Lost Planet 3 Hands-On Preview – Coming in From the Cold
Written Tuesday, May 22, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
As much as we wanted to like Lost Planet 2, we just couldn't. For every little thing it did right, it did a million things wrong. It seemed like Capcom might leave the franchise on ice for some time following the release of LP2, but here it is two years down the line, back for another bite of the shooty action cherry with Lost Planet 3. This time however, Capcom is continuing its strategy of outsourcing to western developers, this time enlisting the expertise of Spark Unlimited. The studio that brought you such gems as Turning Point: Fall of Liberty and Legendary. Erm...
But hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute! Come back! Because Lost Planet 3 actually looks like it might just have the potential to be the best Lost Planet title yet. Seriously. It seems that Spark has decided to adopt its own approach for Lost Planet 3, taking the series into uncharted territory for the series. Aspects we've played could be considered derivative in some way, but with a few surprising twists of its own. Even more unexpected is the game's dalliance with survival horror, placing the game's hero into tight situations, where smaller, spindly Akrid stalk claustrophobic darkened corridors.
We're getting ahead of ourselves here though. Let's start at the beginning... You play as new protagonist and blue-collar NEVEC rig operator, Jim Peyton, stationed at some godforsaken facility buried in the snow on E.D.N. III. Think the Rebel base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, and you're not far off. Jim's a regular guy, who likes to sleep in his rig, share some banter with his colleagues and avoid any run-ins with gigantic insectoid beasties. Until he's offered triple pay by his boss to embark upon a potentially suicidal contract, that is.
Peyton reminds us of MacReady from The Thing (1982). He's gruff, yet likeable and comes across as a relatable character in the game's cinematic and rather neatly put together cut-scenes. And like MacReady, it's not long before Jim finds himself battling against toothy monsters in the snow. Snugly ensconced in the cockpit of his rig, we assume control of Jim as he goes through the mandatory anti-freeze procedures and loosens frozen pistons with his rig's pincers to get the base's doors open. Stomping out of the airlock, we emerge into a glistening snowy tundra, surrounded by vertiginous spires of ice piercing the skyline.
It's only a matter of time before Peyton's finds himself in trouble with his rig immobilised by copious ice. Thankfully, ejecting from the rig is easy and getting back in is a snap thanks to a handy winch system modification that one of Peyton's buddies has attached. We quickly get out, shoot off the ice and hit circle to climb right back in and fight the pack hunter Akrid closing in on us. Our rig is at its most basic in this demo, packing only a grabbing claw and a drill. That means essentially flailing around with the drill arm by hitting R2, directing our swings horizontally and vertically with an analogue stick or grabbing the little Akrid pests with L2 and grinding them into orange T-Eng paste with the drill.
With that first Akrid encounter behind us, we venture towards an ice cave, where our objective lies. At the narrow entrance to the cave, our rig can take us no further, so it's time to go it alone. Peyton's HUD is stripped down as we enter the cave on-foot with the 'umbilical range' between us and the rig severed, leaving us with a crosshair and an ammo counter. This bit is a lot like Dead Space, and Jim even has a floating menu and map that he can project from a contraption on his wrist, just like Isaac. Tense strings set the tone and atmosphere for this portion of our hands-on, as Jim slowly plods through the underground corridors of a buried old facility with his flashlight and rifle primed.
Face hugger-esque Akrid crawlers scuttle across Jim's line of sight, before leaping from behind boxes or out of ceiling vents. This is one of Lost Planet 3's survival horror bits, placing Jim in a confined space with lurking Akrid to contend with. Before long though, we've braved the corridors, reactivated the old generator, fought off a nest-full of the spindly Akrid blighters and we're on our way to exiting the facility into a huge open cavern, where some mysterious red stalagmites puncture the crisp snow. Except they're not stalagmites at all. They form the hard shell on the back of a hibernating giant Ice Crab that we've just awoken, and now it's pissed. Really, really pissed.
What follows is like a fight between a bull and a matador, as Peyton runs from the charging Ice Crab, sprints around its back and shoots its spikes off. Not quite light a bullfight then, but you get the idea. It's classic boss battling stuff, but requires perfect timing to leap out of the way of the Ice Crab as it speed towards you. A double tap of the jump button enables you to dive, and when the Ice Crab gets stuck, you can hotfoot it around its back to plug away at its exposed orangey flank.
After a bit of rinse and repeat tactics (and a second attempt), the Ice Crab breathes its last and leaves behind plenty of gooey T-Energy goodness to collect. The snowy cave now cleared, Jim is able to put down his mining post and complete the contract. With the post deployed, the true nature of the cavern is revealed and the buried old facility can be seen in its entirety. That's great and all, but now it's time to go back home to the wife.
Climbing out of the cave, our umbilical link with Jim's rig is reestablished and our full HUD blips back online, as we zipline back into the rig's cockpit and stomp out into the swirling blizzard once more. That Ice Crab had family though and we get to fight another, with the added advantage of our rig's formidable pincer and drill. This Akrid encounter is a lot easier thanks to the rig's tools, enabling us to hit R1 to block and counter the giant crab's swipes, before laying into it with some drill punches. We then discover that we can grab the Ice Crab's arms, drill them off and then bore into its exposed back. This is a direct contrast to Jim's previous Ice Crab fight, turning the tables completely. Who's the daddy now eh, Mr. Ice Crab?
Ice Crab duly drilled into paste, we continue forth picking up and drilling smaller Akrid into mush, before we stumble into a whole snowy plain bristling with those red rocks. We've stumbled right into Ice Crab territory and there's dozens of them ready to emerge from their dormant state. And there's your demo-concluding cliffhanger. How are you going to tackle a whole army of Ice Crabs? To be continued...
Spark Unlimited might not have been an obvious choice for Lost Planet 3, but on the basis of this first look, the Turning Point studio might surprisingly end up being the right choice. Showing plenty of promise and a new direction for the series, it's clear that Lost Planet 3 is squarely aimed at a western audience, with its third-person shooter aspects tailored to be immediate and intuitive, while the mech piloting sections are suitably and satisfyingly weighty. If the rest of Lost Planet 3 can measure up to this early glimpse, then we could be in for something of a bug-hunting treat.
Lost Planet 3 is out in early 2013. Check out 13 new screenshots in the gallery.