Capcom has been farming its most beloved franchises out to Western developers for a while now. Some have been a disaster, like Bionic Commando, and others have been more successful, namely Ninja Theory's Devil May Cry reboot. Lost Planet 3, mercifully, falls into the latter category. It's a confident reimagining of the Lost Planet series that stays true to some elements, and completely abandons others. Long-time fans may find the changes too severe, however.
Once again, we find ourselves on E.D.N. II, an unforgiving ball of ice and snow in the far reaches of space. An energy crisis on Earth is threatening the future of humanity, but not-at-all-sinister mega-corporation NEVEC - who have a lot in common with the Alien universe's omnipresent Weyland-Yutani, even down to their logo - has found a way to solve it: a magical substance called thermal energy.
This glowing orange gunk may be the key to saving our species, but there's a catch. The stuff is fiercely guarded by E.D.N.'s natives, the Akrid. So while NEVEC have managed to get a foothold on the planet, their colonies are constantly besieged by these terrifying insect-beasts. That's where you come in. You are Jim Peyton, a Nicolas Cage look-alike who's been hired by NEVEC as a sort of sci-fi handyman. Early missions see you rescuing lost colonists, fixing things around the base with your mech, and, naturally, killing lots of Akrid.
One of the most surprising things about Lost Planet 3 is how entertaining the story and characters are. While a lot of 'Westernised' Japanese games are unceremoniously stripped of their personality, this is full of the stuff. Peyton is a charming lead, and video messages from his wife, which play in his mech's cockpit as he moves around the base, paint a picture of a good-natured family man working to provide for his family back on Earth. He's a welcome change from the usual one liner-spouting action lunk, and he has a magnificent beard to boot.
NEVEC's base, Coronis, which can be explored freely between missions, is manned by a cast of oddballs that you can talk to and buy weapons and upgrades from. As you progress through the game, iced-over tunnels are melted through, opening up new areas to explore. It's a handsome game, with some impressive Unreal-powered lighting and a wonderful sense of place. While its predecessors were almost arcade-like shooters, there's an increased focus on story and atmosphere here - but not so much that it drowns out the action. Shooting Akrid is still the heart of the series.
Outside of Coronis' icy tunnels, E.D.N. is swarming with Akrid. They range from small, spider-like creatures that you can kill with one shot, to colossal, armoured monsters the size of small houses. But despite their many shapes and sizes, one thing betrays their shared evolution: glowing red weak spots, which have become something of a trademark for the series.
The Akrid are relentless, and the combat is fast and aggressive. Some will lob projectiles at you, forcing you to take advantage of a rudimentary cover system. Others' weak spots are concealed, forcing you to dodge and outsmart them to reveal it. Mostly, though, you can just chew through them with Peyton's guns. It's a solid shooter, if not totally remarkable, but the variety of enemies - and the different tactics you have to adopt to defeat them - keeps things interesting. Fallen enemies drop globs of thermal energy, which can be traded back at Coronis to improve your arsenal.
Sadly, especially considering how important it was in the first two games, mech combat is a letdown. They're a lot less agile than before, and you're locked to a first-person viewpoint. Movement is fine - and Peyton's Rig is actually fun to stomp around in - but fighting the Akrid in it is clumsy and unsatisfying; basically a QTE in disguise. As an enemy attacks, you hit a button at just the right time to counter, then another to grab them, and yet another to attack.
Coronis acts as a hub, and mission locations branch off from it. This makes everything feel connected. The game uses a simple form of Batman-style gear-gating, blocking certain areas off until you've received an appropriate gadget as part of the story. For example, the grappling hook allows Peyton to zip up to inaccessible areas, and also makes for some fun combat sequences as you flip between elevations to confuse enemies.
So it's different, then. This is a much darker game than you might be expecting from a Lost Planet sequel, and almost feels like survival horror in places. There are hints of Dead Space in the combat and environment design, and the imprint of Western design philosophies is undeniable, but the DNA of the series is still there; just in a different form. This is a fun, polished, and well put-together shooter, let down by weak mech combat and inconsistency.
A quality sci-fi shooter with a likeable hero, a compelling setting, and fun combat - that is, until you climb into your mech.
- Solid shooting, with a lot of enemy variety
- A fresh take on the series
- Changes may alienate some series fans
- Disappointing rig combat