Hands On With The Lost Planet 3 Demo
The Lost Planet series has had a peculiar history.
2007′s Lost Planet: Extreme Condition at least had a compelling premise; After Earth becomes uninhabitable to humans, an attempt to colonize an extremely hostile ice world as a potential new home failed when a creepy, insect-like species called the Akrid slaughtered the majority of colonists. 80 years later, the still-desperate human race is making a last ditch effort to kill the Akrid off and take the planet once and for all. The game’s environmental effects are interesting, and even if the enemies tended to be indistinguishable from one another while combat tended toward repetition, it was mostly fun (mech suits tend to be awesome enough to make one forget about other problems). It didn’t flop either, eventually selling 2.8 million copies, enough to warrant a sequel.
That sequel was 2010′s Lost Planet 2. It would be an understatement to say that Lost Planet 2 was a terrible game. Certain key elements returned from Lost Planet, including extreme environmental conditions (this time deserts and tropics) and mech suits, and the game contained an interesting new twist in that you fought both Akrid and other people. But for the most part, the game itself was, frankly, a broken mess. The plot was only tangentially related to the original, and the combat system was simply terrible. Capcom laughably coined the phrase ‘active cover’, a system in which the player wasn’t actually able to take cover, forcing them to survive wave after wave of enemies either by trying to dodge bullets, or simply absorb them. The save system was particularly bad, with an extremely weak checkpoint system that often required players to battle through excessively long levels and then defeat a difficult boss with low resources, only to die and have to do the whole thing again (and seriously, this could cause hours of frustrating reply).
Still, despite its many, many flaws, the game sold OK, selling about 1.5 million copies. Despite a nearly 40% drop in sales compared to the previous game, that’s still a healthy amount of money, so naturally they’re working on a sequel. That’s Lost Planet 3, a still very much-in development game due for a 2013 launch. At a pre-E3 2012 event hosted by CapCom last week in Santa Monica, I got the chance to play a lengthy demo from the current build of Lost Planet 3. What I saw was promising, but still full of evidence that the final game may end up floundering for relevance, rather than staking out a position as a A-list franchise.
Perhaps an admission that the change in setting between LP1 and LP2 kind of painted the series into a narrative corner, Lost Planet 3 is a prequel to the original, rather than a continuation of that story. While certain specific date and timeline details were not provided, the game is confirmed to take place during the earliest years of attempted colonization of the titular world, when the series’ primary villains were still just a giant corporate mining concern rather than a despotic paramilitary concern.
The player controls Jim, a miner from earth on a 6 month contract to collect vital resources from the titular planet, still very much the ice world of death of the first game. It’s hinted that Jim, and possibly the majority of Earth’s population, is mired in deep poverty, and that he’s taken one of the most dangerous jobs imaginable for what promises to be an enormous, possibly enriching payoff when his contract ends. He has a young wife and son back on earth, and at key points in the game, we were treated to their communications back and forth. It gave the setting a sense of loss and longing, a nice touch that suggests that if nothing else works, we will at least have a reason to care about Jim beyond ‘he is player character, he must survive’. (It helps that even at this early date, graphics were surprisingly crisp and weighty. Whatever else you’llsay about Lost Planet 3, it at least looks pretty good.)
In the build I played, narrative elements hinted at the possibility that players will have something to do other than simply shoot and survive. The demo began in the mining company’s main base of operations, a cave-lair that resembled the rebel base on planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. Before activating the actual playable mission, players are given the ability to explore the base in a limited fashion, talking to fellow employees and learning a thing or two about the company they work for, and the conditions under which they work. We also learn that the miners have also stumbled upon the Akrid from the previous games, at this point still unnamed other than simply being referred to as various forms of the concept of monster.