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Lost Planet 3

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Spark Unlimited
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 10 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Lost Planet 3 is the best game in its franchise, but not for the reasons you might expect. This prequel to Capcom's generation-spanning third person action series is about as bland a shooter as you could possibly play. But it excels in the area where its sequels fail miserably: storytelling. Unfortunately, that story is frozen solid beneath layers of uninspired gameplay. Is it a bad game? Not at all. But when you find yourself looking forward to the cutscenes every time you actually take control, it's a sign that the game isn't very good.

E.D.N. III was first introduced to us as a rock covered by snowy mountains and plagued by unending snowstorms. Of course, all of the whiteness could have merely been a convenient excuse to ignore any draw distance inadequacies. But for the most part, it worked... in 2007. Fortunately, the developers also know that that kind of design isn't really acceptable in 2013, so they actually made E.D.N. III feel lived in. Storms only shake things up when the narrative calls for them to do so; the rest of the time, you're treated to some awesome-looking alien vistas complete with craggy monstrosities, sparkling grottos, and lava-laced dungeons. The hollowed out ice cavern that houses NEVEC outpost Coronis looks completely artificial, and it should. Utility rigs are the precursors to the Vital Suits from the other games; they are uglier, much larger, and much cooler. Little touches like a photo of Jim's wife near the cockpit window keep the player invested in the story. Character models are impressive; a series of excellent motion capture performances stand in stark contrast to the awful knockdown cycles of the previous two games. Akrid types might seem a bit on the scant side when compared to those in Extreme Condition or even Lost Planet 2, but some of them certainly have their similarities. My biggest gripe with the visuals is in the utterly broken shadow effects, which must be seen to be believed. But in the long run, this is a small blemish on what is otherwise a good-looking game.

Lost Planet 3 takes the "blue collars in space" motif popularized most notably in games like StarCraft and runs hogwild with it, and the game is all the better for it. Grungy acoustic guitar riffs soften the downtime while lending some personality to the main characters. All the orchestral shrieks are reserved for Akrid attacks; it's here that the game is clearly trying to go for the action-horror motif that Dead Space perfected. Voice work is hit and miss, though when it hits, it hits with laser precision. Bill Watterson's voice and motion capture performance absolutely seal the deal for Lost Planet 3's cinematic merits. His subtle country accent, friendly demeanor, and realistic portrayal make him an easy hero to root for. In particular, the video message back-and-forth between him and his wife Grace is one of the storytelling's high points. What a delightful change of pace; where most action heroes are stoked to be shooting things and scoring with babes, Jim's a true family man. There are some bad eggs in the voice cast, but Laroche takes it to a new level; for all it's worth, his only line could have been "Honh honh honh, I am zee Frenshmaan."


Lost Planet 3 serves as a prequel that sets up the inane adventures of Wayne and his faceless successors. But the narrative that drives the otherwise ho-hum action is shockingly good. Most of this comes from our leading man. Above all else, Jim Peyton is a husband and a father. He will do absolutely everything in his power in order to ensure that his wife Grace and baby son Hank are provided for. This includes being contracted by Neo Venus Construction (NEVEC) to assist in their thermal energy mining operations on the bleak ice world of E.D.N. III. However, E.D.N. III's hostile fauna, the bug-like Akrid, are not too keen on their new guests and their little mining operation, so making their lives hell is the most heavily starred item on their agenda. And let's just say that a certain faction of ice-themed scalawags appears to flesh out what's already a compelling origin story.

What a shame, then, that Lost Planet 3 doesn't feature gameplay of the same caliber. There are several parts here and there that hint at something much bigger and greater than the finished product. Instead, the game settles for being a third person shooter that rounds the same bases with such heavy, plodding feet that by the end, it's carved a rut that is impossible to escape from.

As Jim, you accept jobs from your employer, colleagues, and other quest givers, then set out to complete them. You're paid handsomely in T-Energy for your successes (though most of it goes home to Grace and Hank). Lost Planet 3 hints at greatness when you're let off the leash to explore the pseudo-open world. You arrive at a handful of impasses at certain points, and are made aware that you don't have the right equipment to go any further. However, it shrugs free of the pull that most open-world games offer by discouraging exploration. Simply put, you'll only go where the game needs you to go, and the act of traversing the world takes forever, even if you make use of the game's limited fast travel options.

Like most other shooters, Lost Planet 3 features a multiplayer component. While the common game types of the genre aren't handled any better than in most other titles, special mention should go to the six-player Akrid Survival. It's conquest-style gameplay with enemy A.I. Both teams start out on their lonesome and are charged with killing as many Akrid as they can. But as the game progresses, the teams move closer to one another as they converge on a control point. At its best, this mode culminates in intense stand-offs with a not-so-subtle chaos element to it; having the Akrid along for the ride makes things much more interesting.


You'll meet your end at the claws, stingers, and unimaginable bulk of the Akrid from time to time, particularly if you are careless with your loadout. But I can fix that with a small bit of advice: always have the shotgun equipped. It's easily the most powerful weapon in the game, mostly because most of the Akrid engage Jim in extremely close quarters. That, and some of them are so small that it's a pain in the ass to target them with anything else.

And that's one of the most frustrating parts of playing Lost Planet 3. By the time you finish the game, you'll have vanquished a disproportionately large number of small, facehugger-like Akrid. These little guys spawn out of eggs and larger Akrid and pack a huge punch. Annoying isn't the word for these little punks. However, when you're stomping around the snow in your Utility Rig, there's a nice sense of catharsis involved in plucking the otherwise fearsome Akrid off of the ground and jamming the Rig's drill into their nether parts.

Game Mechanics:

If you've played any third person shooter at all, you've essentially played Lost Planet 3. Aiming is over-the-shoulder, and the default settings are perhaps a bit overreactive, especially when you're exploring the claustrophobic interiors of abandoned outposts, Akrid nests, etc. But everything is at least (and at most) functional. The shooting isn't particularly satisfying, particularly because most of the weapons feel weak when matched up against the Akrid. And, of course, you're always going to be aiming for the glowing spots on the larger enemies. It wouldn't be Lost Planet otherwise.

The Utility Rig seems like it should be fun to operate, but it's too slow to enjoy as a mode of transportation. Things fare better in combat; you'll start out using the Rig's arms to make powerful swipes, assume defensive postures, and execute devastating drill attacks, but as you progress through the story, your techie buddy Gale will hook you up with improvements such as a torch, a winch, and even a setting that transforms it into a drilling platform. So overall, it isn't too thrilling, but at least you've got some of that country music to at least lend the proceedings some color.

So here we are, at the end of the seventh generation of video game consoles. Unfortunately, the Lost Planet series will probably go down as a footnote, a forgettable blip. At least it finishes strong from a storytelling perspective. But it could have been much more. I get the sense that Lost Planet 3 was sent out to die quietly. It's a shame, because it deserves better than that.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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