Lost Planet 3 has arrived, covered in snow, sporting a freezing cold nose and wanting desperately to be loved. Unfortunately, just like the snow covered planet that provides the backdrop for the franchises difficult third instalment, we suspect that many people are going feel like they have been left out in the cold with the latest iteration.
That’s not to say that Lost Planet 3 is a bad game. Far from it in fact. It’s just that there is an overwhelming feeling that it’s doing just enough to get by – not doing anything wrong but not necessarily being all that it could be. For some people this won’t be a problem and they will be perfectly able to look past its failings and enjoy the ride. For others though, particularly long-term fans of the series, it’s going to be a bit more unforgivable. A true Marmite game then.
A great example of Lost Planet 3 doing ‘just enough’ is with the environment itself. For the most part, players find themselves navigating the caves and surface of EDN III – yes, the freezing planet from the first title in the series. It’s a prequel don’t cha know – playing the part of Jim Payton, intergalactic oddjob, builder of gigantic mechs and owner of beards. The game does an OK job of presenting you with a suitably icy and depressing environment with which to romp around on; either on foot or using your giant rig, but it never feels alive or engaging. Leave an area for a few seconds and on your return you will find that everything has respawned in exactly the same place, including things like icicles and Akrid spawners.
Most areas are perpetually dark and have nothing interesting or of note included in them. As most of your time will be spent travelling back and forwards between these areas doing different jobs and side missions, it would have been nice to feel like you were connected to the world in some way. As it is, the travel between areas becomes tedious, boring and dull. Eventually you probably won’t even stop to kill the Akrids in the area. It’s a real shame as one of the strengths of the previous titles was the interesting environments, but Lost Planet 3 fails to live up previous standards.
In regards to the gameplay, it’s a mash-up of good ideas which have gotten lost in translation. Mechs have always been an integral part of the franchise, and using a gigantic one – referred to as a rig – should have been an inspired design choice. However, once again the execution is far from perfect. Consistently described as ‘your home out there in the ice’ it quickly becomes evident that, in fact, it isn’t. It’s – at least for first 4 or 5 hours of gameplay – more of an annoying transport system that you need to use to get from A to B.
The rig should be an awesome addition, and it’s fair to say that there are a lot of things it does really well. It feels chunky and clunky and the limited view point actually works in it’s favour, delivering a claustrophobic atmosphere that succeeds in separating the atmosphere of the on-foot sections and the rig sections in an effective way, but it still has problems. For the majority of the time, combat in the rig feels totally ineffective, sluggish and unwieldy and it’s not uncommon to find yourself wedged on rocks and outcrops that you can’t see, mainly because it’s really difficult to judge the girth of your rig.
The rest of the time you will find yourself taking on new contracts – or side missions – to earn T-Energy which is used as currency in-game and can be used to upgrade weapons or your rig systems. Very generic stuff and it’s all well and good, but again it feels like it’s just going through the motions. Moving T-Energy to just a currency as opposed to a significant gameplay mechanic seems a bit of a cop out and it’s worse for it, removing a significant element of danger – such as freezing to death – for no reason what so ever. Main character Jim even mentions this change as ‘too complicated, but just know that my coat keeps me warm enough’ in one of the regular cut scenes, normally a stylized vlog or a message to or from your wife, that you are shown as different sections load.
The list for Lost Planet 3 goes on and on. For every great and unique idea or design choice that Spark Unlimited, developers at the helm for this iteration, try to deliver, the player receives a version that has been chewed up and spat out. It’s a crying shame as Lost Planet 3 could have been an excellent romp and bags of fun, but instead it feels half-hearted and incomplete.
Lost Planet 3 is out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.