Lost Planet 3 is the most interesting mediocre game I have played all year. So much of what it does flashes moments of brilliance, only to be undermined by its lack of polish instantly. I cared about the characters, the shooting and mech combat both frustrated, and amazed me, it was an internal war that switched between not being able to stop playing, and never wanting to play it again. This is Lost Planet 3, for better or worse it is a game that I spent solid six hour sessions playing, one that resonates with me even after the campaign has ended, yet is still hard to recommend thanks to its inconsistencies.
A lot of what makes Lost Planet 3 so memorable is its story. Taking on the role of Jim Peyton, players are thrust into the world, which takes place nearly 50 years before the events of the first game. Jim is a simple contractor, sent to the ice planet of EDN III to earn money to take care of his wife and son back on Earth. He has no stake in what the NEVEC Corporation is doing here; he just wants to support his family. I like Jim. His messages back and forth with his wife give great back story as to why he is here, and little touches like her picture inside his Rig give reason to like his character.
The story itself is told from an elder Jim as he lies wounded after what appears to be some sort of civil war. He tells his granddaughter how all of this came to be. This is where Lost Planet 3 shines. The storytelling and acting are sometimes brilliant. I liked several characters, and developer Spark has done a great job at making EDN III feel like an alien planet.
Even with some top-tier performances and an interesting plot, things sometimes break apart. The cut scenes look great, but the in-game dialogue is sometimes hilarious due to lack of good lip-synching. Characters oftentimes are looking at the sky or sporting the same facial model, which is awkward. These are the things that really frustrate. I could be entrenched in the story and all of a sudden wondering what happened. Did my game glitch? These inconsistencies really drag down an otherwise interesting experience.
The game portion also suffers from just being generic. Lost Planet 3 is set up sort of like an open-world game. There is a hub where upgrades can be purchased and missions and side quests can be obtained. Once I stepped foot out on the frozen tundra, the world has areas that house said missions. There are two types of combat to be found, and neither could carry the game on its own. The shooting is flat out repetitive and shaky. It took a solid two hours to adjust to the aiming mechanic. While it may have been the game or the inconsistent frame rate to blame, who knows? The weapons are also uninspired consisting of standard pistols, rifles and shotguns, none of which are that fun to operate.
Then mech combat comes into play, and it becomes a bit more interesting. Jim can travel with his Rig to almost any locale. The Rig has a set of tools that can be used for combat such as the drill arm. There are also upgrades that are obtained throughout the campaign such as a grappling arm that can electrocute enemies. I always felt safer in my Rig, though if it takes too much damage, Jim is thrust out of it and forced to rely on shooting until it repairs itself. There are also several boss battles that take place inside the Rig. These are mostly reliant on countering enemies with the right bumper button, and then unleashing an attack. There is one fight towards the end of the game that became overly frustrating due to this mechanic, and really drained the fun out of an otherwise cool concept.
I finished the campaign just shy of ten hours, but there was still a lot to do. Thankfully the game creates a save before the final mission in case I wanted to go back and finish up side missions or upgrades. This is the only checkpoint in the game. I found it odd that there was no manual save, and loading consisted of the latest auto save, or the previous one. Not much room to save at certain points. The final mission is blatantly obvious and like Mass Effect 3, it is lengthy. I clocked at least two hours from the time I was told it was happening until the credits rolled. It felt overly long, and the final boss battle, while set in a cool location, was disappointingly simple.
In addition to the campaign, there is also a competitive multiplayer mode that resembles the Killzone formula. It is a ten-player match that switches objectives as it progresses. For example, I could start one match hunting down Akrid and then have it turn into a capture match midway through. It is a nice change of pace, but the lackluster shooting mechanics carry over to this mode. It is also a ghost town as of this writing. Finding a game proved more challenging than keeping a solid frame rate in the game. It is also limited to just six maps, which grew stale rather quickly. Again this is a game that makes me question the necessity of adding online simply for a bullet point on the box.
The visuals are as sporadic as the gunplay. One minute I was in awe of the locale, while the next I saw Jim’s grappling hook animation and thought I was playing a PS2 game. The inconsistency of everything seems to be commonplace with Spark-developed games. EDN III really felt like an alien planet, but some of the animations are downright embarrassing. The soundtrack was superb though. The main title music reminded me of something right out of a Ridley Scott Alien picture, while the accompanying tracks felt like a mix of spooky violin from Bioshock mixed with some Dead Space. Voice acting is mixed with Jim being the standout. Some of the other voices are superb, but a lot of them fall between decent and downright terrible.
Lost Planet 3 surprised me. I really enjoyed the story and what it attempted to do, but so much of it was broken it was hard to not get frustrated. Still, I kept playing through all of its issues, and ended up enjoying it far more than I anticipated. This is one of those games that you might snag on sale and end up finding enjoyment in its merits. Just know that there are several problems that are impossible to overlook when you do. Still, fans of the Lost Planet series would do well to give it a go when it gets cheaper.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.