The Lost Planet series is a bit of a gaming anomaly. The first game, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, gave players robotic suits of armor called Vital Suits, a grappling hook, and giant enemy monsters to shoot. The gameplay was pretty straightforward and the game world was refreshing and fun, but the story was the special kind of so-bad-its-good. All of these elements combined to create a pretty enjoyable game. Extreme Condition also had an online multiplayer component, which became the main focus of Lost Planet 2. Many people felt alienated by the shift in direction from the first Lost Planet game and most people assumed that the series died after the sequel.
Then, Capcom did the unthinkable. They decided to try and revitalize the series with a story driven, single-player experience. Early trailers showed a bearded man both in and out of a gigantic Vital Suit fighting off Akrid, insect-like enemies that were the mainstays of the previous two titles. This seemed like a step in the right direction for a series seemingly back from the dead.
I was able to play the single-player demo and what I saw was in desperate need of last minute tweaking. Picking up the single-player, I was thrust into a boss battle against a giant ice worm. The creature thrashed at the room sending claws through the broken window and occasionally spitting larva reminiscent of the face-huggers from the Alien series. All of the elements were present for a thrilling, satisfying battle. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of health the ice worm had made this battle last for nearly seven minutes. During that time I stood in one place constantly shooting at the worm, occasionally turning to take care of the face-huggers. After defeating the worm, I ran through some hallways of the destroyed facility before running onto a platform outside and waited for an elevator. Surprise! The worm appeared again and a repeat of the last encounter began. I stood still and shot at the giant worm and its larva for a prolonged period of time until the elevator arrived. Then I got into a giant Vital Suit to fight the worm in close-quarters-combat. What I thought would be an awesome culmination of the demo, possibly redeeming the lackluster combat up until that point, turned out to be a difficult quick-time-event to which I died repeatedly. After pressing on through the frustration generated by the ice worm sequence, I encountered a cutscene which sets up the story of Lost Planet 3.
Visually, Lost Planet 3 is gorgeous. Snow swirls, creatures and VSs look appropriately amazing, fantastic, and cool, and the animations are smooth and pleasing. The cutscenes in particular were dazzling and left me wanting to just watch a Lost Planet CG film. However, in pretty much every other area I found Lost Planet 3 to be in need of some polish. Many of the sound effects seemed to be place-holders, guns made strange, unsatisfying, and decidedly un-gunlike noises. The music would probably have been pretty great, but after spending twenty minutes listening to the same, looped orchestral track it began to wear a bit thin. The gameplay seemed sluggish and unresponsive, moving from cover to cover seemed to take too long and the aiming felt slippery.
To be fair, most of my time spent in single-player was standing stationary and holding down the shoulder button to shoot. This is mostly a balancing issue that could be taken care of with a bit of effort between now and release. It remains to be seen if these problems will persist into the full retail release or if I happened to play through a particularly frustrating part of the game.
Lost Planet 3 is being developed by Spark Unlimited and published by Capcom. Expect to see it hitting stores August 27 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.