The Lost Planet franchise changes the record again in Lost Planet 3, a game that comes close to the horror-tinged adventure of The Dead Space, very different to the frantic action of the first chapter or the cooperative slip-up of the second. The gameplay has changed, it's now a game of open missions and improving skills, also aimed at telling the story of the planet EDN III and its monsters: the Akrid.
Fans of the franchise will be surprised by the pace of play, it's much slower than previous versions. Not only in the story itself - it moves at snail's pace - but how to approach the missions, the comings and goings of the mechs, the frequency (and intensity) of the meetings with the Akrid. Lost Planet 3 is a game with a serious, more intimate tone, with a story that revolves around the protagonist, and it moves away from the joy of the supporting characters of the first Lost Planet.
Although the structure of play is one step away from a sandbox game it is still a linear adventure. The main tasks occur in order, while in parallel you are offered sub-missions that remain active all the time. That is, you can complete them while you work towards your main goals and they exist primarily to improve your skills or earn you money.
The game map is revealed slowly. It initially has blocked divisions that will unlock following Mech improvements or as missions are completed. This approach to the adventure is unprecedented in the series and genuinely looks good. Furthermore, although the map is not labyrinthine, level design can be quite disorientating. The graphics and the work done with the snowstorms contribute to this feeling.
The formula of playing on foot and by Mech, which means you can come and go freely (according to the zone), works quite well. You must take care of the Mech on your walks through E.D.N. III, so they don't break down. You also have to fight the Akrid from a machine that is not designed for war. Although, if by chance the monsters manage to break your machine it doesn't really matter, the Mech will auto repair after one minute.
In any case, the battle with the Akrid isn't as intense as in previous Lost Planet versions. With the Mech battles are pretty rough and tough, and when you walk the enemies move in such a twitchy manner that you end up wasting more ammo than you wanted. I'm still not sure if this is on purpose or accidental but either way, battles with the Akrid aren't very satsifying. Quite the opposite, they're a minor nuisance as you advance to an adventure that is arguably more interesting.
You can improve both the Mech and your equipment at the central base, which you have to visit pretty often. In the first part of the game you are forced to travel on foot (or by Mech) here, there and everywhere, feeling frustrated at how long it takes to complete missions, go back and be assigned other tasks. But after a few hours of play you unlock the "fast travel" mode and the game becomes much lighter on its feet.
Better on foot than by Mech
There are two ways to play Lost Planet 3: on foot and by Mech. When you mount the Mech the view is in first person, from the inside. With the gamepad triggers (this game is best played with pad) you control the arms of the machine to fight or defend yourself because you have no weapons. The Mech is just a transport system to travel the cold surface of EDN III and is used for little more. Sometimes you are forced to fight the Akrid from Mech but these are slow, torturous battles because of the unrefined controls.
Control on foot is more agile but if you move away from Mech you lose connection with the radar and the HUD screen, which happens often. You can carry two large weapons and the pistol has infinite ammo. There are also grenades and some gadgets like the hook for climbing (some concrete surfaces) or an Akrid DNA reader.
When you go by foot Lost Planet 3 isn't really that different from other third-person games, and it plays equally well. It's even added a cover system, which isn't very polished but is functional.
Good in general with some mistakes
Lost Planet 3 suffers from the same condition as many other games of this year. Technically it's caught between the old generation of consoles and the new, between the power of the new PCs and the old ones. Finding a balance for graphics is tough at the moment.
Lost Planet 3 looks luxurious when you look at it as a whole but not so much upon closer inspection. When you ride in Mech and get caught in a fierce snowstorm, when you contemplate the frozen landscape of EDN III or when you're fighting the Akrid all is well - very well, in fact. But the game lacks detail when you study it more closely: the textures are somewhat blurred, the Akrid AI leaves a lot to be desired, the graphic engine cinematics are robotic and the game has annoying bugs.
Nevertheless, Lost Planet 3 manages to plunge you into the adventure because the atmosphere is very good. This is in part down to the way it shows you the humanity of the protagonist. He's pretty charismatic, that's for sure.
Lost Planet 3 surprised me because, having tried several previous betas I wasn't very keen on, I finally found a fun and interesting adventure. On the other hand I must say that the story is slow, and this section drags down the rest of the game and the mission series. Luckily Lost Planet 3 has enough good stuff to keep you playing and allow you to forgive some basic errors (AI, graphics, bugs...). Ultimately, it's a good prequel.