Previews

Lost Planet 3: E3 demo hands-on raises our eyebrows

Will Capcom's survival-horror u-turn pay off?

Let's deal with the elephant in the room: the latest move in Capcom's make-nice-with-the-west strategy has seen it hand off Lost Planet to Spark Unlimited, the unknown studio behind mediocre releases Legendary: The Box and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty.

Like many, we were resolute in our disapproval - at least initially. While the series might not sit at the top of our list of most loved Capcom properties it's always been simmering with potential. All it needed was a good developer to bring it to boiling point, we thought, and Instead we've got Spark Unlimited.

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We've started to change our tune recently because, after all, who could have predicted that Blue Castle, a similarly unproven studio, would be able to do Dead Rising justice? We didn't, and found ourselves eating a considerable amount of crow while playing their sequel.

And who can say Spark was given the kind of support and resources we imagine it's getting from Capcom while putting together its previous games? From a cold, hard business perspective Lost Planet is one of Capcom's premiere franchises, but is on shaky grounds. Its not-insubstantial fanbase is built on the cult popularity of an early Xbox 360 title and a dubious sequel - a crowd apt to cut its losses and run should the third game disappoint.

If our recent hands-on with Lost Planet 3 is any indication both parties are well aware of what's at stake. We're happy to say the short gameplay preview we had provided an encouraging glimpse at a game that takes the 'survival in inhospitable conditions' roots of the series and amps up the horror angle.

COTTON-EYED JIM

Our demo kicked off with an introduction to Lost Planet 3's leading man Jim Peyton, which the game makes a point of establishing as an everyman. While ostensibly quite a butch fella, very much in-line with the archetypal video game hero design of late, he's instantly likeable and carries more than a few similarities to StarCraft's Jim Raynor in that respect.

Maybe it's his soft Texan accent, or the carefree tone of his voice, or perhaps it's the fact that he says in his opening lines that he's "not a greedy man", has "never thought about money" but tough times have pushed him to realise "not caring about money was a luxury for those that had it", but it's hard not to like him. Jim just wants to make cash to support his wife and child living off-world by doing good, honest work. He's our kind of guy.

So, off we go on the daily grind, taking on a job deemed "too dangerous to attempt" by a cowardly colleague. With the promise of double pay we wander out into the harsh climate of E.D.N III to gather the T-Energy needed to secure and power the installation during an incoming storm.

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Lost Planet's multipurpose Utility Rigs make a welcome return in the third game but felt slinkier than we remember. While movement is still deliberate the rig is very responsive, which in turn meant trudging around in the snow feels more graceful, even when the screen is constantly juddering and the camera is being knocked around subtly with each step.

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