The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The Lost Planet games have always received a mixed reception. From the kooky single-player tale of the first game to the absolutely bonkers co-op boss battles in part two, I’ve always enjoyed this adventurous (yet rough-around-the-edges) series – but the third entry lost me.
Just like with Lost Planet 2, Capcom has tossed out everything and started over. The publisher outsourced development to western studio Spark Unlimited (Legendary, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty), traded out its proprietary engine MT Framework for Unreal 3, and brought the story back to prequel status. I’m fine going back to an all-winter climate, but Spark’s core concepts weren’t realized in an effective way.
The storytelling is more natural than past entries, with blue collar hero Jim Peyton playing space contractor on E.D.N. III to send money back to his family. He’s a likeable, nice guy who’s simply not interesting. The story includes numerous clichés, including the one where an old man tells a young person the whole tale on his deathbed, and the one where a nature-loving society battles an evil corporation for resources (think Avatar).
For the first time in the series, players have a home base to buy stuff and interact with NPCs. This sounds good on paper, but the primary camp is too spread out, and I didn’t care about any of the copy-and-paste citizens. I purposely put off buying upgrades sometimes simply because I couldn’t stand dealing with the smorgasbord of load screens, elevators, and slow-opening gates just to get things done.
All travel takes place inside Jim’s personal rig. This ungodly slow mech wanders a bland network of snow tunnels with a few open areas for battling. Following the Metroid: Other M playbook, the brass says no weapons are allowed, so all fights consist of a meager collection of melee swipes and the ol’ grab-and-drill maneuver. Distance and arm reach are hard to gauge, resulting in a lot of flailing instead of connecting.
On-foot gunplay works fine, despite Lost Planet’s signature slow-as-molasses running speed. Weapons like pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles work as they should, though the standard ammo feels too weak. Alt ammo does the trick if you’re willing to go through the sidequests to unlock them and run to the pain-in-the-ass shop constantly (pickups only refill standard ammo). You fight the same handful of Akrids most of the time; towards the end, inept human enemies try to shoot through their cover or leave their heads poking out for easy pickings. Boss fights are scaled back from the outrageous scale of Lost Planet 2, consisting of either sloppy mech combat or evasive on-foot rolls and shooting the orange bits.
Online versus multiplayer isn’t too shabby, with six maps that showcase grapple hook verticality and include the highly mobile Vital Suits from past games. By-the-book team deathmatch, escort, and conquest-style modes scratch the third-person shooter itch without reinventing the wheel. One mode twists classic capture the flag by requiring teams to rush to kill a single Akrid that drops the flag; the stress of balancing offense against human and AI foes is entertaining. Akrid Survival plays like horde mode for the first half, with two teams battling separate waves of AI creatures. Then the doors open and the teams fight over a common zone. This mashup of two styles is jarring, and the second half is a little too similar to the other conquest mode.
Money earned from multiplayer matches can be spent at the Progression Sphere on new weapons, mods, perks, abilities, and more. Far off hexes tempted me to work toward a certain unlock, but then the mystery tiles revealed along the way lured me in other branching directions. I much preferred this system to Lost Planet 2’s random slot machine upgrades.
I don’t hate Lost Planet 3. There’s still a base satisfaction to popping orange Akrid weak points and mopping up goo. I even made a point to track down most of the hidden collectibles. The first two games balanced out any unsavory elements with mega moments and straightforward fun. The third entry simply doesn’t have enough thermal energy to overcome its many problems.
Watch the Lost Planet 3 Test Chamber here.