Like many other forgettable games, I won't remember playing Lost Planet 3 a couple years from now. Even now, it's becoming a blue-grey blur in my mind, with the occasional dash of orange. It's the prototypical end-of-generation shooter -- safe, semi-competent, but utterly lacking in the kind of imagination needed to separate itself from an incredibly crowded field.
The sad thing is, I really thought things might be different. In the early going, at least, I found myself impressed by the graphics and the voice acting. The setting was interesting too -- an icy outpost with hostile wildlife being colonized for the first time. I even liked the ostensible everyman Jim Peyton, a luxuriously bearded blue-collar space miner who opted to move to the icy hellscape of E.D.N. III to make enough money to support his family back home. He's a nice guy, bereft of the machismo that infects most shooter protagonists, with a dry wit that I find appealing. His frequent letters to his wife are charming, and serve to add a dash of color to the otherwise dreary atmosphere.
Jim spend most of the early game driving a mech around, shooting the local fauna, and repairing things. Honestly, it's not very interesting, even when "Emperor Class" storms pop up to make life difficult. Mostly, the early missions feel like extended fetch quests. But you know, if developer Spark Entertainment had chosen to build on those elements and infuse them with some creativity, they might have come up with something really special. I'm personally rather fond of sci-fi starring "space truckers" -- the non-union laborers who do the dirty work while Luke Skywalker is out in his X-Wing and Jean-Luc Picard is commanding his starship. If Lost Planet 3 had been about a bunch of workers in a thankless job bonding in a harsh sci-fi environment, well hey, it might have been interesting. But no, all of that is a prelude, and a fairly boring one at that. Pretty soon we get a villain, and the world is in danger, and Peyton is the only one who can save everyone. And it was at that point that I really lost interest in Lost Planet 3.
It's not even really the shift in the premise that drags it down for me. It's just the realization that it never really gets any better. It's hurt a lot by poor mission design, which artlessly mixes mundane enemy encounters with rather boring objectives, then pads them out to the extreme with filler. Even the most trivial tasks inevitably seem to have that pointless extra step, as if the designers are counting the minutes they need to hit their quota for total hours of playtime. Prime a pump, and the machinery will inevitably break down, which means you have to get out of your mech and fix it by hand. Flip a switch, and a transformer will blow, and you will have to go to the other side of the base to fix it. And since Lost Planet 3 is semi-open world, it has no compunction about recycling previous areas and presenting them as new.
The action itself likewise suffers from a number of problems. Look, I like a good third-person shooter as much as anyone, but there's an art to making a good action game. The enemies need to look interesting, and fighting them needs to involve more than dodge rolling out of the way of their attacks and hitting their weak spots. The level geometry needs to consist of more than arenas and hallways. The weapon selection needs to feature more than shooter staples like a shotgun, a rifle, and a grenade launcher. Without those sorts of unique weapons, or interesting encounters, everything starts to blend together into a formless grey mass of an action game, which is pretty much Lost Planet 3 in a nutshell.
Having said all that, Lost Planet 3 does have Peyton's rig, which is essentially Ripley's power loader from Aliens on steroids. The rig is the one element of Lost Planet 3 that did actually make me sit up and take notice for a moment, and not just because I happen to be a mecha fan. Unlike most videogame mechs, the rig is a construction machine, which means it lacks chain guns, rocket launchers, and the other trappings of games like MechWarrior. Instead, it relies on a massive power drill, winch, and claw to do most of its damage, and I'll admit, it's fun to snatch up an enemy and drill them to death amid a shower of orange goo (orange being one of the three colors in Lost Planet's palette, the other two being the aforementioned blue and grey).
If I had spent more time in my rig, I think I would have had a more favorable opinion of Lost Planet. Most of the action takes place on foot, though, making the rig little more than a fancy way to get from Point A to Point B, and as I mentioned earlier, the actual on-foot action isn't that great. It's a shame, really, because combat in the rig has a punch to it that the ground game sorely lacks. Spark primarily uses the rig to add an exclamation point to Lost Planet's various boss encounters, which typically start on foot, and end in a mech vs. monster duel reminiscent of Pacific Rim. When I got hold of the arm of a crab monster and cruelly yanked it up to expose its fleshy bits to my drill, my immediate thought was, "Damn, why isn't the rest of the game like this?" But then that moment faded, and Lost Planet 3 retreated back to the colorless safety of the establishment shooter.
The multiplayer, to its credit, has some fun with genre's established tropes by introducing multiple objectives throughout its matches. And Akrid Survival Mode, for its part, does a nice job of mixing together the cooperative and competitive, requiring you to work together with your peers to fend off AI monsters while competing for control of a central credit zone. I don't think there's anything here that will make people want to drop Call of Duty and rush over to play Lost Planet 3, mainly due to the average shooting and lackluster weapon selection, but it's worth dabbling in at least.
With that said, I've certainly played worse than Lost Planet 3, but I've also played much better. You know how people say that some games are more than the sum of their parts? Well, Lost Planet 3 is much less. It goes through the motions of being a decent shooter, but the action just lacks anything resembling excitement or tension, which I blame on the terribly dull level design and the lack of interesting weaponry. If I were to sum up Lost Planet 3, it would be with an "eh" and a shrug -- a sad postscript for a franchise that once helped position Capcom as one of this generation's frontrunners.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: The enemies and mechs animate pretty well, but the near-monochrome color palette is weirdly exhausting to look at.
- Music: The score is low key and barely noticeable. The sound effects are a little better, particularly the rusty-sounding mechanical effects of the rig.
- Interface: Setting up the guns can be a little confusing, as it's handled through a compartment on the mech rather than inventory. Otherwise, it's a relatively competent interface with customizable controls.
- Lasting Appeal: Like Insomniac's Fuse, Lost Planet 3 is destined to vanish into the collective memory hole, especially with a new generation looming. It may find new life in a five dollar Steam sale, but even then, it's not the kind of game that people will feel compelled to revisit after finishing the 15 hour campaign. This review is likely the last time you will ever hear about Lost Planet 3.