Lost Planet 3
Lost Planet 3 is, at the end of the day, an unremarkable if competently made third-person shooter. It doesn’t really innovate on the formula and unless you’re new to the hobby, you should be able to draw a straight line between it and its obvious influences. It’s not bad–and we’re talking about Spark Unlimited here, the development studio that gave the world Legendary, so LP3 being bad was a concern–but it’s not out to challenge anyone.
What interests me about it isn’t the gameplay, which as I said, is serviceable but disposable. Lost Planet 3 is worth checking out because of its protagonist.
A guy I know wrote an interesting post earlier this year about Dead Space 3, and the current tendency in mainstream games to have main characters who aren’t just generic, but who are actively unpleasant.
You saw a lot of this kind of thing in the mid- to late nineties, where quite a few writers who should’ve known better got “mature adult” confused with “angry jackass,” and it’s gone on to influence much of what we’re playing now. A lot of video game protagonists don’t have a setting besides near-universal degrees of hostility, and it makes a lot of them inherently forgettable. Yes, shooter man, you’re angry about something; I get it, I understand, let’s go.
In Lost Planet 3, on the other hand, you play as Jim Peyton, who’s as close to an everyman as it’s possible for a mech pilot to be. He’s distinctly at the start of his story, with no cause for revenge and no military training; he’s simply a construction worker doing a dangerous job, and who treats most of the other characters in the game as if he cares what they think of him.
LP3 is set a good fifty years before the events of the first game, in the early days of humanity’s exploration of the ice planet of E.D.N. III. Earth in the 26th century is in full economic meltdown due to an ongoing energy crisis, to the point where going off-world to an alien colony is actually a decent career move. Peyton’s got a newborn baby at home and no prospects on Earth, so he’s taken a corporate job and is sending most of his money back to his wife.
The first few hours of the game are spent learning the ropes and assisting the other colonists, and it’s pleasantly boring in a way that feels strangely real. There are aliens to shoot, intense storms to weather, and every so often, you have to do something complicated quickly before the entire colony drops into a crevasse, but there’s a sense from the moment you take control that this is just the routine.
Someone put a lot of thought into Lost Planet 3‘s worldbuilding and dialogue. There’s a real sense of a wider environment beyond that which you’re working on, from the country-rock .mp3s that Jim’s wife sends from Earth to the carefully neutral tone of the “survival tips” you can find scattered around the base to the bystanders you can chat with in the barracks.
The game itself isn’t much beyond an exploratory shooter with some open-world elements here and there, but I was interested enough in Jim as a character and in the world itself that it pulled me along despite some truly questionable design decisions.
For example, the entirety of your HUD is linked to Jim’s mech, so if you get far enough away from it, most of your onscreen data goes away, including your remaining ammunition. It’s a cute idea for working necessary gameplay mechanics into the narrative, but at a guess, maybe 70% of the game takes place when you’re far enough away from your mech to disable the HUD. That leaves you with no way of knowing how much ammunition you have in reserve, while fighting any of a handful of enemies that soak up bullets like candy.
That’s probably the worst issue, which comes across like it might actually be some kind of bug, and there are a handful of other issues that make the game more of a slog than it has to be. If it wasn’t for the world itself and the characters in it, I wouldn’t have gotten as far in Lost Planet 3 as I did. That’s most of my recommendation right there. Whoever wrote this game needs to get more work, ideally in an original series so he or she can really shine.
Reviewed By: Thomas Wilde
This review is based on a retail copy of Lost Planet 3 for the PlayStation 3 provided by Capcom.