Lost Planet 3 Hands-On Preview – Snow Business
Written Thursday, April 25, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Snow is exciting, especially when you're a kid. Chucking snowballs around, making snowmen, peeing your name into it... In Lost Planet 3, snow is scary. It's a place where the Akrid hide, and buried deep beneath the snowy surface of E.D.N. III lies vast reserves of precious T-energy, mankind's last hope for Earth as it faces an energy crisis. Snow is also scary when it's yellow. Don't eat it, kids!
It was almost a year ago that we first went hands-on with Lost Planet 3, and this latest hands-on session has us sampling both the first chapter of the single-player story and multiplayer. But for the sake of brevity, we'll focus more on the multiplayer aspects of Lost Planet 3 that take the competitive online modes from the previous two games, and pretty much chucks it all in the bin. Except for the snow. There's loads of snow.
Lost Planet 3's lynchpin multiplayer game-type is Scenario Mode, which gives you a selection of maps each with their own objectives to complete. It's a simple battle of blue uniformed NEVEC versus Snow Pirates in fetching orange duds, and it sports the same core gameplay mechanics from the previous two games. That means you can still use your grappling hook to zip around, albeit in a slightly more limited capacity, and you can shoot a gun. A gun with secondary rounds, like incendiary ammo.
Starting with the Stronghold map, the game is a straight up game of escort and protect versus stop and destroy, as the NEVEC attempt to keep their Battlecat running while it ploughs through barricades into the Snow Pirate's base. Meanwhile, the Snow Pirates need to keep the Battlecat out of action to prevent it from progressing deeper into the base, and the NEVEC need to keep it active by carrying out repairs.
Alpha Lair is next, placing an Akrid at the centre of the map that needs to be killed in order to obtain a T-Eng sample. Each team then fights over the sample as they strive to deliver it to their base in order to score a point. It's essentially capture the flag with a big scary Akrid that's eaten said flag. There's more squabbling over T-Energy on the Quarantine map too (why can't we all just get along!?), with more attack and defend objectives on the side.
NEVEC need to stop the Snow Pirates from restoring power to the facility, who then need to hold a control room, which the NEVEC must defend. Should the Snow Pirates take the room, then they can steal the T-Eng canister. It's something of a tall order, especially when one of the character perks enables the deployment of sentry turrets. Predictably, the control room ends up being populated by several of these turrets, making even getting near to the canister an almost insurmountable feat. This mode seems a little unbalanced at present.
There's the sweet whiff of Counter-Strike on the next map, as it involves planting explosives and ensuring that they go boom. It's the Research Lab where shield generators need to be destroyed by the Snow Pirates who then need to steal another bloody T-Eng sample. This then has to be transported to a helicopter thingy waiting on the launch pad outside, which chalks up a win for the Snow Pirates.
Finally, we have a quick game on the Contract map, which again gives the Snow Pirates the job of capturing and holding a position while under attack from the NEVEC team. Repairing a faulty drawbridge enables you to break into one of the buildings, but it's an open area susceptible to sniping from the cliffside above. Suffice it to say, like the other maps it's pretty tough going for the Snow Pirates. Being a Snow Pirate sucks.
Spark is also promising a co-op Horde-style mode called Akrid Survival for Lost Planet 3, although sadly there's currently no mention of the popular Akrid Hunter mode, which is disappointing. Here's hoping it's being held back for a later announcement. Multiplayer also has the obligatory upgrades and custom loadouts, which you can obtain via the 'progression sphere', and there's certainly no shortage of weapons, gadgets and other perks to take advantage of.
As well as deployable turrets, you can also leave fatal noxious gas behind when you die, throw down a shield barrier and more as part of your perks mapped to the left and right of the d-pad. The weapon selection ranges from machine guns to shotguns, to explosive crossbows and rifles that spew electric death, with various grenades to chuck about too.
Most importantly, Lost Planet 3 multiplayer plays smoothly, and is a bit faster than the previous two games. And despite the apparent limitations of the grappling hook, you're still incredibly mobile, especially when you can grapple between suspended ziplines. Chuck in the good old VS mechs on the Stronghold map, and it's all shaping up rather nicely. Yet, the age-old question remains about its long-term prospects, because in these competitive Call of Duty times, you really need to bring something truly unique and special to the table, and currently it all seems a little on the generic side.
And while Lost Planet 3's multiplayer is undeniably enjoyable, we're unsure it currently has that all-important x-factor to make it stand out from the crowd. Single-player is rather engaging though, and our second look at Jim Peyton's story gives us the opportunity to explore the game's NEVEC base, the hub where you'll maintain your Rig and liaise with both your boss and Sam Gale, your trusty Rig technician.
Fellow contractors like LaRoche will also interact with you, and you can visit Birdie, the base's Quartermaster to buy weapons and upgrades. A good shotgun comes in handy for our next task, which has us sent on a rescue mission to save LaRoche and activate a data post found deep inside an Akrid hive, left by our ill-fated predecessor, Diaz. It's 'hazard pay' for Peyton, but he has a wife and child back on Earth to take care of.
It might not be much like Lost Planet: Extreme Condition or Lost Planet 2, as it's far more narrative-driven, and the absence of LP2's co-op is a shame, but LP3's story has a great deal of potential based on the sections we've played thus far. Indeed, based on Lost Planet 2, it doesn't really have a whole lot to live up to, but an apparent shift of focus back to good old fashioned Akrid slaughter is a very good thing. There are also opportunities to transform your Rig into a mining platform, enabling you to drill for T-Eng while staving off Akrid attacks instigated by the mining vibrations, which mixes up the gameplay a bit.
Capcom is clearly investing a lot in Lost Planet 3, and as the first game being handled by a western developer – one with a fairly dubious pedigree to boot – we can understand fan concerns that it might not live up to expectations. However, what we've played to date has been solid stuff; cinematic, enjoyable and interesting. Whether it can hold that interest throughout and whether multiplayer can reel enough players in, well, the jury is still out on that one. With months to go until Lost Planet 3 launches, it's showing a great deal of potential as a decent Akrid slaying sequel. With snow. Plenty of snow.
Lost Planet 3 is out on August 27th in North America, August 29th in Japan, and August 30th in Europe. There's a whopping 27 new screenshots in the gallery.