Despite a frosty critical reception, the Lost Planet series was a financial flop. Wait a second, that doesn't sound right... Nope, that's actually right. No love, nor money neither. Huh. Well, that makes even the existence of Lost Planet 3 quite a surprise then. Did Capcom not say everything there was about snow and guns and mediocrity in the last two games? Apparently not, and in fact, this one looks a bit different. It looks… good. It actually looks really good. But can it be for real?

Although it's still directed by the same guy as before, Kenji Oguro [oh-gur-oh], the production of Lost Planet 3 has moved across the Pacific to American developers Spark Unlimited, a studio famous for... a few other mediocre games. If you expected this collaboration to result in a classic then… well you just pay no attention to all those warning lights, huh? We will say that this is the best thing either party have ever done, and if you’re watching this and thinking you’d enjoy it – you probably will for a while.

A prequel to the original, Lost Planet 3 takes place on the frozen world of E.D.N.3 in the early years of its terraforming, back when the Neo-Venus Construction company was just a construction company and not an evil space dictatorship. This frontier planet was just a place where people lived and worked, average people like our new protagonist Jim. Jim's out here drilling for materials and earning money for his family back on Earth, the sort of man you’d write country and western ballad about, if it wasn’t snowing and in the future. As he settles into a routine of heading out into the cold, fixing things, shooting things and opening stuff, events take many a turn for the worse, resulting in secrets uncovered, conspiracies revealed and wave after wave of glowing orange monsters trying to end his life.

 

The story is representative of the entire experience; a mish-mash of all the other games and films that have inspired it. Alien and Dead Space, The Thing and Resident Evil 4 – it’s certainly an enjoyable combination and as comfortable as old socks, but there’s nothing new here whatsoever. The big difference for fans is that after the abysmal second game, Lost Planet 3 refocuses on the single-player experience. It offers much more narrative, deeper role-playing and best of all; freedom, a quality not really found in the series until now.

It’s a real shame then, that none of these features ever live up to their tantalising promise. The mechanics and design that lie beneath Lost Planet 3 are generic at best and flimsy at worst. Combat works fine enough but it quickly becomes more about dodge rolling and weak-point spotting than any sense of skill. It’s obvious that Spark Unlimited have ambition, but lack the knowhow to realise it. For example – Jim has an umbilical connection to his home base – one which powers his health regeneration, radar and, for some reason, ammo counter. But where this could have really added to the inhospitable atmosphere E.D.N. 3 appears to have – all these disabilities are of no real consequence. You collect lots of thermal energy – but it might as well be coins - it’s just money. Unlike last time out - you can’t die from the cold.

The sad truth is, Lost Planet 3 doesn’t want to show itself. It wants to hide inside an imitation. On the surface, it’s pretty cool – but dig a little and you’ll realize that the thing Spark Unlimited have created isn’t deep, it’s just hollow. It’s not unexpected, just disappointing – and maybe that’s its most surprising feature of all.

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  • Developer: Spark Unlimited
    Publisher: Capcom
    Release Date: 27/8/13