Game director and franchise creator Kenji Oguro says that Lost Planet 3 is the closest they have come to his original vision for the series. This sequel returns to the harsh, extreme conditions of the first game, but now puts a heavy focus on narrative and storytelling. The gameplay has transitioned to home in on survival and exploration, moving on from the arcade-y play of the first title, or the cooperative team play of the second. Oguro says that he's really pleased with how the elements have come together for Lost Planet 3, and that he cannot wait to show users the final product.
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Lost Planet 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Lost Planet 3's story serves as a prequel to the other two games. It follows a man named Jim, a working class guy that came from Earth to E.D.N. III to earn some hazard pay to support his wife and newborn son. He's doing dangerous work, navigating the planet's severe conditions in a huge robotic utility rig to mine energy and lay pipeline, but he doesn't seem to mind and is eager to snatch up every contract he can get. In the game's opening Jim tells his wife over a video call that he thinks that his company isn't telling him the whole truth about this planet, but he isn't too concerned with the details, and is fully driven to provide for his family. Jim is bearded, expressive, easy-going and has a bad knee that acts up in cold weather -- far from your typical videogame hero, though somehow instantly likable.
Gameplay kicks off with Jim taking on an assignment that one of his co-workers couldn't handle due to dangerous native wildlife, the Akrid, attacking his rig. Jim negotiates double hazard pay from his boss for taking up the cause, and then sets out in his own rig, leaving the hangar to brave the harsh snowstorms. This was our first look at the world of Lost Planet 3, which seemed foreboding, but also somehow beautiful with warm light shining through cold fog and ice formations, under shimmering clouds. An ice storm looked to be forming in the distance. It seems that Capcom has put the Unreal Engine 3 to good use here.
In this massive mech, which Capcom says is the largest pilot-able robot in the series, the player sees the world through its cockpit in a first-person view. Full control is given to movement as well as both of the rig's arms, one of which is a cross between a claw and a drill. In the player's first outing as Jim, they'll set out to locate an energy pocket, pushing through the blizzard-like alien environment toward what looks to be an ice cave.
Lost Planet 3's gameplay will mix rig piloting with on-foot exploration, with the latter taking place in locales that are inaccessible with the rig. Jim is free to leave the rig at any time, but with the planet's hard environments and large monsters, it provides safety and mobility.
Early on in Jim's first mission he has to leave his rig to set off on foot to reach higher ground to access a cave system. The game's HUD begins to crackle and fade as Jim moves farther away from the rig, representing the loss of communications, making the player feel truly alone in his travels. Once Jim is able to navigate to higher ground and locate his position, he uses a grappling hook to rapel down into the ice cave, and then uses a shotgun to fend off wildlife. After negotiating a battle with a large crab-like beast, Jim is able to plant a thermal post to complete his mission.
The thermal energy released from the planting of the post is enough to melt all the ice in the cave, revealing what looks to be a base full of machinery and metal structures. This concerns Jim as he was told that his crew are among the first humans to colonize the planet. Further exploration has Jim going deeper into this base, where it seems something really bad happened a long time ago. It seems that Jim is locked in this base, forcing him to work way through enemies to shut down a generator to open a gate to escape. Torn up walls in tight metal corridors, third-person close combat with alien enemies and a bunch of creepy noises give of a bit of a Dead Space vibe
From this demo, Lost Planet 3 looks to be an interesting blend of two completely different combat types. In the rig, fights with massive alien creatures play out in first person, involving slower strikes and claw grabbing to access weak points. The rig's drill hand is the primary weapon, and many of the battles had alien goo splattering on the rig's windows as it bored into the flesh of this world's creatures. In contrast, the on-foot segments are standard third-person shooting, much like in the previous games.
It seems that enemies can be defeated in either combat type, and in some cases players will use a combination of both to succeed. A large spider boss had Jim using a shotgun to blast ice off its back to reveal a weak point, using evading rolls and quick footwork to dodge swinging attacks. Once weakened by a few shotgun blasts, a series of grenades to its mouth finished it off. The same beast went down a bit easier in the rig, as its drill arm was able to weaken it by sawing off its claws. The rig's arms were used to block attacks, and once vulnerable, a well-placed drill attack to the beast's weak spot on its back finished it off.
The last battle in the demo brought about a creature that was even larger than the last, and had no immediately visible weak spot. In the rig, Jim was able to use its claws to restrain the creature, and from there he was able to exit the cockpit and set out on foot, attacking the small weak spot on its underbelly.
Finally, Capcom confirms that a full set of multiplayer modes will be available in Lost Planet 3. They gave nothing in the way of details, but hinted that we may learn more about what they have planned for multiplayer at E3 later this year.
If this was Kenji Oguro's original vision, why didn't he do this the first time around? It's not that the first two games were bad, but Lost Planet 3 looks extremely promising with its variety of gameplay and new focus on storytelling. We've only had a small taste so far, but it seems that Capcom has put together a unique action game here, and we're looking forward to seeing more. Hopefully we'll get our first hands-on with this title at E3 2012 this summer.
Lost Planet 3 is slated for release in early 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.