SDCC 2012: Warming Up to the Extreme Conditions of ‘Lost Planet 3′

Not to be unkind, but I don’t think anyone was clamoring for another Lost Planet, particularly after the multiplayer-focused Lost Planet 2 underwhelmed two years ago. Capcom seems very aware of the response to that game, and during my hands-on preview of the shooter during SDCC, a member of the Lost Planet 3 team was careful to address a couple of major concerns: yes, this is primarily story focused, the way the new hero Jim handles is tighter than in previous installments, and California-based developer Spark Unlimited and Capcom really want your emotion engagement this time around.

As we continue to recover from our San Diego Comic-Con experience, here are some thoughts on my hands-on time with the newest bug stomping lost Planet sequel.

Find out how the new Utility Rig handles, the satisfaction of drilling Akrid, and how the grappling hook action has changed between games after the jump.

The story element is front and center in the demo I played, with an extended sequence featuring new lead NEVEC employee Jim sending a message back home to his wife and son. In this prequel to the first Lost Planet, Jim is on the snowbound E.D.N. III, drilling for resources in his utility suit. Jim’s country drawl informs the more working class bent of the game’s narrative as opposed to the dryly militaristic feel of the first and second games.

After volunteering to take an especially perilous job, Jim suits up in his Utility Rig (gone are the Vital Suits from the previous games), a weapon-free vehicle which, in spite of its lack of armaments, is still formidable in its way out in the snowy wastes. It comes equipped with a drill on arm and a gripping claw on the other. And in another shift from previous games (you’ll be hearing that a bit), the view mech-side is from inside the cockpit, where Spark has created a largely immersive experience: the cockpit jostles and sways as snow buffets the body of your rig’s windshield. Even inside the rig, it looks like it’s probably plenty frosty.

The heavily-detailed look of the game is based on the Unreal Engine 3, and so far it looks like Spark has been able to avoid some of the typical annoyances with that particular engine, in this case putting together faces that don’t look like they were carved out of stone (in spite of his Southern drawl, I kept thinking Jim looked, I don’t know, like a French Canadian logger). The Akrid are still the same collection of deadly, flailing chitinous things from previous installments and it’s still oddly satisfying to see the orange, essential stuff that will keep you warm dribbling out of their bodies.

As for mixing it up on foot, Jim doesn’t handle like the tank that his predecessors did, and there’s no longer the emphasis on using the grappling hook this time around. I was able to use both an automatic rifle and a shotgun here, the latter being the most satisfying of my small arsenal. I was also pleased to note that after being knocked down, Jim recovered much quicker than the characters in earlier games, allowing me to get back into the fight.

And with the camera pulled in closer during some of the narrow corridor sequences, Lost Planet 3 dips into survival horror territory in a welcome shift in tone. No idea how extensively this plays out through the rest of the game, but it gave the brief demo I played some variability that the earlier games were lacking.

I wasn’t completely enthralled, though. The boss fight I encountered kept the camera in a little too close, and it was hard to tell where the turtle-like enemy was or which direction I needed to dodge to avoid him. Additionally, an early QTE sequence with a snowbound foe went on for far too long, and the ease with which I missed the prompts meant having to perform them from the start after getting my face eaten.

Oh, yeah, I’m the guy who’ll die a few times during your demo. Still, I was pleased with what Spark and Capcom were showing last weekend, and I want to see how Jim’s story unfolds when Lost Planet 3 makes its way to consoles and the PC sometime next year.

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SDCC 2012: Giving Voice to ’The Old Republic’

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