Lost Planet 3 Hands-on Preview -- In Space No One Can Hear You FreezeBy Stephen Johnson - Posted May 23, 2012
Judging from the single-player level I played through, Lost Planet 3’s story creates a unique and powerful mood through character and details. It’s subtle enough to be almost subconscious, but the barely noticeable minutiae and finely drawn characters work together to create a creepy, desperate vibe. Lost Planet 3 is all about the limits of human survival, and the fragile, technological shells we build to live and work in places were Man clearly isn’t meant to be.
The prequel to Lost Planet and Lost Planet 2 starts players off inside a base on the far-away planet of E.D.N. III, a hostile, frozen world filled with mindless beasts and valuable energy deposits. This is not the glossy, comfortable sci-fi future of Star Wars or Mass Effect; this is an industrial future, where hard men do hard and dangerous jobs at the very end of civilization. It’s like a cross between Ice Road Truckers and Alien. Lost Planet 3’s characters toil in an unfair, deadly environment not for glory or to save the galaxy from aliens, but just to make some coin and get the hell back home to their families.
The main character, Jim, is not a super-ninja or a space-marine. He’s bearded and soft-spoken, just a blue collar dude trying to provide for his family back on Earth. The communications between Jim and his wife, (on some kind of futuristic Skype), highlight Jim’s isolation on the strange planet as well as giving him a motivation to survive to get back home.
Tellingly, Jim sleeps in his Rig, Lost Planet 3’s mech-equivalent, as if to remind himself that he’s on E.D.N. III to do a job, and that’s all. He has no interest in the goings-on in the base that acts a little like a space truck stop. This isn’t Jim’s home, figuratively or literally; people just shouldn’t be here.
After a quick look around the base--filled with dripping water and depressing gray colors--I get my first assignment: My slimy boss wants me to get in my rig and travel to an energy deposit. Another driver has balked at the job, his rig having been attacked by a huge creature. I take the gig, though, because the added danger means more money, even though they won’t let me put guns on my mech.
Once I enter my rig, the view changes from third to first-person, and I get a feel for the lumbering, swaying, powerful movements of the machine. Instead of guns, the rig has powerful claw arms and a drill. They’re officially there to dig rocks, but as soon as I see them in action, I have a feeling frozen space crabs are on the menu. Luckily, the base’s nerdy mechanic has offered to upgrade my rig in exchange for energy. I have a feeling I’m going to need it. Unlike the last Lost Planet games, energy isn’t needed to stay alive. Instead, it’s a currency used for vehicle and weapon upgrades.
Although stepping into the huge mech should make me feel powerful, it has the opposite effect. As soon as I lurch out of the protection of the base and into the freezing wasteland, it’s clear that the only thing between me and a frozen death is this relatively thin barrier of shatterproof glass and metal.
It’s cold out here. Diffused light barely struggles through the blue, frozen mist. It reminds me of John Carpenters The Thing. Jim even looks like Kurt Russel’s character in that movie, another hardass who found himself trapped in the ice. A message from my wife, happy in her (no doubt warm) home makes the point even more clear. I’m alone out here.
The limits of my rig are quickly demonstrated when a freak ice storm hits and freezes the joints of my machine. I have to leave the metal womb to de-ice, and, as you might have expected, I’m soon met with an attack by the planet’s relentless inhabitants, a pack of unnamed things that want me dead.
The battle that ensues is desperate and visceral--I fire my rifle and bury a knife into the gullet of the monsters--but it’s a little clumsy. I’m not fluid in combat, and when the giant, ice-encrusted space crab shows up, it’s scary, but also a little sad. We’re just two dumb creatures engaged in a life or death battle on the forsaken surface of a hellish planet a million miles from anything good. What difference would it really make if I lost? But then I remember my wife and child and defeat the creature and step back into my rig.
When I finally enter my ice cave destination, gathering the sought after energy causes an ice melt-off which reveals an imposing, industrial structure. We’re supposed to be the first people out here, but that’s clearly not true. I wonder what else my employers at NEVEC have lied to me about.
Unable to resist the temptation to check it out, I stumble from my rig and enter the doors. There are no people here, only evidence of past violence. Strange, abominable creatures attack and are splattered by my shotgun and pistol. Found audio tapes reveal a team of Russians who seems to have been overwhelmed by an outbreak of something. Maybe the planet’s tenacious wildlife…or was it something darker? What happened to the people who worked and lived here, and why didn’t NEVEC warn us about this danger?
Here, Lost Planet 3 switches from reminding me of The Thing and starts to feel a lot like Alien or Dead Space--it’s all sputtering lights, de-activated computers, and claustrophobic, monster-besieged corridors. It becomes clear how dangerous this mission is, and how readily NEVEC is willing to throw away the life of a working man to make a profit, much like Prometheus in Alien. I’m definitely looking forward to unraveling the deeper plot when Lost Planet 3 comes out in 2013…and I might even play some multiplayer too.