smaller enemies so I could get a feel for the general gameplay of Lost Planet 3, but began as protagonist Jim Patton was lumbering along in what Vance refers to as Patton’s “giant mech,” the utility rig. Gone are the days of the tiny VS exoskeletons in this game because as it takes place before the events of Lost Planet and Lost Planet 2, technology hasn’t yet advanced to the stage where these massive hunks of machinery can be shrunk down to size.
Interestingly, Vance told me that there are other utility rigs, owned by other characters in Lost Planet 3 that players will encounter. These different rigs will have purposes other than the one Patton built and owns, but throughout the story you’ll be able to upgrade your own rig to improve it and make it more efficient. A major difference between the VS and the utility rig, too, is that the VS was an expendable resource, says Vance – “you get in and they run out of energy and you need to get out or they’ll explode.”
In the story of Lost Planet 3, however, the gigantic utility rig will also act as Patton’s “home away from home,” kind of like a Recreational Vehicle (RV) motor home, and will be with you for the entire game. While Patton lives inside the utility rig as he journeys to the various excavation sites in the game to protect himself from the harsh, sub-zero weather of EDN III, he’ll also occasionally have to venture outside to perform maintenance and remove chunks of ice to keep it operational.
In the demo, Patton makes his way outside but is attacked by a group of “wolf, panther-like creatures” called Pack Hunters. “Just like previous Lost Planet games, the orange areas are their weak spots.” So far, so Lost Planet. Vance offered a tip and mentioned that the tail of the Pack Hunter is this creature’s weakest area, so aim for the tail! It’s difficult to hit though as the creature weaves and bobs around and the tail flails around behind.
Looking at the heads-up display, Vance pointed out that enemies in the area will show up on your radar and as a hint, the enemy that’s about to attack will flash white to give you a very brief advantage in combat. Your access to the radar and other HUD elements will come and go the closer you are to your rig, so if you happen to be spelunking in a cave somewhere far away from your machine, the data you’re used to will slowly be stripped away. Best to stick close to the rig, then.
Instead of being fed your grenade and ammo count, amount of T Energy and health, for example, that information will no longer be available to you without a signal from the rig so you’ll have to rely on what you can physically see on your character: two grenades, full health – ready to go!
While the standard approach would be to fight the Pack Hunters head-on with handheld weapons, if you remove the ice from your rig fast enough you can climb back inside and obliterate the wolves using its powerful arms and drill attachment from the first person. Vance demonstrated this to great effect. Very nice.
Vance also showed me what happens when you don’t get the ice off of your rig fast enough and are chewed on by vicious Pack Hunters. When you’re about to die in Lost Planet 3, the developers are keen on giving you one last chance to redeem yourself in a quick mini-game of sorts. A Pack Hunter had Patton pinned to the ground and after some button mashing you need to aim for a specific point and then fire off a final shot at your enemy to save yourself. If you’re successful, you’ll kill the enemy and retrieve all of your lost health – “instant regeneration,” says Vance.
In Lost Planet 3, as opposed to previous games, being out in the cold won’t be detrimental to your health and while T Energy “still plays a big role” in this game, it will instead be used as a currency that can be accrued. The old method of pushing players forward through discrete levels by constantly draining T Energy didn’t work in Lost Planet 3 as this new game features a more open, hub-based world, or “one giant, interconnected world,” where exploration is encouraged.
There will be central hubs in the game, too, that will act as base camps where T Energy is converted into currency, which you can use to buy new weapons and ammunition types, as well as upgrades for your rig and even new attachments and appendages.
T Energy, in the fiction of Lost Planet, is a supposed replacement for oil on Earth and is a hotly contested resource followed an energy crisis back home. Patton is here on EDN III to earn “a bunch of money really quickly” to support his wife and newborn son who are still on Earth and make a better life for his family.
Patton works for NEVEC, the corporation that Vance says “hasn’t quite turned evil yet” in Lost Planet 3 and is on the hunt for T Energy posts which, once activated, release huge heat waves and transform the immediate area. The story of Lost Planet 3 haves you believe that you’re part of a first group to colonise EDN III, but as the game progresses, you’ll discover this isn’t the case as you encounter signs of previous life in the form of colonised areas.
Extra bits of story will be related to you during load times, which Vance freely admits “masks the games’ loading,” with conversations and messages sent between Patton and his wife back on Earth.
The rappel ability is back in Lost Planet 3, but is a little more restricted this time around. I only saw it being used to jump down from a ledge, and the grapple hook will also be used to quickly navigate up sheer surfaces, but only in areas that the designers deem suitable – a small cursor will appear when you’re able to use your grapple hook and you won’t be able to use it anywhere you choose as in past Lost Planet titles. “Once you [grapple],” says Vance, “it’s a continuous animation to the end.”
Vance then went on to show me what he called a mid-level boss – a towering monster with pincers for arms, naturally known as an ‘Ice Crab.’ The utility rig made quick of this monstrosity and even though you have the option of climbing out of the rig during a battle (and will even be required to do so during certain encounters), destroying giant creatures is much more efficient and satisfying from the safety of your machine.
Moving on into a creepy indoor area, which is an example of Lost Planet 3’s different environments (“not everything is just blue and white, and there are man-made structures, too” says Vance), I asked about the development team’s intention to provide an element of survival horror in the game, which Vance says is not the case.
“Horror is not a theme that we’re going for, it’s more like suspense. We don’t have anything like a really grotesque monster coming out with blood everywhere. Here [Patton] is in this situation where the world has been like this for 50 years, so just by nature it’s kinda scary and suspenseful. These [indoor] areas compose about twenty percent of the whole game, so I wouldn’t say that we have a ‘horror’ game. It’s an action adventure game with some suspense elements.”
After that, Vance went on to show me a grotesque ‘Leech’ enemy that has two mouths and crawls around your body and back if you don’t kill it quickly enough. No blood or horror… just very creepy!
Vance then went on to stay my fear of Quick Time Events in Lost Planet 3, which I had hoped wouldn’t make an appearance past the mashing of buttons during your near-death sequences.
“Umm… in general we’re of the same thinking, we don’t like Quick Time Events. I would say there are not Quick Time Events.”
Not as authoritative as I would like, but I’ll take it.
To finish off the demo, Vance showed me a proper boss fight going mano-a-mano, Akrido-a-rigo, with options to throw a grenade down the creature’s throat and beat him down with a heavy arm appendage, before grabbing it and drilling down into its face with the machine’s giant drill.
Lost Planet 3 is looking incredible.
While Capcom isn’t talking about Lost Planet 3 multiplayer just yet, Vance did say that there will be support for co-operative and versus modes, as well as “a bunch of modes that this universe supports… so you can use your imagination.” The grapple hook ability in multiplayer will be more freeform, too – something more like what we’re used to in previous Lost Planet games.
As an interesting aside, Lost Planet 3 is powered by Unreal Engine 3 as opposed to Capcom’s in-house MT Framework engine. The reason, says Vance, is because the Lost Planet 3 developer, Spark Unlimited, is an ‘Unreal house’ and while it’s important to choose the right partner for a project, it’s also important to choose the right engine and because Spark knows Unreal, it only makes sense to use that technology. Capcom hasn’t abandoned MT Framework as it still powers newer games like Resident Evil 6.
Lost Planet 3 is out in early 2013 across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. El33tonline’s previous coverage of the game will provide more screenshots as well as videos, while Lisa’s Captivate 2012 coverage (here and here) will clue you in even further.