There are times when a sequel to a video-game doesn’t always feel like an improvement. There’s no denying that Lost Planet 2 had all the making of a blockbuster experience, but it lacked the essence that made the original so unique. With Lost Planet 3, Capcom has decided to let an outside studio, Spark Unlimited, handle the development. Will this result in an exciting new direction for the series, or end up being a monumental disaster.
Lost Planet 3 is actually a prequel to the original. This makes it possible to return to the harsh cold environment that made the original so popular. One of the biggest changes is how the development team is focused on delivering a cinematic experience. This is clear from the stylish introduction, which dishes out some story related details. Jim Peyton and his fellow colonists are amongst the first to set foot on planet E.D.N III. It’s all very exciting, but someone has to ensure that the area is safe, which is where Jim comes in handy.
The two previous instalments didn’t focus much on the story. Lost Planet 3 attempts to make the player care about the story. Jim receives messages from his wife updating him on life back on Earth. This isn’t just another story about humans forcibly taking over unknown land. These people have dreams of making life better for their own families.
It’s soon time to go out and explore the hostile environments awaiting Jim. Fortunately he has a powerful rig at his disposal. It’s a nice touch to make the technology in Lost Planet 3 less advanced than what is found in the two other instalments. Entering the rig will automatically place the player in first person view. It’s strange at first to move around, but it soon becomes second nature.
Being inside the rig doesn’t necessarily mean that the main character is safe. At one point, the rig’s outside was coated in solid ice. This meant that Jim had to get out into the wild, to manually break the ice away. This is where the player first encounters some of the hostile Akrid. Interestingly enough, fighting in Lost Planet 3 isn’t just about filling the enemies with bullets, until they drop dead.
Imagine Jim shooting rounds at the various enemies running around. Visibility is low, due to heavy fog, which means that enemies can easily slip in and out of cover. A small oversight and an Akrid is pouncing on Jim. This is where the ultimate fight for survival begins. Jim quickly grabs a knife and instinctively slashes at the enemy’s weak point. For the player this means using the analogue stick to carefully aim an on screen pointer at the right place, and performing a quick time event. Successfully perform this three times and Jim will live to fight off many more Akrid. It’s not often that a video-game manages to make a player feel the desperation that comes from fighting for survival.
Successfully getting back on the Rig will then make it possible to continue seeing some of the mesmerising sights E.D.N III has to offer. Perhaps it’s the fact that everything feels a lot more detailed and bigger in scale, when compared to the other Lost Planet video-games. Even just looking at the distance makes it possible to start imagining what else is out there.
The plot starts to unravel once Jim finally makes it to his destination. It’s inside a spaceship like structure that Jim starts to question what is going on. We know that his employee, NEVEC, isn’t exactly trustworthy but what does this mean for Jim? Perhaps it was the spaceship layout, but it felt disorientating at times to navigate its many narrow corridors. This inside area is a welcome change, since it makes it a feel like being in a sci-fi film. It’s never easy to find out what lies beyond an opening or round a corner. It’s certainly interesting to think what will happen in other sections like it in the retail version.
The first boss like fight challenge comes in the form of a massive Akrid crab. Defeating this beast on foot will require a lot of patience and skill. The usual weak points come in the form of bright orange spots. Taking out the crab will require snapping its pincers off, and then aim at the back until its brain like top literally explodes. This seems easy, but it’s a real struggle in practise. Specially as this crab has a habit of unexpectedly charging at Jim. Part of the reason why this fight is so tough though, is the lack of a proper lock-on feature. Running away from enemies is also somewhat slow, to the point where the crab will easily ram into him. Hopefully these are issues that the development team is focusing on over the next few months.
Fighting the crab with the rig is a much better experience. It’s possible to perform devastating attacks, thanks to the rig’s drill and mechanical arms. It almost feels like a synchronised dance, as the crab charges in, only to end up being knocked back by the rig’s defensive stance. This is the perfect opportunity to grab onto one of the pincer, and literally drill it off. It all culminates in the ultimate attack, where the rig is drilling the crab’s orangey brain matter into Akrid mincemeat. These fights are challenging, but that is what makes defeating these tough enemies so rewarding.
It’s impressive to think that this small glimpse at Lost Planet 3 could end up being so entertaining. This is literally the equivalent of being ambushed with a surprise birthday party. Capcom struck gold when it allowed an external development team to work on Dead Rising 2. It seems like Spark Unlimited will manage to do the same, if it continues to impress as further Lost Planet 3 details are revealed, over the next few months.