It’s a good thing that Lost Planet 3’s set to release at the tail end of the summer, because you won’t want to play the Spark Unlimited-developed prequel when it’s cold outside. The third-person shooter takes place a long time prior to the events of the first game, with the snowy setting of E.D.N. III still trapped in the middle of a particularly bleak ice-age. You play as Jim Peyton, a miner who’s left behind his family in search of work on the frosty rock. Unsurprisingly, though, he soon learns that his terms of employment involve a lot more than merely digging up the planet’s precious resources.
Doled out to an external developer, the game feels distinctly different to its predecessor. The instanced, co-operative environments of Lost Planet 2 have been dispensed, replaced by a narrative-heavy single player experience much closer in tone to the first game. During our hands-on time, we were able to play through the opening couple of missions of the campaign, which starts with Peyton taking the icy trek to a snowy stronghold obscured deep within the wintery world.
Plodding through the snow feels particularly satisfying, as the protagonist raises his hand to shield his face (and designer beard) from the arctic winds. The blizzard effects are impressive, limiting your vision, and forcing you to stay alert as you venture through the wilderness to your next objective. The morose conditions play host to more than just a runny nose, though, as it’s clear that you’ll be spending a lot of your time in the great outdoors dealing with Akrid, extremophilic beings that thrive in the freezing conditions.
Combat operates in much the same way as you’d expect from a modern third-person shooter, and it feels functional, if a little uninspired. The majority of the campaign’s opening will find you staring down the barrel of a pistol, but you’ll later get your fingerless gloves on a wide range of weapon types, many of which can be purchased using materials that you collect from fallen foes. These extraterrestrial enemies mostly take the form of plant-like organisms in the first few hours, but there’s the promise of bigger antagonists, including an athletic beast that you need to dodge in order to shoot the weak spot on its tail.
There’s a definite sense of tension to the manner in which the combat scenarios are paced, but the action still feels a bit predictable. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the gunplay, but the initial moments fail to really offer anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s fortunate, then, that the title also has a hearty helping of robotic action hidden up its thermal jumper, otherwise it would risk feeling like little more than an icy Dead Space knock-off.
The Rigs – the mechanical predecessors to the VS bipedal mechs in the previous games – actually offer plenty of variety. You pilot these from a first-person perspective, and use a combination of trigger tugs and button presses to operate its arms. Interestingly, you can enter and exit the vehicle at any point, and while the game appears to be a largely linear experience, the developer promises that you’ll be able to wander off the dusted path and explore the snow-topped scenery around you, where there’ll be various side missions vying for your attention.
When you’re not and about, you’re given free rein of the main NEVAC stronghold. Here you can interact with different characters, scoop up audio logs, and more. The dialogue isn’t brilliant – one particular character opts to inform us about his penguin fetish when we stop by to chat – but the ability to leisurely pace around the futuristic stronghold offers a nice change of pace. However, it does unearth some of the frailties of the engine, as you’re forced to sit through long load times each time that you enter an elevator to reach a different floor of the fortress. The overall visual presentation isn’t great either, with some decent lighting offset by muddy textures and poorly animated character models. Hopefully this is something that is polished up before release.
In addition to the single player, we also briefly got a chance to check out the title’s multiplayer mode. Our session was confined to the ten-player scenarios playlist, which essentially changes up the objectives depending on the map. On one arena, for example, you’re prompted to dispatch an Akrid along with your team-mates. Once it’s down, you’ll be able to snatch up a battery-type object which needs to be returned to your base in order to score a point. However, your opposite numbers will also be hunting for the MacGuffin goodie, and will actively be trying to stop you in your tracks, so that they can steal it and return it to their own fortification.
It’s essentially Capture the Flag, but the contextual twist at least gives the mode some character. The return of grappling hooks – accessed via the shoulder buttons – also augments an interesting twist, as you latch onto distant ledges in order to obtain a vertical advantage. Naturally, there’s the promise of plenty of upgrades, with experience and credits earned as you play through the multiplayer component, and medals issued at the end of every round. Sadly, we didn’t really get a good feel for the different types of unlocks on offer – but it’s safe to assume that the format will follow closely in the footsteps of Call of Duty.
Lost Planet 3 certainly didn’t leave us feeling cold, which is promising for a title set in subzero conditions. If the developer can maintain a good balance of gunplay and exploration throughout the full campaign, then it’ll certainly have the basis of a solid adventure. And with the promise of mech combat and more, it’s managed to pique our attention. We’re not sure how the multiplayer’s going to fare against the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield based on the snippet that we saw, but the scenario-based objectives at least augment the component with some identity of its own. We’ll have to wait and see if the market warms up to the experience when the full title releases later this year.
Are you looking forward to losing your bearings in Lost Planet 3? Let us know in the comments section below.