The Uncanny Valley – not a location in the new Lost Planet, but a term used to describe the levels of discomfort we feel when the features of artificial characters become almost, but not quite, lifelike. This is where Lost Planet 3 took me fairly quickly. The characters are very well defined, losing some of the shine or flat colouration we sometimes like to have associated with our games characters and the opening scene in the Coronis station between Braddock and one of the other characters was the one which established this. I thought I was watching real people for a few seconds.
Lost Planet 3 sees a return to the planet of E.D.N III, or actually, it sees us first arrive at E.D.N. III, as this game is set before the original title. The game also returns to the narrative format of the first rather than the dis-jointed and lumpy episodic mission-based construct which was Lost Planet 2. Our hero, Jim Payton, is introduced to us as an old man who recounts the story of his life on E.D.N. III to his granddaughter as he’s dying following some kind of cave-in. We know that NEVEC – the main antagonist organisation from the first game – have shown their true colours and Jim is working with a rebel force against their tyrannical rule.
Of course it didn’t start out like that as his story shows him arriving at E.D.N. II on a contract working for NEVEC (NeoVenus Construction) to exploit the planets resources to save a polluted and resource depleted Earth. Jim meets a set of interesting characters as you run through the first few missions and get to know both the locations and how to use you ‘Rig’.
If you’ve played either of the first two titles, you’ll know about VS’s. These are basically walking gun platforms and provide a significant amount of firepower. In Lost Planet 3 we have Rigs which are mining and exploration mechs much more in the old style. Fully enclosed 20+ foot machines which make a big stompy noise when you walk around. Rigs don’t have weapons – that would make this a military rather than research project, you see – but they do have big grabbing claws and drills which can do a decent amount of damage to ice walls and your average Akrid.
they do have big grabbing claws and drills which can do a decent amount of damage
Yes, the skittery, spitting, biting, slashing native inhabitants of E.D.N. III are here too of course. And dispatching them still allows you to gather up the T-ENG or Thermal Energy which they leave behind, but there is a departure from the other titles at this point. The first game had T-ENG firmly coupled to your health. Run out of it and you die. In fact it was perfectly possible to die by standing still and doing nothing as the T-ENG drained away. The second title allowed you to boost your life with T-ENG you’d gathered along the way but it was only rarely that I had to do this. The third Lost Planet has de-coupled life and T-ENG completely, and the mysterious substance is now revealed as a source of power available in various different purity levels which you gather and use basically as a currency to buy both weapons and upgrades for your Rig.
As you proceed through the game the upgrades added to your Rig become essential for progress and as the story unfolds you become aware that NEVEC are truly not people who you’d want to have on your Christmas card list.
The two main activities in the game are exploring, solving puzzles, and shooting things on foot, and exploring, solving puzzles, and mashing thing in your Rig in first-person view. The Rig-based elements of Lost Planet 3 are a bundle of fun and I know that if I were Jim Peyton I’d be spending as much time as possible doing the stomping around thing too.
My only big problem is the loading times between zones, especially in the earlier part of the game. Fast travel is added part way through – when you’ve actually discovered enough of the map to make it worth while – but before then it was actually quite intrusive and remained a massive pause in the action for the rest of the game.