Lost Planet 3 (Xbox 360), Review

The latest installment in Capcom’s struggling Lost Planet series takes this one step too far into the cold, with a snowstorm of odd design choices and just overall off-putting weirdness…

Release date: August 27, 2013Developer: Spark UnlimitedPublisher: CapcomPlatform: PS3, Xbox 360, and PCCategory: Third-person shooter

Let me just start this review by giving you a little background about my past history with Capcom’s Lost Planet franchise. The first Lost Planet game used to be one of my all-time favorites back when it was released in 2007, where I completed the game on its brutal highest difficulty setting and logged in countless hours on the game’s alluring multiplayer modes. I didn’t really get into its sequel, Lost Planet 2, all that much, because like many others, I felt the lack of a proper single-player story line and the switch to a tropical setting (in a Lost Planet game, no doubt!) just wasn’t my cup of tea. But now that Spark Unlimited has taken over the reins of Capcom’s up-and-down third-person shooter series, I had high hopes that the developer would be able to capture a lot of the magic that made me fall in love with the original game in the first place.

Serving as a prequel to the first two Lost Planet games, Lost Planet 3 casts players in the role of a middle-aged man and father who has traveled to the distant planet of E.D.N. III to help harvest the planet’s thermal energy in order to save an energy crisis that is happening back on earth. The story is actually one of the most pleasant surprises about Lost Planet 3, with flash forwards, foreshadowing, and the ability to play and follow along without having to have experience the first two games in the series first. But unfortunately, a lot of the positives things seem to end there, as your first few hours into Spark Unlimited’s take on the Lost Planet namesake will leave you feeling like you’ve been trapped in a poor man’s version of Dead Space 3 – a game which I personally happened to love, but I can’t say for most other fans of the once horror survival series.

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In many ways, Lost Planet 3 takes way too many pages from Dead Space 3’s book, and not because the two take place in the samey-looking ice-covered world: even the new inventory interface is almost identical to what we have in Dead Space 3, except for the completely vague and unhelpful map system that the game makes a chore of to even pull up on your screen. Nope, that one’s all yours, Lost Planet 3! Seriously, the map is simply comprised of giant blocky shapes, and whatever icons might be displayed on the map legend don’t really even matter, because your inability to smoothly pan around the map at will renders its entire inclusion in the game all but pointless. Along these lines, you’ll even be collecting obligatory audio and text logs that are hidden around the game world, most often in plain sight, and if you don’t think that’s another big step in the Dead Space 3 pool, then I don’t know what to tell you!

A lot of things have changed here in Lost Planet 3, and sadly, most of the bigger changes are not nearly for the better. The biggest one you’re likely to notice is that collecting T-ENERGY from the Akrid creatures you defeat simply acts as a hard currency in the game: nothing more, nothing less. Gone is the constant need to fill up on T-ENERGY out in the field to keep your own body temperature rising, and this strange design choice leaves the game lacking its constant sense of urgency that made the first game such a thrill. The T-ENERGY itself just looks completely uninspired and flat when it bursts out of the glowing orange weak points on your foes, and nothing like the gooey orange gold that wondrously dripped along the snow at every turn in the first Lost Planet.

The giant mechanized fighting robots called Rigs from the first two installments in the series make an expected return here in Lost Planet 3, but with one major difference that changes things entirely: you can only control them from a first-person perspective. This can be a little jarring, and can take a LOT of getting used to, to say the least. When you first start out, your Rig is unable to hold any weapons other than a mining drill and a heavy swinging arm (something about breaking construction tool regulations that your captain will inform you of). So be prepared to slug your way from mission marker to mission marker in your big clunky Rig, and then hop out the second you come across an enemy Akrid to engage the beast on foot; rinse and repeat.

But perhaps the biggest offender of these inherent new game mechanic redesigns is Spark Unlimited’s failed attempt at making Lost Planet 3 come across as a more open-world experience. Spoiler alert: it’s not. Even though you’ll run into the occasional side mission here and there, these range from killing X amounts of enemies, to retracing your steps and basically repeating a previous mission that you’ve already completed in the main campaign to either place a new data post or retrieve some amassing thermal energy that’s been produced in the interim. This maybe wouldn’t have been so bad if the developers didn’t make it such a chore to traverse from one area to the next (although this does get remedied a bit during later sections of the story as more things start to get unlocked).

At the end of each main quest mission, you’ll either have to return to or simply start out once again at the central main hub base, where you can interact with other members of your crew, or buy new weapons or upgrades for your rig. This is well and fine and all, but it just feels completely out of place in a Lost Planet game, and the three-floor space station area is just a little too sprawling for the amount of things that you can do inside it, and for how slow your character awkwardly runs. Though sectioned off by a seemingly large and invitingly vast and explorable overworld, each main quest mission is painstakingly linear, which wouldn’t have been such a problem if all of the unnecessary walking and backtracking between missions wasn’t always waiting for you around every corner.

Which brings me to my next point: there are just a lot of seriously WEIRD things going on in this game, many of which serve to pull you out of the experience entirely. The first time I noticed this is when I decided to explore around the home base station, and came across a character named “Crazy Neil” who was lounging around in a hot tub, and who then proceeded to tell me about how it was perfectly normal and fine to want to have sex with a penguin. Things got weirder the first time I set out in my Rig, when my wife sent me a playlist full of twangy acoustic country songs that I was able to switch through like a radio every time I moved around in my Rig, quickly turning the game into some kind of bizarre spaghetti western game full of snow and giant robots. Come on Lost Planet 3, what the hell are you doing?

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Luckily, the on-foot combat in Lost Planet 3 is still pretty enjoyable and fun, albeit a little too watered down and generic from previous games. Basically what it boils down to is if you liked engaging in exhilarating firefights on foot with giant alien creatures in the first two games, or really any other third-person shooting game, then you’re going to have fun here. But like most other aspects of Lost Planet 3, there are still a number of odd design choices that manage to worm their way in and make the overall experience just all that more flawed. One of the biggest draws to the first game, your trusty grappling hook feature is only included here by apparent obligation to the fans, as its occasional uses are in no way interesting or feel right executing as they’re supposed: they could have very easily boiled down to shot interactive cut scenes every time you encounter them. There’s also a weird control scheme that pops up when you want to switch your weapons: you tap a certain button when you want to cycle through your weapons, but you have to HOLD it for some reason when you want your highly underpowered pistol.

Now one thing I do feel the need to mention here in this review is in regards to your playable character in the single-player campaign, Jim Peyton, whose name sounds like he should be on some American football team and not digging for energy on a faraway ice planet. But while the story for the most part is surprisingly endearing, and the back and forth video messaging between Jim and his wife back on earth form the heart of the narrative, the blunt fact of the matter is that Jim is just straight up ugly. And here’s why this becomes an actual problem: in many ways, Jim looks like an unfortunate cross between a young Donald Sutherland and Nicolas Cage, and as you might imagine, I couldn’t stop laughing every time I got a glimpse of his face. A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that the game’s graphics just aren’t all that impressive as a whole, with dark environments, muddy blue color schemes, and facial features that look like higher-end PS2 games at best.

Lastly, the multiplayer in Lost Planet 3 isn’t half bad for those of you who would rather just skip all the slower parts of the game’s main campaign and just get straight to the shooting. Most game modes in the online portion of the game utilize an interesting hybrid of multiplayer tropes that you’ve undoubtedly played for hours before: the most common one being a horde mode of sorts that lets you work with your teammates to clear out waves of A.I. controlled Akrid beasts, before the whole map opens up and you’re suddenly vying for a central control point against an enemy team of human players. It might be a bit jarring the first time you get into it, but it’s actually implemented pretty well, and does a nice job of changing up the flow of gameplay completely right in the middle of a match. As you play, you’ll earn T-ENERGY currency in a separate multiplayer bank, which can be used to unlock various cells in a giant progress sphere that grant you new abilities or additional weapons to use. Again, a fun multiplayer component all in all, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from any third-person shooter title these days, and still a far cry from the breath of fresh air multiplayer modes that we had in the first Lost Planet.

So in the end, it pains me to tell you that Lost Planet 3 is just one big frozen disappointment. Coming from someone who’s as big a fan of the series as you could possibly get, there are just too many negative changes in this one that keep it from feeling like a true Lost Planet game, let alone just a fun third-person shooter that you’ll want to get completely sucked into. With sporadic, blotchy gameplay, an awkward transition in and out of your first-person Rig, and of course, let’s not forget your ugly-ass main character and Crazy Neil’s obsession with having his way with penguin, I’m not really sure what to make of a game like Lost Planet 3. But if I did have to make some kind of guess about it, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the once-great Capcom series will probably end after this.

Story – 7/10

Gameplay – 6/10

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Graphics – 6/10

Soundtrack – 5/10

Multiplayer – 8/10

Replayability – 6/10

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