Review: Lost Planet 3 – Some Places Should Stay Lost
There are only three things Jim Peyton loves in his life. His family, his rig and killing everything by the dozens. What he doesn’t love is menial tasks, awkward combat and poor pacing. Turns out Mr. Peyton and I hate the same things–who knew?
The game takes place long before the events of the previous two Lost Planet games. Earth is trying to resolve an energy crisis and is now looking towards the stars for their salvation. In comes EDN III, an ice planet rich in T-Energy, or Thermal Energy, and giant bugs called the Akrid. Contracted by the super, obviously evil, NEVEC Corporation, a group of scientists attempt to figure out a way to extract the T-Energy in order to save humanity.
Jim Peyton arrives on EDN III with a plan: make as much money to send back to his wife and child. Jim’s is pretty much a day laborer with two small exceptions–he has a giant mech (called a Rig) and he’s good at just about everything. I’m serious, his tasks range from flushing out Akrid infested laboratories to welding stuff with his Rig.
During one of Jim’s jobs that go awry (through the course of the game it seems that every other job you do seems to go awry) Peyton comes across a colony of abandoned NEVEC employees who’ve managed to survive EDN III’s harsh environment for over forty years. You can imagine that NEVEC isn’t too thrilled when they find out they are still around messing with their operation. Jim is forced to choose sides once he sees that doing his job and doing the right thing don’t often go together, regardless of how often he tries.
The well written but all too brief character moments with Jim and his wife, Grace, are the best parts of the whole game. Jim and his wife communicate via video messages. Jim gets updates on his family which remind him why he’s putting his life on the line. The distance and time apart are clearly taking their toll on the couple as the game progresses. Their messages make your otherwise boring treks across frozen landscape worthwhile.
Throughout the game Jim Peyton evolves from man just trying to do right by his family, to company man and finally into hero of the people. His arc is gradual and actually makes a lot sense. He also has the best red beard ever on a video game character.
Lost Planet 3 does great in portraying a planet that looks so hostile and uninviting. The Unreal Engine 3 does a stellar job portraying incredible weather effects. Being caught in a Emperor Class storm is a real sight to behold. The little touches, like watching frost build on Jim Peyton’s beard when he’s out in the cold too long, really sell the effect of being out in sub-zero temperatures.
Overall, Lost Planet 3 has a bit of everything: an action adventure with small spurts of survival horror, part pseudo open world, and part giant bug stomping game. The first few hours Lost Planet 3 plays like a survival horror game. You explore abandoned research facilities that are littered with decaying corpses and rabid Akrid that want to eat your face. These parts strangely end up feeling like Dead Space-lite. Perhaps it’s the setting since both games take place on ice planets with space monsters coming from vents. The tonal shift is a welcome change for the Lost Planet series. At least until it decides to become an action adventure game set with some open world elements.
The next portion of Lost Planet 3 has you running jobs for the scientists over at Coronis, a space ship/home base that is poorly positioned at the edge of a ice cliff that is hit with constant superstorms and is always comically at risk to be blown off the face of the cliff at any given moment. Traveling around the open world is a chore since your Rig is insanely slow and you can only fast travel out of certain locations.
While you’re moving at a snail’s pace to an objective you can listen to your in-cockpit radio or, better yet, watch some of the well acted video messages from you wife to help pass the time. The slow travel time is annoying at first, but it becomes a major problem later on when you have a bunch of optional objectives in different areas of EDN III. The time alone to get from one place to another will discourage players from taking any side quests once they start piling up.
Lost Planet 3 is a slow burn. The early missions are dreadfully dull and really don’t go anywhere until the middle act of the story. Most of the missions have you heading to something that needs fixin’ and then you’re attacked by a bunch of Arkid. Trying to realign a satellite? Look out, there some Akrid! Need to weld that pipe? Akrid attack. Trying to farm T-Energy for an upgrade? Chances are you pissed off some Akrid in the area. Throw in the long hike you took to get to where you’re supposed to be and you’ll quickly lose interest in whatever you were doing.
Avoiding any major spoilers, this is where the game takes another tonal shift and becomes purely an action game involving not only the Akrid but human enemies also. It starts to feel like classic Lost Planet except classic Lost Planet had awful combat. The haphazard cover system is useless against the Akrid who always try to swarm you. It’s a good thing that all the Akrid have glowing orange weak spots and have no real problem showing them off. Fighting the bugs takes constant movement and liberal use of your roll ability. The combat is most challenging in tight quarters when Arkid types are mixed up against you. These battles are intense and rewarding once you clear the last insects that tries to invade your personal space…with their teeth.
Smart use of the cover system against the human bad guys, though, will make very short work of them. The A.I. for the human baddies seem to rival the bugs in willingness to getting themselves killed. They rarely themselves use cover and seem to all have a death wish. Thankfully, you really only face humans for the last third of the campaign.
Some foes on the other hand are simply just too large for Jim Peyton to handle on his own. Here’s is when your trusty Rig, Gertie (yeah that’s her name), can give the sweet release of death to giant bug monsters. The bummer is that Rig combat is often regulated into painfully anti-climactic quick time events. Moments that should feel engaging and epic are just broken down into boss pattern memorizations and a button prompt.
The multi-player has your standard 5v5 deathmatch with a couple of interesting modes; my favorite being a mode where you have to defend posts of T-Energy generators for a limited amount of time before moving to another location. Zipping around on grappling hooks is fun and spices up the rather drab cover based shooting mechanics. Do well enough in a match and you can wreck havoc in a Rig armed with machine guns. It’s pretty gratifying watching folks high tail it out of there as soon a giant mech shows up on scene.
The sphere progression system lets you upgrade your character to your liking. Every match will net you some exp to spend on upgrades. Everyone seemed to go with a build that max out the effectiveness of the Valkyrie, a crossbow that fires explosive bolts mostly because it’s a fantastic weapon. If being a bad ass with a rifle is more your speed, putting points in being a master marksman is entirely doable. The damage is high and doesn’t take much effort to be good with it.
It’s also important to note that there is no 4 player co-op this time around, which may turn off some fans of the series. 4-player co-op doesn’t make sense for the Lost Planet 3’s story but it would have been nice to see something put in place for fans.
Speaking of weapons, the weapon variety in Lost Planet 3 isn’t much to write home about. You’ll run through the early portion of the game with your typical shotgun/assault rifle sporting upgrades like bouncing bullets. The good stuff comes in starting from the Valkyrie and, as I mentioned before, this monster fires three explosive crossbow bolts with lethal accuracy. The pulse rifle has a great sound to it and the P.I.G tears apart any fool that gets too close. It became my go-to room clearer.
Lost Planet 3 has a good story if you’re patient enough to hear it. Slogging through 15 hours of busy work and sub par combat isn’t worth the pay off once you arrive at the end, which is a truly a shame. I wanted to really like Lost Planet 3. Spark Unlimited’s plan to take the franchise into new more emotionally driven cinematic adventure falls short. The effort should be applauded for trying something new with an otherwise stagnant franchise. It’s just too bad the effort put in didn’t pan out to something more than this.