Lost Planet 3 Preview (Xbox360)

The problem with giving a running franchise to another team is that there’s always a possibility that the game that the new team makes may not feel anything like the previous games. Such is possibly the case with Lost Planet 3. It’s not that Spark aren’t doing a good job so far – there’s quite a few plus points that I’ll go into in a bit – but whilst Lost Planet 1 & 2 felt like a Japanese Anime pretending to be a western third-person shooter game, Lost Planet 3 just feels like a western third-person shooter game. But one that lacks a lot of what made the original games stand out.

To be fair, a lot of this is probably due to the fact that Spark has not only created a prequel, but they’ve also changed the entire structure of the game. E.D.N. III is going through the early stages of colonisation, the Akrid are a new and unknown threat, and even the value of thermal energy hasn’t been fully realised yet – it’s not tied into life-support (which I don’t think really works considering this is set before LP1, but never mind). Along with that though, the VS Mechs which arguable represented one of the few genuinely fun things about the earlier games, have also been removed from the single-player portion of the game. Instead, your protagonist has this massive, hulking, slightly unwieldy mech-come-mobile mining rig, which is used to traverse the more inhospitable areas of E.D.N III, as well as stomp on some Akrid. It’s not really a combat-mech though (It’s a lot, lot bigger than the VC Mechs typically were), and from the looks of things you spend just as much time, if not more, out of your ‘Rig’ than you do inside it.

Imma gon’ claw you up

The single-player game is more RPG like In the sense that it revolves around a central hub, and you can take on side-quests as well as the core storyline. You can salvage equipment to upgrade your Rig (including an ability that turns it into a drill platform, which triggers a pretty generic wave-based mini-scenario you have to win for massive amounts of thermal energy), and you can also buy weapons and explore the game world a little more freely. One thing I will say – I personally think Spark has done a better job with the characters and characterisations than either of the last two games did. The main character may not be much to write home about (typical married, do-gooder working man type), but there’s a good ensemble of supporting cast that provide some excellent banter and atmosphere. Hell, even talking to some of the random NPC’s around the hubs can yield some amusing conversations. The mechanic and that random guy who likes to bath in E.D.N. III’s only sauna are particular chuckle-worthy.

Who decided to name this place ‘EDN’, again?

And let’s not forget about multiplayer – if the game is going to capture the hearts and minds of gamers at all, it’ll be here. Lost Planet 3’s online mode contains a lot of the essence of the original games, as well as providing some unique and interesting modes/environments to muck around in. There’s VS Mechs, which is good, lots of different weapons, load-outs and abilities (my personal favourite it setting off a gas trap as enemies approach my corpse), and there’s some pretty fun objective based game modes as well. We tried out several 5 v 5 scenarios that captured a little bit of the co-operative gameplay the second game had, but because it's multiplayer it doesn’t need to have a strong narrative or characters – something the second game lacked.

Lost Planet 3 is a pretty safe game – which unfortunately may not be as a good a thing as Capcom hope it will be. Then again, if you look at last year’s Bulletstorm, taking risks and being ‘out there’ doesn’t really work either, so what can you do? But anyway – while this game probably isn’t going to be setting any bars, hopefully it’ll capture some of the magic that made the first game so interesting to play. It’s going to annoy some people with the more westernised approach, but I’m hoping the characters and the narrative will make it a worthwhile experience. And of course you have the multiplayer, which is actually pretty fun and a decent nod to the earlier games. Lost Planet 3 is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on August 27th in North America, and August 30th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: If they manage to something shocking or profound with the single-player narrative, great, otherwise multiplayer is going to be where this game shines, even if it’s only a glimmer.