Lost Planet 3 Review: The planet isn't lost, but immersive gameplay has been
Lost Planet has always been a scattershot series of sorts. Where the first game was interesting but wonky, the second game was a messy amalgam of cooperative Monster Hunter-esque battles and mechs. Now, Lost Planet 3 is a strange brew of excellent narrative and hackneyed third-person shooter elements.
The potential for greatness is evident every time we interact with protagonist Jim Peyton, but lost in the blustery wilderness each time we're faced with the gravity of the situation: Lost Planet is a completely different beast than before, and this may have been its last attempt at getting things right. A repetitive single-player campaign, lackluster gunplay, and other issues mar what could have been an excellent third entry.
You're dropped onto the icy planet E.D.N. III where you're mining energy sources as Jim Peyton, a NEVEC (Neo-Venus Construction Company) contractor. Completing this job will earn him a hefty paycheck and bolster finances for him and his family, and the yellow thermal energy of the planet might also prove a new reliable energy for everyone back on Earth. Peyton's tale is a surprisingly human one, woven together with smartly written cutscenes with excellent voice acting. Unfortunately, it's not enough to carry the rest of the game.
Peyton explores the uninviting tundras and ice caverns armed with a fully-stocked arsenal. The Akrid are out in droves, and you'll face them, soldiers from rival factions, and other opponents with rifles, rivet guns, and grenade launchers. Despite the variety of weapons to dispatch your enemies with, the action grinds to a halt soon after Peyton claims his Utility Rig. The giant mech is fun to climb into and lumber through the icy landscapes, but after a while it feels more like a novelty. Spark Unlimited did an excellent job with giving your first entry into the mammoth machine meaning, but as you progress it simply feels as though you've seen all there is to see.
The planet is full of samey-looking snowy locales, with little to offer and few tricks to amaze or enthrall, relying only on enemies, the Akrid, and recycled stop-and-pop segments to keep you plugging away to advance the narrative. Combat becomes less challenging and feels less like an action game and more like a slog. Though you'll be pushed to investigate how Peyton's story unwinds further despite the familiarity of each new area, it's not enough to excuse how tiresome the extensive firefights begin to feel after some time.
It's a shame, as Lost Planet 3 has an explosive start, with a promising premise and characters that might have worked much better with improved and upgraded elements from the previous games. Multiplayer is supported, allowing players to choose NEVEC forces or Snow Pirates for quick skirmishes over six maps, and it's free to compete in, though it doesn't have the same grab as your modern competitive FPSes losing its luster as quickly as the single-player campaign.
Lost Planet 3 is its own enemy, with a relatable narrative, likeable protagonist, and realistic storytelling that's mired in convention with dry shooter mechanics spread across the same frozen tundras we've been seeing in each game. It could have been so much more, but it's unclear as to whether or not the series will have one more go at telling its story. If you're hankering for a third-person shooter, you could do worse, but this is at the very least an admirable attempt in improving storytelling in modern action games.
[Reviewed on PC]