The latest chapter in the Lost Planet series has finally come to Xbox 360, and with it returns the extreme and unpredictable conditions that characterised the Lost Planet franchise to this point. Harsher than ever before, Lost Planet 3 reveals new truths about the foreboding planet and the colonial history of E.D.N. III. Initially the game introduces Jim, a rig pilot who leaves Earth to take on a hazardous but lucrative contract on E.D.N. III. Working for Neo-Venus Construction (NEVEC) who are preparing the planet for colonization, Jim joins his fellow pioneers at the Coronis base and begins surveying the uncharted terrain and obtaining samples of the planet’s energy supply – Thermal Energy. Unfortunately, all this results in a game that is still mediocre as a result.
Continuing with the story, it progresses with NEVEC’s existing Thermal Energy reserve running low and the fate of the Coronis mission depending on the natural source of the energy supply being located on the planet. Realising that this is a great opportunity for a huge pay-off and an early ticket home to his family, our protagonist; Jim braves the risk of the treacherous environment and threat of the indigenous Akrid who are a race of reptilian insectoids. Acting as a home away from home and boasting an array of tools that can assist Jim on the field; the utility rig provides Jim’s safety and is essential for not only his contract work but also his protection against the ever-changing climate.
I’m getting a little tired of the same old beginning to games. You know, the way developers seem to believe that unless we have some sort of creepy crawly bug like thing to blast away at within 30 seconds of the opening credits, we’d be bored. I don’t need to be thrown into ‘the action’ immediately, but my first impressions of Lost Planet 3 wasn’t great! Combat isn’t Lost Planet 3’s strong point and this is at best your generic “Unreal Engine” shooter and disappointingly for us too; it feels very dated. Lost Planet 3 was billed to deliver a diverse range of gameplay including intense first person action. Its shame however that the action is exactly what lets it down.
I’m going to say something which will likely put me in some gamers bad books; removed from Twitter lists and uninvited from Birthday parties. Away from the action Lost Planet 3 is incredibly dull and boring. Seriously, if you’re looking for an exciting action game then you’re out of luck. Tasks on the infamous Ice Planet generally fall into two categories; fixing things and scraping ice off things. You’re even given a robot to help make your job easier. The robot has two arms, one is a claw (perfect for fixing things) and the other is a drill (gets rid of ice really well). The claw is controlled with L, the drill R. Here’s an example of a standard task… Head Point A. Point A travel to Point B and kill weird creepy crab like creatures on route. Once arrived at Point B, fix Item A whilst scraping ice off Item B. Once completed you head back to Point A whilst killing more creepy crab things. Rinse and repeat and you’ll get the picture.
There some are some fun and interesting parts to Lost Planet 3, for instance the ability to play music inside or through your utility rig is quite fun and interesting. There are a wide range of tracks available, but Country and Western is highly entertaining whilst you carry out boring and mind-numbing tasks. The process of jumping in and out of your rig has been made to be as painless as possible and quite slick. Luckily for us though because it will mean you’ll be jumping in and out quite often.
Every mission or optional side quest (of which there aren’t many) begins in Coronis, the home of your fellow workers, and one of the only bastions of safety on E.D.N III. The location serves as a hub providing opportunities to shop for new equipment, pick up new jobs, and talk to different characters. Most don’t have much to say, but some give interesting insight into the life of surviving in such a hostile place. If you’re looking for even more information on the subject of the planet and its wildlife, there are both text and audio logs scattered throughout the game.
Jim’s tale is a personal one, where he lands on E.D.N III simply to make a living, thinking that he’ll get back to his family in a year or two. Of course, things gradually slip away from his expectations, and soon he’s at the centre of a potentially catastrophic series of events. Towards the end of the release, proceedings do become a little predictable, but the plot is carried by a genuinely likeable cast of characters, including the very reasonable and relatable lead himself.
Back to annoyances… how about the near constant stream of loading screens? You’re merrily playing away, shooting the gunk out of yet ANOTHER pulsating alien sphincter thing when you move into a new area. Immediately you’re taken out of the game for a five to ten second loading screen before being allowed to continue on your way – and at this late stage of the console cycle that’s unforgivable, especially on a title of this scale. Countless other games manage to make things smoothly transition between areas, and not doing so is an annoyance. Really, the game is let down by these constant little irritations!
There is one last thing that also needs mentioning, and it’s one that I’m not sure I fully understand. It’s the visuals. Though not an ugly game, Lost Planet 3 is far from the nicest thing. Muddy textures are commonplace, and though some character models look decent and faces are impressively emotive, the visuals overall tend to look kind of drab. There are some nice Metroid Prime-style frills and details in the environments, which are much appreciated. Good on Spark for trying to go the extra mile there. Unfortunately, it’s hard for them to stand out amongst general grey-ness and an overall uninspired art style, and when you see a wandering NEVEC worker literally floating in the air next to the bed that he’s supposed to be sleeping on, you have to wonder whether the game should have focused on a better foundation before getting too detail-oriented.
With its slow pace, dull missions, and bland graphics, Lost Planet 3 might seem to be a hard one to recommend. But you know what, there’s still enjoyment to be had here. Solid like a block of ice, and just as unremarkable, Lost Planet 3 is an enjoyable adventure that cobbles together ideas from elsewhere, but doesn’t dig its way beyond the basics. Fortunately, its well-paced story and likable cast warm the overall experience, melting away most of the gameplay’s rigid shortcomings.
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