Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to play Lost Planet 3 during my E3 demo of the game, but I instead asked the game’s executive producer, James Vance, to play through the levels for me so I could get a sense of everything available. In the end, we had a good long chat about the game’s features and I learned a lot more about Lost Planet 3 than had I opted to play through on my own.
At gamescom 2012, however, there was no chance I was going to pass up the prospect of playing the game for myself. Somewhat disappointingly (at first), I discovered it was the exact same segment of gameplay from E3, save for the introduction and tutorial sequence. Once I was done with the available demo at gamescom, though, I rued the fact that I hadn’t played Lost Planet 3 earlier – what a bad decision!
Lost Planet 3, for me, is now easily in my top five most anticipated games of 2013 for a lot of reasons you might expect, but maybe some you wouldn’t. Let me tell you about why Capcom and Spark Unlimited’s upcoming action adventure title was so impressive to me.
In Lost Planet 3, you take on the role of one Jim Peyton, a miner (of sorts) who has journeyed through the far reaches of space from Earth all the way to an ice planet known as EDN III. Those who know their Lost Planet lore will be very familiar with EDN III as it’s the planet where the original game and its sequel took place, and where players first met the insect-like Akrid creatures, discovered the importance of Thermal Energy, or T-Eng, and eventually set about terraforming to build a new life for the people of Earth.
Lost Planet 3 takes place before all of that and well before colonists made EDN III their home. Or does it? This is one of the mysteries of the planet that Jim will have to uncover as he takes on contracts to collect Thermal Energy and earn cash to support his wife and newborn child back home.
To begin with, I was introduced to a small set of Lost Planet 3’s colourful cast of characters, including the resident (and super enthusiastic) mechanic on the base where Jim is stationed, Jim’s boss, Bradeck, as well as another Thermal Energy miner, Laroche. The characters that I saw in the Lost Planet 3 demo sported some excellent voice acting and movement, which was the first aspect of the game that was tremendously impressive. But what does Jim, Laroche and other miners need a mechanic for?
The main method of transportation and Thermal Energy extraction is the use of what’s referred to as a Utility Rig, or simply ‘rig,’ a hulking contraption that comes standard with two mechanical (and upgradeable) arms and legs that make trudging through the severe arctic conditions of EDN III a lot easier… except when the rig freezes over and is encased in chunks of ice.
To combat the situation, Jim needs to climb out of the rig and shoot the ice off of the rig, but out in the wastelands of EDN III Akrid aliens will take any opportunity they can to hunt down fresh meat, and I soon came face-to-face with a group of wolf-like enemies known as Pack Hunters. As always in a Lost Planet game, the third-person shooting is amazingly satisfying and targeting those glowing orange spots on enemies with an assault rifle and shotgun is a reward all of its own.
One of the Pack Hunters was able to catch me unawares and wrestled me to the ground, which meant I was able to experience the ‘Struggle Mode’ first hand, a Quick Time Event-like gameplay mechanic where you’ll need to mash a button to gain the upper-hand on an enemy, before being given the chance to frantically aim for a weak spot and jab a knife into the creature. A successful escape out of Struggle Mode will net you full health and a dead enemy, but the more you fail, the more dire the situation will become.
After dispatching the pack of wolf Akrid, I was able to remove all of the ice that was frozen around my rig’s arms and legs and then quickly zip back up into the machine thanks to rappelling additions built on to it with the help of that overly energetic mechanic back on base.
Trundling through the snow-covered landscape in the Utility Rig feels as heavy and powerful as you would expect such an enormous collection of metal and hydraulics to be and you’ll be given the opportunity to use it in combat, too, as much larger Akrid enemies scuttle out of hidey holes to attempt to take you down. Using the rig’s two immense mechanical arms to grab, bash and drill into shell and flesh, I was able to make quick work of one such beast without resorting to taking it on from the ground as Jim.
There will be times when just that will be necessary, though. At one point, my rig froze over forcing me to exit and shoot the ice off again, all while fending off another colossal Akrid creature. Once again, that ultra rewarding shooting makes large scale battles like this a pleasure. Weapons fire ejects round after round of hot brass before the bullets lodge themselves into the enemy with a satisfying ‘squelch’ and a burst of orange energy. Lovely.
Exploration on foot plays a large part in Lost Planet 3 as well, and during my time playing the demo I made my way into a cave by rappelling down into the murky depths of the place. In Lost Planet 3, there will be set points where you’ll be able to rappel up or down as opposed to being able to freely choose where to travel to and from as in previous games, but I’ve been told in the past that the game’s multiplayer will allow for freeform rappelling (more on multiplayer a little later).
After reaching my objective (a Thermal Energy post) and seeing the snow around me melt away, I discovered what appeared to be a long-abandoned man-made installation – an installation that couldn’t possibly exist due to the fact that there’s not supposed to have been any colonisation taking place on EDN III before now. Very strange.
Working my way further into the installation, and seeing more than a few dead bodies on the way, things took a turn for the creepy as smaller bug-like Akrid swarmed the place, forcing me to swap to my shotgun to deal with the threat. The metallic world around me creaked and groaned with years of stress, but despite the lack of free-flowing power (resulting in some very eerie looking corridors dramatically lit rooms) a few working doors and elevators allowed me to escape to tell the tale.
What I find very exciting about Lost Planet 3 is the fact that the game involves visiting different ‘hub’ areas around which other key exploration and action opportunities exist. No longer will there be a linear sequence of events that take place, like in previous Lost Planet games, but instead you’ll be able to choose to take on missions and revisit different areas as you upgrade yourself and your rig to reach previously inaccessible sections, ala Metroid or Castlevania.
Revealed for the first time at gamescom 2012, Lost Planet 3 will feature a cover system so you can take brief respite from Akrid possessing longer range attacks, and judging by a few story reveals, I would bet that before the end of the game you’ll be fighting against other human enemies, too.
Multiplayer for Lost Planet 3 is also planned, but other than a few throw-away comments by producer Andrew Szymanski during a presentation and interview at E3 2012, and the promise of a reveal at some point in the future, not a whole lot is known about this portion of the game save for the fact that it will ‘make sense’ in the game’s universe and feature a few different modes.
So why did this Lost Planet 3 demo (that is now a few months old) impress me quite so much?
To be honest, I’m impressed that Spark Unlimited has been able to put together a game that is already shining in terms of gameplay and story following its previous development efforts, Legendary and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. With the guidance of Capcom (and a bit of staff turnover), as well as what must be a more patient and well-funded approach to the game, Lost Planet 3 is looking to be the team’s best title by far.
Voice acting and the way the narrative has so far been related in-game is also astonishly good, while the world, characters, mechanical designs and Akrid creatures are excellently realised. The Lost Planet series has always had incredibly satisfying combat and Lost Planet 3 continues this fine tradition with aplomb, mixing things up nicely with different types of enemies and a variety of ways to attack the beasts.
The promise of a MetroidVania system of exploration and a non-linear sequence of events rounds out my personal list of favourite, exciting Lost Planet 3 features which I feel will add a massive amount of depth to what could otherwise have been a fairly straightforward, rote third-person shooter.
Billed as an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC game due out in early 2013, I’m twitching to see (and play) more of Lost Planet 3!
Don’t miss El33tonline’s enormous amount of Lost Planet 3 coverage for more screenshots, bunches of videos, and lots of information. Our previous preview and our presentation report and interview from E3 will further fill in a few blanks and let you in on other details that I find very exciting indeed.
Lost Planet 3 – Official Trailer