It’s not every day that a franchise uses the next main-numbered instalment to perform a do-over, but this is exactly what the latest in Capcom’s Lost Planet series is attempting. Handed to new developers in the form of Spark Unlimited and being a prequel to the other Lost Planet games, it is best to come into Lost Planet 3 with an open mind. But does this studio’s new take on the franchise get a frosty reception?
The plot is tedious and dull, exploring the tired corporate conspiracy trope in the most predictable way possible, but the characterisation is remarkable. Protagonist Jim Peyton is in such a financial bind that he takes on work as a contract engineer to assist with NEVEC’s operations on the planet E.D.N. III, leaving his wife and newborn back on Earth. Everyone in Coronis – the base where NEVEC’s operations are situated, has a degree of humanity when it comes to the dialogue and delivery of said dialogue; but it’s in Jim and his wife that the more touching moments take place. Akin to how it must feel if one part of a happily married couple is stuck on an oil rig with only limited ability to talk to their spouse, you really want everything to be alright for this couple in the end.
But the gameplay is where Lost Planet 3 seems to lose its lustre, with missions that play out like many more generic third-person shooters despite the open-world nature of the game. Each level will have you opening doors, repairing power outlets, and slaughtering the alien Akrid before heading back to base. This formula is shaken up in the game’s second act, but only in minor ways. You can also take on various side-quests, but these are all variants on fetch quests to garner enough cash to improve your weapons, utility rig, and other traits. Gunplay is a little uninspired thanks to the generic sci-fi arsenal that only features one mildly interesting grenade type later in the campaign.
Given that a lot of the game is about fighting aliens, it’s sad to say that small enemies are annoying respawning obstacles that are there to pad out the game. The medium-sized foes provide more of a challenge and are generally enjoyable encounters for the most part, but the majority of Lost Planet 3 is dealing with the small fry. The game genuinely loses grip on gameplay flow whenever it asks you to just “Survive”, as it will throw hordes upon hordes of hard-to-hit small foes that can quite easily overwhelm you.
Boss fights come in both on-foot and rig fights. To understand how fighting aliens works in the utility rig, imagine if you were playing that scene in Aliens Anthology where Ripley fights the Alien Queen – but with QTEs. Initially the idea is quite enthralling, until the sudden realisation kicks in that all that is required to win is advanced button timing skills. Occasionally you will come up against a fight that combines being inside and outside the rig, but being outside generally means you’ll spend a lot of the time rolling away and shooting at bullet-spongy foes. It gets ridiculous and monotonous at the same time, which is probably not how the developers wanted these encounters to be.
While the voice acting is outstanding, the rest of the presentation seems to fall short with dull visuals that show little variation beyond the frozen tundra, abandoned bases, and small communities. Character models look okay with most of the designer’s attention being focused on Jim’s expressions, but occasionally NPCs appear to be emotionless slates. The game’s soundtrack is a bit boring, but the ability to have the rig play from your music playlist on the console is a nice inclusion. However, combined with the also lacks polish. Every now and then, enemies will clip into the scenery with hilarious results, lip syncing doesn’t match up during conversations, and textures may blur for no reason. But one stands out above the rest. Firing the Valkyrie – a crossbow with explosive rounds – comes with the risk of splash damage; so when you fire from behind a knee-high barrier at a far away enemy, see the round hit the target, and then a big explosion erupts right in front of you and hurts you in the process, this is rather baffling to say the least.
Multiplayer on the other hand is a whole other world, combining typical shooter modes with some fresher takes on the tired genre. Most interesting is the 3v3 survival mode where your team must survive wave upon wave of Akrid before fighting each other for control of a central point. Other modes are variants on the more usual offerings, even if the “Flag” is a hostile Akrid initially. The progression sphere is also worthy of note due to how much freedom you have in unlocking new gear. Aside from that though, it is incredibly unpolished in places – being able to drop out of the world at the end of a zip-line or run in the air high above the battlefield. In multiplayer, there are a lot of bugs, but not all of them are able to be shot at and are glowing red.
Lost Planet 3 is a sign of the times, having a streamlined approach that at times feels clunky. Having a focused narrative was probably only a good idea thanks to the strong characterisation, since it’s all too familiar a premise overall. Gameplay in the campaign borders on the ridiculous, both in terms of the crazy survival feats it asks of you and boss fights that require you to roll constantly. But it’s the endless fetch-quests that put this particular utility rig beyond repair. It doesn’t help that while multiplayer has great ideas, but it isn’t as refined as it could be. Whether you’re a newcomer to the Lost Planet series or a winter-hardened veteran, it’s probably best to leave this one out in the cold.