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 Why You Should Pay Attention to Lost Planet 3 

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PostSubject: Why You Should Pay Attention to Lost Planet 3   Thu May 31, 2012 1:17 am




IGN has had a lot to say on Lost Planet 3
lately, and for good reason – it’s shaping up really well. You’ve heard
from the Brits and the Yanks, but what about the Aussie team? Who cares? You raise a good point, but we want to talk about it, so click away if you don’t want to read our thoughts, little bird.

IGN AU’s senior editor Cam Shea and games editor Luke Reilly on the game…

Cam: I'll be honest with you, Luke – and you too
Internet Massive - I didn't play a huge amount of Lost Planet 2. My eyes
tend to glaze over a little when a game is built around co-op, and when
you throw in clunky Capcom Controls™ I start backing slowly away. I've
also been a little ruined for sequels ever since Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.
How can any sequel ever hope to top that? Lost Planet 2 categorically
didn't. There was barely any dancing at all. In any case, the grappling
hook gameplay and perilous setting of the original had a bunch of
potential, so it's great to see how well Lost Planet 3
is taking advantage of that, while also upping the ante in a bunch of
areas. Luke - if you had to characterise this game in the form of a
one-sentence Hollywood-style pitch, what would that sentence be?

Luke: Tim Allen on a snow-covered planet punching giant crabs with a large mining robot.

To be slightly more accurate, you might say it’s Tim Allen wearing Nic Cage’s hair and beard.


Is it just us, or are there also shades of 'Wilson' to Jim?


I hear you on Lost Planet 2. I remember playing the first one briefly
but I instantly forgot everything else about it, and Lost Planet 2
didn’t grab me in the slightest. It had the personality of a potato. I
was pretty downbeat on Lost Planet 3.
I’ve got no investment in the franchise and Spark Unlimited didn’t
exactly blow my trousers off with Turning Point or Legendary. Yet, I was
actually disappointed when the demo ended. It’s surprising.
Maybe it’s precisely because I didn’t expect much, but I think there’s
more to it than that. The game doesn’t feel markedly more special than
any other third-person shooter, but this Jim guy is really well
characterised. He seems like a really likeable guy; I want to get him
out of this.

Cam: Yeah, I mean, that demo alone gave us a good
glimpse into who he is. The game industry is getting very proficient at
delivering grounded protagonists and Tim, sorry, Jim is another
one that's immediately easy to identify with. The dialogue is natural
and well-delivered, his place within the world of off-planet mining is
suitably believable, and while the messages from his wife are something
of a cliché, they still work to give him a life outside the events of
the game.

Another thing that the game industry is getting good at is creating
very directed experiences. For better or worse, it allows for more
cinematic presentation and more consistent pacing, and Lost Planet 3 -
at least in the limited demo we played - seems to be following that
template.

By way of example, in the original game, players had to keep killing
to top up their thermal energy or they’d freeze to death, and Lost
Planet 3 keeps this thematic concept, but appears to take it out of
players' hands. It's still a fight for survival in a harsh environment,
but the moment to moment beats are imposed upon the player more so than
in the original. No more monitoring your own personal thermal levels;
that's replaced by the impact of the environment on your massive hulking
mech, which freezes up as a huge storm rolls in, forcing the player to
get out and chip the ice off once the weather subsides. Naturally, the
akrids are waiting when you do so. It's a great way to undercut the
feeling of power and strength players get from being inside a lumbering
metal giant - albeit one designed for mining - and make them suddenly
vulnerable.

But perhaps these comparisons to the original are misguided. Would it
be more apt to instead compare it to the Dead Space series, Luke?
Luke: That’s valid; I highly doubt it’ll be the last
time anybody compares the two. The portion of the demo set within the
abandoned facility and crawling with small beasts smacks of Dead Space,
with monsters scuttling around out of sight and bursting floorboards and
such. Horror games aren’t part of my normal diet but Dead Space was a
game I’ve always appreciated artistically, and anybody who’s spent even a
short amount of time with Dead Space will see the similarities. Of
course, that’s hardly a criticism. That’s like complaining your
partner’s new hairstyle makes her look too much like Emma Stone.

To be fair, Lost Planet 3 is more than just a homage to Dead Space.
If anything the reason my interest was sustained throughout the demo was
the variety. There’s something draining about being completely
vulnerable for the entire duration of a video game; at some point the
whole experience becomes more stressful than fun. Similarly, being
powerful and well-protected all the time quickly becomes boring. Without
a little threat there’s no thrill, but you want to give people the
thrill of danger and the thrill of relief. In the demo there was a
moment when we were running from several akrid back to the mech, and got
to the winch to be whisked into the cabin with mere inches to spare.
All in the space of a few moments there’s the fear of being killed by
the charging akrid, the relief of making it back to safety just in time
and the satisfaction of being able to deal with them with your mech. It
has you take on a giant crab-like akrid on foot, as a puny human, which
is a tough fight. However a short time later it lets you take on another
one with your mech, in a classic ‘pick-on-someone-your-own-size’
moment.

One of the best things, though, is that it’s a prequel. I’m sure
familiarity with the first two Lost Planet titles will come with certain
benefits, but it seems like a good entry point for people like me who
have had no previous interest in Lost Planet at all. Your thoughts?


Massive damage etc etc.


Cam: Definitely. And rather than being forced to
make things bigger and more over-the-top, the devs have been given an
opportunity to cleverly pare things back, which sits well with a more
horror-tinged experience. Forget being in a super-powered mech: the one
in this demo is designed for functionality; for labour. You can grab
stuff and you can drill stuff. It's a much more interesting starting
point than having shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and a chain gun.
Been there, done that.

And coming back to what I was saying before about it being a very
directed experience, the pacing throughout this demo really is great. I
love the way the setting is established. I love how mechanical the
process of getting into the mech and preparing it to leave the base is:
there's a palpable sense of anticipation that builds as the most mundane
of things - the anti-icing spray being applied, for instance (not that
it helped) happen as you prepare. The visuals really pop too. Emerging
outside to see jagged peaks in the distance cloaked in cloud, a sun's
orange glare piercing the haze, offsetting the rich blue of the snowy
landscape; it's beautiful. The claustrophobic interiors have their share
of atmosphere too, and more than a few nods to the Aliens films in
design.

All told, it's a fresh take from a fresh team. Capcom has had an
uneven time outsourcing games with a Japanese development heritage to
Western studios, but this could be one of the success stories. It's
certainly looking promising from what we've played to date.


Spoiler alert: we're pretty sure this is going to become a man and machine love story. Why else would they go to Make-out Point?


Luke: Uneven indeed. I’m glad you mentioned the
process of actually leaving the base in the first place; I really liked
that. It confidently inserted you into the world itself. I feel if
they’d opted for a brief cutscene, and simply dumped you into the snow
when the gameplay begun, the effect would’ve been completely lost.
Emerging from that gigantic steel airlock and out into the barren ice
was a very classy way to introduce players to the dangerous outside
world. Inside you feel huge, stomping past ground crew. Outside the
vastness of the frozen vista makes you feel small, even inside your
giant mech. It has a real frontier feel to it, actually, leaving the
safety of this installation and riding out into the icy wilderness,
something I recall a music cue at the time reinforcing.

I’m intrigued. The controls felt decent and Spark has done a great
job so far with the presentation. I’ve never had any interest in Lost
Planet, at all, and yet I want to see more of this. Whatever it is,
Spark’s doing something right.


End Transmission ....
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