Lost Planet 3
Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
The Lost Planet franchise has experienced some peculiar ups and downs since it was let loose on the world in 2006. The original Lost Planet found a solid footing in the third person shooter arena and there was much hope from its loyal following that the franchise would flourish. Sadly what actually happened was Lost Planet 2 was released to both critical and user dismay, bordering on uproar, resulting in poor sales quickly followed by what seemed like the death of a franchise with potential. Fast forward a few years and Capcom are back with a new plan! Outsourcing the development of Lost Planet 3 to western developers, Spark (previously Spark Unlimited) and taking more than a little inspiration from other very successful franchises like Dead Space, can Capcom bring Lost Planet back from abyss effectively rebooting the franchise with a prequel? No, no they can’t.
Set before the events of the first Lost Planet you are placed in the shoes of gruff, space trucker type guy, Jim Peyton, an everyday journey man who’s simply trying to make a buck for his wife and kid back home. Whilst the character is initially appealing, the guy comes across as relatable for sure, he’s just a normal dude trying to support his family (in a giant mech) but as the story progresses you fast find yourself reaching for the skip button. What makes this infinitely worse is that the story and the characters are arguably the best thing about Lost Planet 3 - the ideas are nice, the long distance one-way calls with the missus provide much needed heart, the big Weyland Yutani style evil corporation brings with it intrigue and deception - it’s all there it’s just bogged down in mediocre gameplay making everything a complete chore. Working your way to each explanatory cutscene is a chore simply removing any sense of involvement in the story itself. You are all too frequently disconnected from it through annoying quicktime random events, or the always infuriating boss fights so by the time the story begins to actually unravel you are well past caring about anything really, let alone the characters and the overall story arc. Naturally as the main character is arguably a highlight, the disappointment doesn’t stop there.
Graphically the game can at times be quite striking and you can see the influence from the aforementioned other franchises throughout (although Capcom went to great lengths to convince us this isn’t just another Dead Space) but problems show up as soon as anything moves. Character movement is reasonable but not slick by any stretch, borderline comical during the bigger boss moments, enemy movement is seemingly on rails throughout, mech animations (particularly blocking) are laughable and the lip syncing is off, on, off, on throughout the entire adventure - sometimes acceptable, sometimes appalling. You can tell what they were shooting for and to some degree there are small moments where that vision is actually displayed on the screen but these moments are so fleeting and surrounded by mediocrity, it’s almost impossible to enjoy the playthrough.
At its core, forgetting and/or forgiving any technical issues the game has, it is mind numbingly dull throughout. The early missions take the form of walking - a lot - both in the mech and on foot. Walk here, turn a knob, get out of rig, shoot some things, get back in rig, walk some more - there is less walking in the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy and no elves! This is the template for almost every mission and when confronted with one mission that has six parts it’s borderline soul-destroying. To mix it up a little you might get a talky bit beforehand, or a new special tool in an obvious effort to show some sort of progression within the narrative but all this serves to do is add a gameplay mechanic which (for example) sees you climbing up stuff, utilising a dreadful animation in the process - awesome. As you progress it’s clear that there isn’t really anymore to it other than a series of set-pieces utilising a god-awful mix of timing blocks, quicktime events, tedious shooting galleries, fixing some pipes and walking around a lot. It is all quite uninspiring and, whilst as mentioned the intent is there to see, the execution is just bland.
The lack of a clear identity doesn’t stop it lifting from Visceral’s quality series either. Random action adventure game tropes are rolled out as you progress. The stop to walk through something sideways happens frequently and is ultimately just pointless, as is the walking across a steep drop with your back to a wall. Sure, they get you from A to B in a slightly different manner and some may feel it is a tad harsh to bring them up but when you consider these ‘cinematic’ additions pass without you ever actually thinking “oooh nice” then they become completely redundant, acting as simply more clear examples of taking odds and ends from other similar games, mashing them together and nothing really standing out.
Multiplayer is present and offers very little - sporting a series of 5v5 modes (such as death match) across six bland maps as well as what has become the norm in 3rd person shooters, a horde type mode. To be fair the Akrid Survival horde mode is a tiny bit different in that two separate teams face off against the waves of enemies with the map then completely opening up as you progress, allowing for both teams to go at each other as well as the waves of Akrid. Each player also has a progression sphere which is the Final Fantasy fancy way of showing character progression through upgrades. It's all serviceable and works but is unlikely to see huge player numbers across all platforms and will likely just fade away over the next few weeks.
It’s easy to feel a little bit sorry for Capcom in all of this because they are making a genuine effort to engage with the western audience and are clearly trying to produce games that will do well outside of Japan. What they shouldn’t be doing is outsourcing to western developers whose previous efforts include the stellar Legendary and Turning Point. When Lost Planet 3 was first announced everyone had hoped that the many issues found in Lost Planet 2 would be sorted and this new title would pave the way for the franchise to be born anew. Sadly whilst this is an improvement on the woeful second outing it doesn’t do anything to re-invigorate the the franchise and it would be surprising to see a fourth outing.
Comically quite a big deal was made by the development team to impress upon the gaming public that this is not just a Dead Space rip off...it so is and a poor one at that. Lost Planet 3 is a series of poorly borrowed ideas and set pieces from other successful franchises which ends up being tedious and at best mediocre. Two positive things to take away from everything is that it is arguably the best game Spark have ever produced and is not as bad as Aliens Colonial Marines.