I did not ask for Lost Planet 3. Did you? Who demanded this game be made after Lost Planet 2 appeared to abandon the cool singleplayer bug-hunt-on-a-snowy-planet for its strange Monster Hunter-ised round-the-world jaunt designed for awkward four-player co-op?
Somebody must have demanded this game and, in their madness, they must have demanded that the mighty Lost Planet team at Capcom team up with the underwhelming development team at Spark Unlimited (Turning Point; Legendary: The Box).
I played Lost Planet 3 last week at a Capcom demo event in Santa Monica. Defying my expectations, it was good.
I played through the sequence we covered here back when freelancer Matt Cabral was merely allowed to look at but not touch Lost Planet 3. You play in this third-person game as Jim, a miner on E.D.N. III, the planet of the first two games, snowy as it was in the first one. This is a prequel to those games.
Jim drives a mech that has drills for hands. He can jump out of it to explore caves and, eventually, the mysterious remains of a civilisation that disprove the theory that Jim and his mining cronies were the first intelligent folks on this planet.
Gameplay involves lots of exploration and the frequent shooting small and giant Akrid. The Akrid are the series' familiar bug aliens who glow orange in the parts where they don't want you to shoot them.
What's good is that the game is conceptually very strong. You've got an open world that will presumably be filled with mining and exploration quests. (Why else would they give you an interface for tracking quests?) You've got stomping, mech-driven gameplay that will let you try to drill the arms off the biggest beasts on the planet. And you've got on-foot, human-scale exploration and shooting. It's all against a backdrop of snow and ice, which may not be tied to the same body-temperature system of the first game -- you're not collecting energy to stay warm -- but still presents a visually striking backdrop.
Jim doesn't freeze, but his mech can, so there's an interesting risk-reward system as storms blow in, ice the mech solid and force you to hop out of it. You may choose to either fight the bugs on the snow or shoot off the ice on the mech so you can hop back in it and squash those bugs under your mech's heels and hands.
Jim is presented as a working man. Before he's fighting any bugs or exploring any snowdrifts, he's taking a video call from his wife and daydreaming about his kids. He's on E.D.N. III to take jobs. He'll do any hard labour to stay employed, it seems, which makes this sci-fi game feel oddly timely and Earthly.
I played Capcom's Lost Planet 3 demo in a noisy preview venue where other games from the company that I'm not allowed to write about yet (you can guess which ones) were blaring from rows of TVs. It was hard to hear the game, but my ears did catch something that sounded wonderful: the music during the game's action sequences may have sounded like standard dramatic stuff, but while Jim was just clomping through the snow in his mech doing his job, I heard some twang. A producer on the game told me I heard right. It's sort of "alien country music," I was told. It's what Jim listens to while trying to get his labors done.
Throughout today's Day of Video Game Preview (May 22 edition), I'll be scrounging around for superlatives that don't sound like unwarranted, premature praise or melodramatic condemnation. I can't tell you how well Lost Planet 3 will turn out when it's finally released early next year. I can tell you that, of the dozens of games I saw last week which I'll slowly be allowed to write about over the next two weeks as various agreed deadlines lift, this was one of the games for which I had some of the lowest expectations. It was also one of the games I enjoyed playing the most.