Lost Planet 3, due later this August, is somewhat of a curiosity. Once upon a time, the original Lost Planet wowed everyone with its combination of on foot and in mech third person gameplay, all presented in a very technically impressive package. It felt like the start of something new, a brand new franchise for the publisher.
But the requisite sequel failed to capitalize on the original’s successes, plus its graphics were not as impressive the second time around (due to no real fault of its own; standards and expectations simply keep going up) and it later became apparent that Capcom was not so high of Lost Planet anymore. Making matters worse is how the anime-esque spin-off, E.X. Troopers, was not planned for a Western release. Long story short, it’s no longer the world conquering IP that many assumed it would be. Blame skittishness on Capcom’s part, or perhaps the break away success of Monster Hunter.
Lost Planet 3 can be viewed as a reboot of sorts, since it’s a prequel, or just Capcom’s attempt at revitalizing the franchise for Western audiences specifically, given that the developers this time around are American. It was also due a little while ago, but Capcom has been holding off, till the time is right, so all signs point towards them actually caring about Lost Planet once again.
Which is a good thing; while it’s too difficult to tell from just half an hour spent with the game, first impressions have been positives. Actually, make that second impressions. The demo I played was not all that different, fundamentally speaking, from the one last summer. The game has not undergone any drastic changes, which can viewed as a positive.
Lost Planet 3 was pushed back, to a time that would allow it to truly shine I was told, and it feels like its developer, Spark Unlimited, has spent the extra time to roughen out the edges and make it shine further. Though it could be argued that the added time could have been used more effectively, since it’s not quite the perfect package, as detailed in just a bit.
Whereas Lost Planet 2 told a sprawling tale of a massive conflict from all sides, and from countless viewpoints, Lost Planet 3 dials it back considerably by just focusing on one person’s trials and tribulations. Also the emphasis on multiplayer has been lessened considerably, and instead, it’s mostly just about the single player experience. Again, the spotlight is just on one person, and his name is Jim Peyton.
Jim Peyton is the star of the show, and is the main reason why the game has a considerable degree of, believe it or not, charm. He’s a non-assuming individual, a guy who loves his wife and kid, and is on E.D.N. III to simply make as much money as possible, for said family, period. Jim is soft spoken, but certainly no push over. Jim is all business, yet willing to chuckle and roll his eyes when need be it.
Jim is also surrounded by other characters, which are characters, and the game tries hard to infuse humanity into a tale of some guy controlling a gigantic robot on a barren ice planet. This formula is hardly unique, but there’s just something about the way in which Spark Unlimited has conceived and executed Jim Peyton that has resulted in one of the more compelling personalities to be borne in a video game in recent memory.
Even if the rest of the game itself, while not horrible, is seemingly unremarkable at this point. Back to the cast; the way they are brought to life, is quite impressive. An intriguing mix of ultra realistic movements, coupled with vaguely Eastern-stylized rendering of the characters themselves. Making each instance of interpersonal interaction a completely engrossing moment (though the jokes were actually pretty funny).
But you’re not just standing around, talking with people the entire time. Once again, the gameplay is divided into two parts. One foot you’re presented with a third person view, and mostly shoot at the hostile creatures. Controls are pretty standard stuff, nothing to get excited about. There are some moments in which you are face to face with a particularly nasty beast, and you all of a sudden have to button mash. Again, standard fare. It’s worth noting the camera is much closer to your on-screen (and on foot) counterpart. It feels more Gears of War, whereas previously, it felt more Monster Hunter-like.
As for the other half of the gameplay, you’re also in a giant robot suit, and thus we have one major change in gameplay; controlling your mech is done purely via a first person view, and not third person. The mechs themselves are also very different. Since the game is a prequel, it is assumed that the Vital Suits in the other titles have yet to be developed. So instead, you just have a rather generic sounding get-up called Rigs, and which look the part as well.
One of the best parts of Lost Planets 1 & 2 were the cool like VSs, whereas Jim’s Rig at least looks extremely generic, a combination of the exoskeleton from the movie Aliens and various MechWarrior designs. It also doesn’t do a lot of cool things either, at least early on. VSs were designed for a variety of situations, though mostly combat, whereas the Rigs are mostly for mining. Makes sense, but boring nonetheless, and yet another reason why one would much rather just watch Jim interact with his coworkers.
Thus far, Lost Planet 3 looks to be a sensible and potentially exciting reboot of the series. Yet, to achieve this, it’s doing away with much of what the previous games have established (there will be multiplayer, but it’s clearly not the focus). And starting from scratch is both daring and sensible, but at first glance, it looks awfully generic, while the original Lost Planet especially was unmistakable. It’ll be interesting to see if the gamble pays off, and if others find Jim equally as charming.