Capcom has a surprise announcement about an upcoming game. Dead Rising 3? No. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 4? Nope. Darkstalkers (finally)? Wrong again. In a complete case of “We didn’t see this one coming,” Capcom has just announced that Lost Planet 3 is on the way, and will actually be a prequel to the series, rather than a direct sequel. It’s also taking the game in a new direction, albeit one that should be familiar to gamers who have taken on the first two titles.
Both Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and Lost Planet 2 took place on the fictional planet E.D.N. III, which has been a target for colonization efforts by human who have been forced off of Earth due to its uninhabitable environment. In Lost Planet 3, you’ll be returning again to E.D.N. III, but you’ll barely recognize the planet as this game emphasizes a return to harsh conditions. Which means you’ll be seeing the environment in its most severe state.
It’s those same conditions that will threaten your life on the planet as you go about your daily life as a working class mech-like rig operator named Jim who has come to this desolate location to earn hazard pay that he can send back home to his wife and newborn son. Capcom is going to great lengths to humanize Jim, and as a result you’ll get video messages from your wife from time to time, and you’ll also see Jim recording his own outgoing messages.
Another part of that humanization lies in the fact that Jim is not a soldier. He’s a construction worker with his own rig (think: the guys who own their own trucks on Ice Road Truckers), and it comes equipped with a drill arm and a grabber/claw arm. While neither of these were meant to be used as weapons, luckily Jim can improvise. But don’t think that you’ll be weaponizing that rig as the team is putting an emphasis on exploration and mystery rather than straight up run and gun in this narrative-driven game.
The hub of your operations is an underground hangar where rigs and operators stay when they aren’t out on jobs. Jim sleeps in his rig, as it’s his baby and he doesn’t want anything to happen to it. But, that doesn’t stop a young techie named Gale from tinkering with your rig and adding “upgrades” from time to time, like a zip-line that can yank you instantly up into the cockpit. “You said that climb up was killing your knees,” he quips when showing it to a befuddled Jim.
Besides upgrading your rig with new tech, you’ll also use the hangar to get missions, talk to NPCs, and use as your central hub throughout the game. You’ll also get bonus objectives via Gale, who wants you to find parts out in the frozen wasteland so that he can use them to tinker with your rig. The place looks straight out of the Rebel base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, and as you roam through some of the ice hallways you almost expect to stumble across Han and Leia arguing.
The mission shown off in the demo has Jim heading out to a set of coordinates to plant a thermal post over a source of thermal energy (T-ENG), which still represents an important commodity in this game. As he enters the rig, the game changes from third person to first person, and you’ll pilot the rig in that perspective. The development team promises that this is the “largest robot/mech ever in a Lost Planet game,” and once you see one you’ll realize why these things are built for construction work and not fast combat.
Although Jim isn’t a soldier, that doesn’t mean he’s a pushover. His rig is equipped with a rifle that he can take with him when he ventures out into the desolate snow and ice, and he carries a knife as well. He’ll encounter several new species of native live throughout the game, as well as some encounters with the familiar Akrid. As usual, the enemies have glowing orange locations on their bodies that signal weak spots.
That’s lucky for both Jim and yourself. Whether in or out of the rig, Jim is a capable of dealing with most opponents. Of course, it helps when you’re driving a massive piece of steel when you need to fight a giant crab, but there are times that you’ll have to use both the rig and ground-based combat to defeat certain foes.
During our demo mission, Jim’s rig ices over and he has to exit the cockpit to shoot the ice off and get things moving again. When he exits that cockpit, it’s into a deadly -87.5 degrees, and wind and ice blast has face. He’ll raise his arm against the elements and react in other ways to let you know when conditions are getting harsh. Of course, while he’s outside the cockpit he’s not just dealing with the weather, but usually the local wildlife as well. That’s where his knife, rifle, and a few grenades come in handy.
Of course, you’re also armed with an enormous mech, and when the thing isn’t iced over, it’s very handy in combat. Jim later has to fight an alien crab and he can use the rig to drill into it or even pin it, allowing him to exit the cockpit and take shots at it while it can’t move. It’s an interesting combat combination, and using both rig and rifle in tandem puts a twist on your standard Lost Planet experience.
But this game isn’t just about menial jobs and random battles. As Jim continues on, using the rig to smash ice barriers out of the way, and deploying the franchises’ iconic grapple to get to high places, he finally gets to the pocket where the thermal post needs to be planted. But once he does so, the thermal heat melts away the ice and snow and reveals a defunct base that has been buried. Which is a bit of a puzzler, as this planet has supposedly never been inhabited before. He investigates further, and the game takes a chilling (pun intended) turn towards the spooky: now you’re slinking through foreign corridors and listening to musical motifs that recall the Alien soundtrack.
Jim begins investigating this base and finds things lurking in the dark, and this is where you get just a taste of the underlying story that drives the story behind Lost Planet 3. It’s a gorgeous looking game, with the world above full of dark blacks and blues, even in the ice fields. Cinematic skies overheard and a sweeping score make this a dramatic experience, while the changing environment and ambient sounds from E.D.N. III fold you into the story.
This is a living planet with its own ecosystem, and plenty of dark secrets for you to uncover. Lost Planet 3 will be released sometime in early 2013.