Previews

Lost Planet 3: First look at Capcom's risky open-world prequel

Capcom rolls the dice with a massive change in direction...

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Combat is stiffer than previous Lost Planets, with punchier guns and a left-trigger zoom lifted from every western shooter of the last half-decade. It's perfect for a multiplayer shooter, though not necessarily like the one Lost Planet fans know and love. "There will be multiplayer," says Szymanski. "We aren't giving away the details, but there will be multiplayer - it's a very important part of the franchise, and it's very important to us."

Boarding his de-iced Rig with his new zipline, Jim sets off on his way, heading to the cave system where every other Rig pilot turned back. Jim can disembark the Rig at any time, but your HUD is tied to the Rig's systems, so the further you travel on foot the more blind you'll be. Jim ziplines up to the caves and heads deep underground where he fights a screen-filling crab-like Akrid - a "boss" you'll later discover is just a common enemy in EDN III's wasteland. It's this monster who has the NEVEC workers scared, but Jim has a gun and a masculine beard, and he murders the creature by - what else - lighting up the glowing red spot with machine gun fire.

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With the monster dead and its T-ENG harvested, Jim plants a thermal post and the entire cave defrosts in seconds, revealing that the crab's home was no cave; it's a colossal man-made structure of steel and glass. The "first" colonists on EDN III are anything but; man has been here before, and with his route back to his Rig cut off by the thaw, Jim has to head inside where Lost Planet becomes something very familiar.

These are claustrophobia-inducing halls illuminated by flickering lights where you'll be subjected to sudden ambushes by prowling Akrid. You'll find audio logs littered around the abandoned facility, use a holographic map and inventory Jim can project from his wrist, and activate giant clanking machines which seem to serve no purpose but to mangle limbs. This is Dead Space, then - it looks like Dead Space, plays like Dead Space, and until Jim gets back outside Lost Planet 3 becomes a Dead Space-inspired horror show.

"What you might call the 'horror' sections are for us about unravelling the mystery of what happened on EDN before Jim arrived," says Szymanski. "Going into any unknown environment is very scary and you don't know what's around the next corner. What we want the player to feel, regardless of the area, is a sense of wonder and awe and also a sense of, 'I don't know what I'm getting myself into.' That's concentrated in these interior sections because the physical environment is claustrophobic and it's constrictive, but it's worth noting that we want to create this pacing where you are experiencing different types of environment and not just having things jumping at you for the course of the entire game."

But seriously, it's Dead Space. As Jim pushes through the tunnels he finds himself looping back towards his Rig; HUD elements begin to re-appear and his radio crackles back to life. He exits the facility and catches sight of his Rig and yet another crab Akrid, but this time Jim'll Fix It with forty feet of mechanised mauling machine.

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Behind the controls of the Rig it's a shorter fight; with careful timing you can grab the crab's incoming blows, wrench its claws aside and force the Rig's drill arm into the vulnerable spots. A second giant Akrid attacks moments after the crab falls, revealing another way to use the Rig in combat; Jim grabs the Akrid and wrenches its arms above its head, exposing a vulnerable belly before ejecting from the cockpit and blazing away at the weak spot with a shotgun on foot.

As Jim mounts up for the long walk home he receives an urgent storm warning - to his back is a storm towering a mile high and reaching across the horizon, ahead is a virtual minefield of half-buried crab Akrid. Caught between a rock and a cold place, Jim has no choice; he lowers the Rig's head, raises the Rig's claws, and gears up for a nightmare ride home. Cue the game's logo and a 2013 release date. It's a radical new direction for Lost Planet, but according to the series' creator, it's exactly what he had in mind all along.

"I had a vision for Lost Planet that I wasn't able to realise for a variety of reasons" says Oguro. "One of them was of course technological - we were aiming to launch a game very near the launch of Xbox 360, so that was a challenge in itself. The other was that I had an idea, but I couldn't quite figure out how to turn it into a game... I wanted to do a much broader experience. I wanted the world to be much more vast and I wanted to give the player the ability to explore it. I couldn't figure it out so Lost Planet became more like an arcade experience."

"Now I have additional knowledge as a director, and we have additional technological skill at this stage in the console cycle, so for Lost Planet 3 we've been able to create a bigger world and match my original vision. This is what Lost Planet was meant to be, and I hope you'll be happy to play it next year."

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