|System: Xbox 360, PS3*, PC|
|Dev: Spark Unlimited|
|Release: August 27, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mild Language, Violence|
by Joshua Bruce
Lost Planet 3 is a bit of an enigma. When firing on all cylinders, the game is a story-driven experience broken up by diverse gameplay. But, unfortunately, it rarely fires on all cylinders.
It starts off pretty strong. After a brief cutscene with an elderly Jim Peyton and his granddaughter, a flashback begins the story of Jim’s rocky arrival on E.D.N. III fifty years earlier. Crash-landing in the frozen wastes of the planet, Jim is immediately required to exit his craft to find the rescue transponder that was separated from the ship during impact. It is here we are first introduced to the Akrid, the indigenous race of overgrown baddies that populates the wilds of the planet. Finding the transponder links you up with the local colonists, and one battle sequence later, you are safely back at the base camp of NEVEC.
Once reaching the base camp, the game switches gears considerably. While story is still delivered via traditional cutscenes, the experience is downgraded to a basic mission-oriented structure that pays you in the local currency, T-Energy. With few exceptions, this is where the game takes a turn for the worst. Accepting contracts gives you something to do, putting you in harm’s way out in the hostile world of E.D.N. III, but this mission-based system never really gets the game going. However, heading out into the world does bring with it one of the games strongest points–the Utility Rig.
This mech-like utility vehicle isn’t fitted with weapons of any type, aside from the arms of the Rig, which are used for melee combat. You can hop out at almost any time, so switching between third-person shooting mechanics and the lumbering, mechanical combat of the Rig was a welcome change that gave me the opportunity to fight my way. Or at least, that’s what I thought, because the level design of the game pretty much dictates whether you need to be in your mech or on foot. Well, at least the illusion is there.
And so it went for hours. I accepted contracts, completed them, got paid, upgraded, etc. While the story in this section is delivered in small, bite-sized increments via surprisingly well-acted cutscenes, the gameplay stagnates. I kept wanting something major to happen, and it kept not happening. There are good moments in the gameplay, where you learn how to use your Rig to kill larger Akrid, or when messages are being swapped between Jim and his wife back on Earth, but this stretch is bland overall.
But as I thought all was lost for Lost Planet 3, something finally happened! What that is, exactly, I’m not going to tell you, because the story that transpires from this point is the whole reason to play this game, and the continuous anticipation of a coming plot point is part of the charm. The story of Lost Planet 3 does a good job of setting itself apart from its predecessor’s story in this way, and it’s easily one of its strongest points.
But where the story enjoys some degree of success, gameplay suffers in its wake. The third-person, cover-shooter gameplay is so bland that I question its necessity. The same could be said about the mech gameplay, but the two styles combined seem to keep the adventures of Jim Peyton from becoming completely stale. Other oddities plagued my time with Lost Planet 3 as well. Any task that took me back to the NEVEC main base, such as upgrading my weapons or Rig, or turning in some critter samples to the less than socially acceptable Dr. Kovac, was a chore that I avoided at all costs. Returning to base carries with it the penalty of traversing several levels of the uninteresting and bland camp (not to mention the load screens that have to be endured) to simply turn in a contract or upgrade something. I found myself groaning any time this was a requirement, so I saved up turn-ins until the mission rotation hastened my return.
Additionally, the map is broken up into small areas that begin to feel eerily similar as time passes. Lost Planet 3 attempts to have an open-world feel, but it falls short due to the load times between sections and linear contract progression. Moving between these areas manually is an option, but you will breathe a sigh of relief when the fast-travel option becomes available in the game. You will miss out on some Rig combat by doing so, but it is no major loss considering any time you enter an area, the enemies will reset for another go-‘round. So if you feel that you missed something, simply return to any area at your convenience to get your mech-stomp on.
Sadly, these annoyances take away from what could have been an engrossing experience if the story had taken over the gameplay, but it never does entirely, which is a shame.