Great gameplay, unique mechanics, awesome environments, terrible storytelling, and epic boss fights were the foundation of the original Lost Planet. Despite a few missteps with the online-focused LP2, I’ve been one of those people who still thought the franchise had tremendous potential. With Lost Planet 3 in the hands of a western studio, Spark Unlimited, I was certainly curious to see how it would measure up to its predecessors.
Acting as a prequel to the original chapter in the trilogy, Lost Planet 3 follows the space shenanigans of a blue collar worker named Jim Peyton. He and his co-workers are working on E.D.N. III, the famous planet from the first game, to collect thermal energy in order to solve the energy crisis happening on Earth. Taking cues from the movie “Moon”, the game allows us to get attached to the character through his interactions with his wife, who is still on earth. They communicate with each other through delayed video messages, and reveal a little bit more about themselves each time.
Here’s the shocker: the story and atmosphere here are actually very good! The very last thing I was expecting from a Lost Planet game was to become invested in the characters and the story. In fact, the atmosphere and story are so perfectly tuned and realistic, that they end up hurting the gameplay. By now, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term “ludonarrative dissonance” that so many of my peers like to use, but for those of you who aren’t, let me explain. Ludonarrative dissonance is basically a form of disconnection between the story of a game and its gameplay. The oft-mentioned example is that of the Uncharted games; Nathan Drake is a likable man and acts as the main hero of the franchise, but once you get into gameplay sections, he turns into a mass murderer. That’s ludonarrative dissonance. It allows games to offer the best of both worlds, at the cost of believability and realism. Lost Planet 3 could use some of that.
I understand that Jim Peyton is on E.D.N. III to do work, but it doesn’t mean that the gameplay should FEEL like work. When Peyton complains to his wife about how boring it is out there, I don’t feel like I, as the player, should relate to that. Part of this issue could be resolved by actually improving the combat, by making the controls more responsive, improving the move-set of the character, making his weapons more satisfying to use, and by making the enemies less like bullet sponges and more satisfying to fight, but the main problem resides in the structure of the game itself, as well as the goals set for your character. I can certainly say that for a lot of the time, the story was enough to keep me going. The game does a good job of using cutscenes to reward the player, and the fact that these same cutscenes are unskippable says a lot about the priorities of the developers at Spark Unlimited. However, by the time I reached my twentieth infinitely respawning pack of enemies, I couldn’t escape the feeling of boredom. The game is so full of baffling design decisions. While the first two LP games had a strong focus on player mobility, allowing you to use your grappling hook on just about anything, this one takes a step backwards and restricts your use of the grapple hook to pre-selected areas marked with a flashy green circle. On top of that, the open areas from the first two games are gone, replaced with very linear icy corridors that trap you with the endless waves of predictable enemies, forcing you to fight them head-on with your pitiful arsenal containing what is probably one of the worst video game shotguns of all time. Don’t even think of using melee either, as it only results in triggering an awkward animation that does little to damage your opponents. Add to that the insipid rig sections, which let you ride a giant merc in first person, but give you the same objectives over and over. Usually, these objectives range from turning valves to re-aligning a satellite dish. That’s right; combat with your rig is pretty much out of the question. Why? Because your giant mech is not given any actual weapons. All you have is a drill to break through select ice walls, and a claw to grab things. Not only that, but their mobility is also restricted: You can’t jump, fly, or even walk forward at a decent speed. They are painfully slow, dull to use, and just plain uninteresting to play with. The game offers your standard array of multiplayer options, but very few people are actually playing it, and it’s not really that interesting in the first place.
LP3 is a very good looking game. The lighting in particular is fantastic, helping create beautiful vistas for you to look at, and making the atmosphere of the game that much stronger. Character models are pretty good too; Peyton looks and feels real, with an impressive range of facial animations that really help sell his emotions. Unfortunately, these great visuals come at a price; the framerate often dips well below 20 fps during gameplay on the console version. Considering the fact that enemies often come in great numbers, it can be frustrating to find yourself with even more unresponsive controls due to the game’s performance issues. On the audio side of things, the work done by Spark Unlimited is just as impressive. The original music here is not memorable, but it does the job, and there’s a smart use of licensed tracks, as well as great sound effects that really help sell the atmosphere.
Lost Planet 3 is a missed opportunity. I was initially impressed with the game’s efforts to tell a great story, but the boring, uninspired, and sometimes broken gameplay made it all fall apart. It’s unfortunate, but this isn’t the game that will bring back this once-great series from its premature grave.
+ Surprisingly good storytelling
+ Likable characters
+ Good graphics
- Terrible combat
- Unresponsive controls
- Lack of mobility
- Unstable framerate
- Boring rig sections
- Uninspired objectives
Release date : 2013-08-27
Publisher : Capcom
Developer : Spark Unlimited
Gameplay : Shooter
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