Saturday, April 6, 2013

PAX East 2013: Lost Planet 3


Among the playable games at Capcom’s PAX East booth was Lost Planet 3 for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Having never played the first games in the series, I decided to try it out. My playtime was limited so I was unable to experience the entire demo, leaving out certain mechanics such as Mech battles against larger monsters. My experience was limited to a third person segment of me traveling though an abandoned laboratory of some sort.

The game takes place before the events of the first Lost Planet game on the still frozen planet, E.D.N. III. Our main character, Jim Peyton is sent to the planet by the corporation NEVEC in order to mine resources for the Earth by using a massive mining mech. As he continues his mining, he finds pockets of heat energy that melts away the snow and begins to uncover details about NEVEC and the ferocious monsters that live on the planet. During my playthough, the game would occasionally cut from the action to a cutscene where Jim is recording a video to his wife, explaining his job and the wonders he sees. It is an interesting way to describe the game’s background and to create contrast in Jim's character, from being cheerful on the video to becoming worried and violent when moving the frozen landscape.

The part I played in the demo felt what could have been the game’s first mission, as the main character seemed surprised by various events taking place. After melting one area, he found a facility beneath the ice and snow, questioning why it was there. Entering the dark, frozen complex, my immediate thought was how much it reminded me of Dead Space 3. The persistent darkness, mounting numbers of dead bodies, and ominous noises from the air vents were all things I had seen Dead Space do before. At one point, I had to force open a door that I knew it would lead to a monster attack. Sure enough, after pressing the X button to force open the door, an insect jumped on top of me. Once the bug had jumped on me, the game prompted me to press the X button rapidly. But after that, two reticules appeared on screen, which I assumed had to be aligned. After three tries ending in failure, I learned I had to press the right trigger once they had been matched up. This bothered me, as there was plenty of button prompts everywhere else in the demo but here.

After that event, I was able to move about a large generator room where I got a good look at the game’s emphasis on lighting. A large glowing mechanism lit up the room while large panels rotated around it, creating moments of darkness. If there was one thing Lost Planet 3’s demo did well, it was the lighting. Shortly after entering the room, I was attacked by more alien insects. Much like in other third-person shooters, I had to aim my shotgun toward them as they approached. However, I quickly found that to be rather difficult as the camera moved in too close to Jim, making it hard for me to see the targets, not to mention that the aiming sensitivity was too high, causing me to often over-shoot the monsters. While sensitivity might be customizable, I am not sure about the camera work, which made fighting the smaller monsters challenging. Another thing I noticed was the lack of any run button. I tried a variety of buttons and could not find the sprint button. In a game with monsters, running is important as I tried to keep my distance form them. It is possible that my trouble with controls could have been fixed with customization or by simply playing the game more.

My time with the demo ended with me turning off the generator to get through a locked door. In order to turn it off, I had to hold the X button down for several seconds as the generator slowed down. I felt this was a foreshadowing of events later in the game where Jim might have to turn something on or off while hoards of monsters try to stop him. As expected, once the generator was turned off, a bunch of insects entered the facility prompting another battle but this time with much less lighting. It was here that my playtime ended.

Lost Planet 3 may take place before the first game in the series, but my experience made me feel closer to what I had seen of Dead Space 3 more than the Lost Planet series. While I hear there are other additions as wel' as mech battles, I sadly did not get a chance to play them so my impressions are limited. The close aiming camera, lack of running, and the promptless quick-time events were my biggest frustrations of the game, while its lighting and environment were definitely its strengths. I hope the other portions of the game outweigh the parts I had trouble with, or else this game will have trouble standing out from other games using the same style of aesthetic. Keep an eye out for more of this game when it comes out for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC in June.

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