When a developer passes on the torch to another studio to create their sequel, naturally some people will get a teensy bit upset. “The new Devil May Cry is a reboot? Heresy!” cry a few fans, “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an action-focused brawler? Kill everyone involved” shout a handful of crazies.
So when Lost Planet 3 was announced, and it turned out that Spark Unlimited would be handling its creation, I expected the outrage to be a little more… loud.
But Lost Planet 2 didn’t pick up that much traction in the West, even though the first entry fared rather well. Perhaps the original being a title released in that sweet spot early in the Xbox 360’s lifespan – when any new game on the system was very welcome – was a blessing. You know when I’m talking about; the Prey era.
Consequently, the changes to the formula that have so far been announced have been met with a resounding “is Lost Planet still a thing? Huh”.[drop]But damn it, I liked Lost Planet 2, having run through the entirety of its campaign online with friends. The competitive modes were all but trash, and the AI of bots in single player was completely moronic, but with a few pals and a bit of patience, the large scale monsters, big mechs and bigger explosions was great fun. Combined together with a great sense of speed, and of danger, it made for top larks in multiplayer.
Even as one of its biggest fans over here though, it’s difficult to get too excited about this third release. Simply put, the game seems to be missing a bit of the identity that I found so appealing in LP2.
For one thing, it no longer feels as if you’re quite so mobile. The grappling hook that allowed your team of mercenaries to zip about the large scale levels is now relegated to a context-sensitive action, your freedom of movement narrowed to a defined pathway that the developers want you to follow.
Indeed, much of the demo that was shown at Eurogamer Expo had this feel about it. For a game set on a terrifying, unexplored world filled with danger, it’s odd how funnelled everything feels. It’s so scripted, so safe.
Again, in the previous release there was an element of the chaotic: you’d sometimes take a hit from an enemy and go flying across the map, massively confusing you until you got your bearings. This wasn’t a bad thing, it was part of its ragtag charm, but with LP3 you’re more likely to be pounced upon and enter a boring QTE.
There’s definitely still a sense of threat and mystery, though it’s one that comes with story and scripted events more than anything else. You’re a working man – a very human, very likeable one at that – and there’s a constant sense of frailty when you go up against the massive storms that ravage the planet.[drop2]You’re initially reliant on a plodding mech for protection and safety, only escaping its confines when absolutely needed. You’re a bit of a walking tank, although, strangely, your attacks against the indigenous wildlife are terribly clunky and ineffective.
Planting beacons and watching incoming video messages, it’s a lonely job you’ve got in a harsh landscape, and from the snippets of the larger narrative present in the preview code, it’s clear that your employers aren’t exactly being completely honest with you.
However, it really needs this space-trucker story, because the shooting is a bit predictable. Enemies run around while you in turn strafe and roll away from them, trying to shoot the glowing bits on their bodies. It’s a burnt orange and snow white ballet of boredom that you’ve seen a million times before.
The visuals do look really smashing though, the work on facial movement is especially striking, as is the thick layer of dust and grime that seems to coat everything the humans touch. Lighting effects are bold too, with copious amounts of bloom and gun fire flare lighting up the rocky outcrops, snowy peaks, and mysterious forgotten buildings you eventually stumble upon.
Lost Planet 2’s chaotic charms are gone, you don’t feel very agile, and in all it feels like a more generic shooter than before, but Lost Planet 3’s story and sheer presentation power may well save the day on this occasion. We’ll find out when it lands in 2013.