Lost Planet 3 (PS3)

Lost Planet 3 - G3AR - Review
Game Info

GAME NAME: Lost Planet 3

DEVELOPER(S): Spark Unlimited


PLATFORM(S): PS3, PC, Xbox 360

GENRE(S): Third-person Shooter, Action

RELEASE DATE(S): August 30th, 2013

While the ingredients have remained largely the same throughout the series, namely Akrid, ice (and lots of it) and mechs (or rigs in this case), Lost Planet, as a series, has had its recipe tweaked and altered through each subsequent iteration. The reasoning behind the continual IP renovation comes down to lacklustre performances, less than met expectations and a search for a better received formula. And so with Lost Planet 2 failing to improve upon the original game, and turning out to be a lot worse in many cases, Spark Unlimited have taken up the challenge in the form of Lost Planet 3, a prequel to the franchise, and a clean slate.

And to start with, while I’m usually an optimist, a cautionary optimist at worst, with games like Turning Point and Legendary under their belts, Spark Unlimited didn’t inspire much faith in me. So with slightly lowered expectations, but remaining an optimist, I began my third expedition (or erhm… is it my first expedition) to E.D.N. III.

The first thing you’ll notice about Lost Planet 3, apart from the ice and snow ad infinitum, is a very real attempt at telling a convincing story. Lost Planet 3 tells the story of one Jim Peyton, a contract Rig operator and all round super handyman, who comes to E.D.N. III in order to earn a living for his wife and son back home on Earth, a relative dystopia. In spite of being a royal pain to navigate, acclimatise to and considering its dangerous denizens, the Akrid, for all its failings, E.D.N. III holds the key to humanity’s future, T-energy. T-energy is, for all intensive purposes, a fuel (or power source) with nearly endless potential.

It’s Jim’s job to maintain anything to do with humanity’s colonisation attempts of E.D.N. III as well as, if not more importantly, to gather T-energy. It’s this premise that leads into all of the game’s eventual narrative twists and events. Sadly, Lost Planet 3’s plot never really manages to take off or overcome a mostly mediocre cast of characters and voice acting that sometimes has you cringing. Without spoiling the narrative too much, as, strangely enough, some aspects of it are the best points of the game, Lost Planet 3 is told from the eyes of a dying Jim recounting his tale to his niece. And it’s Jim that manages to keep the story from falling completely flat.

Jim’s average Joe tale, trying to make his way in life and provide for his family, above all else, is what makes him so relatable. Moreover, his voice acting is actually pretty strong and there is a lot to like about him. And the sporadic conversation between Jim and his wife, as they send one another intergalactic video messages, is actually quite warming to watch; you can imagine yourself in his position. And if that weren’t enough to save the story, there’s Gale, a man that is hard not to love. His know-it-all nerd, easy going nature makes him the only other real character you can enjoy. And while that might make Lost Planet 3’s narrative seem like a lost cause, it’s not so bad; it’s just not amazing either.

To the game’s credit, it does have one thing going for its narrative, its atmosphere. Lost Planet 3 does, at times, with frost slowly crawling across the window of your Rig as country western tunes play on your in-Rig radio and the wind struck horizon beckons, effectively portray its atmosphere. You’ll feel a little chilly and homesick playing the game, and that’s a job well done. But, sadly, Spark Unlimited couldn’t quite make the rest of the game work quite as well.

It doesn’t take much to explain the issues I have with Lost Planet 3. My most pertinent issues are two-fold. One, the game’s gunplay mechanics, which are somewhat unpolished, fidgety and lacking anything special, amalgamate with the game’s tendency to throw aggravating enemies and annoyingly placed checkpoints at you, and all of these things can become a little frustrating at times. It’s not that its gameplay is especially bad, it’s just that taking cover, manoeuvring around the battlefield or firing upon an enemy doesn’t feel quite right. Controls are a little clumsy and a tad unresponsive or delayed; it’s nothing you can’t forgive, but it’s just enough that it breaks whatever emersion the plot and atmosphere were attempting to set up at almost every turn.

More annoyingly, there are occasional scenarios that will lead you to accumulating a couple cheap and frustrating deaths throughout the game, like giving you a less than useful pistol and a whole horde of akrid at the very start of the game. It’s little niggles like that, that keep disrupting whatever good the game is trying to achieve.

My other main issue with Lost Planet 3 is extraneous to the gameplay as such. Things like an audio source occasionally popping in, quite suddenly, slight frame rate drops at random intervals or for no obvious reason and non-essential NPC’s chatting to one another but being completely inaudible, as though they aren’t actually talking; it’s those sorts of things that, once again, break emersion. Moreover, as a game with a somewhat open play style, where you may take on optional side-quests and explore the odd extra area or two, there is a rather annoying amount of backtracking to areas and having to re-fight the same bosses or akrid once again quickly loses its charm. Add in the slow loading times and it all becomes quite tedious at times.

Weirdly though, and despite all of these issues, you can still find yourself enjoying the game. It’s because Lost Planet 3 does have a few niche gameplay elements and gets one or two other things right. Piloting your Rig, a large and unarmed utility mech, swapping between the two, to explore various forms of terrain, and using the two to combat an assortment of akrid of varying sizes can actually be quite fun. Moreover, the need to stay within close proximity to your Rig, if you want to maintain your HUD and gain an increased (passive) health regeneration rate, as it powers your tactical readouts and so forth, or abandoning it to explore less navigable areas does make for some interesting gameplay. And I’ve got to admit that seeing your Rig’s headlights glistening through a snowstorm, while it plays music on a loud phone, as you approach it, is actually a nice little accomplishment. It’s nothing to write home about, but it makes the game tolerable when it starts to annoy you and enjoyable (to a degree, let’s not get carried away here) when it isn’t.