The next few months will be a busy time for video game fans, with the next-gen consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hitting shelves and bringing with them a ton of must-have video games.
Unfortunately, "Lost Planet 3" is not one of them. This third-person shooter is respectably entertaining, and it does a few things really well. But on the whole, if you skip this game, you won't be missing much.
"Lost Planet 3" is a third-person shooter: Jim Peyton's well-groomed head constantly looms in the lower left-hand corner of the game as you shoot your way through waves and waves of "akrid," the insectoid monsters that inhabit the planet E.D.N. III.
On the PC, the basic controls setup is the mouse with the right hand for directional viewing and firing, and the WASD keys with the left hand to move the character. The other important keys are scattered across the keyboard, which makes the controls sometimes awkward, though it is possible to change keyboard configurations in the options menu.
Most of the gameplay consists of shooting akrid. The smaller ones take only one or two hits anywhere on the body. But the larger enemies have armored bodies and need to be targeted in their orange-glowing weak points, which means you'll be doing a lot of dodging, quick-turning, and mashing the "fire" button while the enemies lie there, stunned. There's also a melee option, in which you hit enemies in close quarters, but it's so ineffective that you're better off dodging, running or just shooting when enemies get too close.
Breaking up the repetitive combat are a number of fights that take place in Peyton's "rig," his three-story-tall mechanized mining suit. When fighting in the rig, the trick is usually to grab an enemy with your left "claw" hand and then hit them in the weak point with the right "drill" hand. The added coolness of piloting what's essentially a fighting robot comes at the price of mobility and visibility, however.
In a departure for the series, the campaign of "Lost Planet 3" is a character-driven story about Jim Peyton, a miner looking to make his fortune on the dangerous mining planet of E.D.N. III. The story takes place before the events of the previous two games, so new players won't have trouble figuring out what's going on. And "Lost Planet" fans will enjoy the chance to see the early colonization of E.D.N. III.
But there's an added layer of narrative: The game's first segment is set forty years after Peyton's arrival on E.D.N. III, where a cave-in has buried him and his granddaughter in a mining tunnel. The man's leg is trapped beneath a rock, and the granddaughter is unable to free him, so he tells her to leave him and escape on her own. But first, he has something to tell her — the story of his early days on E.D.N. III.
The first few hours of the campaign, then, mostly consist of Peyton performing jobs and contracts for N.E.V.E.C., the futuristic energy company that runs mining operations on E.D.N. III. The work is dangerous and the planet isolated, but Peyton explains that he agreed to spend a year more on E.D.N. III to make money for his wife and newborn son, whom he left behind on Earth.
Not even the brief thrill of fighting aliens and driving giant robot suits can mask the fact that you're basically running errands that would be side quests in other games. But eventually, the game escalates as Peyton learns what "Lost Planet" fans already know: that N.E.V.E.C. is not what it seems.
Peyton is more compelling than your average video game shooter protagonist, and so are the characters with whom he interacts. But he's uncomplicated and ultimately not interesting enough to keep the repetitive gameplay engaging. He has no flaws to speak of, and his relationship with his family is never adequately explored or reinforced from a gameplay perspective, meaning his strongest motivation appears to be completing jobs and making money.
"Lost Planet 3" is going for a realistic art style. Unfortunately, when you're trapped on a barren, frozen planet, all that blue, white and gray, briefly interrupted by the glowing red dots of the akrid's weak points, quickly becomes monotonous.
Noticeable graphics glitches happen often enough to interrupt the gameplay experience. For example, at certain points in the campaign, akrid will spawn right in front of you, and when swiveling the camera around to line up your shots, it's sometimes possible to find yourself inside Peyton's head.
There are a few great moments, though, such as the way Dr. Kovac nervously taps his foot when you wander around his lab uninvited. Certain views of E.D.N. III's icy landscapes are truly beautiful, too: The scenes are comparable to the rugged mountains and tundras of "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim." However, while in "Skyrim," those mountains and tundras were reachable and explorable, in "Lost Planet 3," they're nothing more than scenery to be viewed from afar.
Voice acting performance is important for a character-driven game, and the cast of "Lost Planet 3" largely delivers. None of the voices are grating, and Bill Watterson's performance as Jim Peyton and Daniel Kountz as the snarky mechanic Gale Holden are particularly strong.
In terms of music, the game's soundtrack won't be lingering with you, but its steady bass and repetitive melodies support the gameplay and reinforce the tension of fight scenes without becoming grating.
By far, the game's most interesting musical decision, however, is the music Peyton listens to in his rig when he's on a routine job. According to the narrative, Peyton's wife has sent him a playlist to listen to while he's working, but players can also queue playlists from their own music libraries. Being able to play your own music while on the job makes the mandatory errand-like quests that happen far too often in the narrative more bearable. Plus, if Peyton leaves the rig while music is playing, a muffled version of the song is still audible when you're standing close to the rig.
PC Requirements and Performance
To play "Lost Planet 3" on a PC, you'll need Windows XP or higher, with a dual-core processor of 2.5 GHz or higher. The graphics require a NVIDIA GeForce 9800 or higher. The game requires 16GB of available space on the hard drive and 3GB of RAM.
The game's campaign has little to offer in terms of replayability; if anything, it'll take a strong multiplayer experience to keep players coming back to "Lost Planet 3." The "Lost Planet" series is generally known for its multiplayer modes, but it's hard to assess "Lost Planet 3" for PC until more people get online. Thus far, the game's Steam multiplayer lobbies haven't been very crowded. Even the "quick match" option, which places you in the next available multiplayer game, takes a while to place you.
As far as multiplayer options go, you have your basic five-versus-five death matches, in which players try to kill each other with guns and grenades. There's also another multiplayer mode called "extraction," which, in accordance with the campaign's mining theme, has players competing to extract the valuable T-ENG from deposits scattered across the map. Finally, there's a "Scenario" mode, which has teams of five compete to achieve various changing objectives. The final multiplayer mode is "3 v 3 Akrid Survival Mode," in which two teams of three try to outlast each other against swarms of akrid.
The bottom line
It's hard to knock a game for being average, but that's just what "Lost Planet 3" is. It has its moments, and it's a playable and mostly entertaining experience, but it's by no means a must-play game. The best thing "Lost Planet 3" has going for it is a story that's better than the average shooter video game. That's not to say that it's great — just that it's better than most. If you're looking for something to hold you over until the next-generation consoles and much better-looking games hit shelves, then "Lost Planet" might be worth your time. Otherwise, you might be better off just skipping this title.
- More engaging story than a typical shooter
- Pretty scenery
- Repetitive gameplay
- Campaign takes a while to get going
Score: 2.5 stars
Genre: third-person shooter, sci-fi shooter
Requirements: Windows XP, 16 GB available space, NVIDIA GeForce 9800 graphics card or higher.
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2013
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360