(Capcom for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
The Lost Planet series has been nothing if not interesting as it charted its course across this console generation. It began as an early showpiece for HD graphics in 2007, wowing new Xbox 360 owners with its impressively realized snow planet and explosive action. After a fascinating but misguided second entry – which attempted to recast the series as a multiplayer-focused, Monster Hunter-style bug hunt – the franchise seemed finished until Capcom handed the reigns to outside developer Spark Unlimited for the third installment. With Lost Planet 3, Spark dials down the bombast of the original and the teamwork focus of the sequel, recasting the series as a more personal, narrative-driven adventure. True to form, the game is definitely interesting, if not entirely successful.
Playing as Jim Peyton, a family man who takes a mining job on a far off planet, you’ll encounter many of the series’ trademarks, from battling the intense weather to piloting mechs to blasting the native Akrid aliens in their glowing weak spots. Having a home base where you spend most of your time between story missions (taking on other jobs, upgrading your weapons) makes sense, and Jim is a likeable everyman who has believable reactions to chaotic situations and sympathetic interactions with his crew members and his wife at home.
Unfortunately, all of the locations you need to visit at the base are way too spread out, which, coupled with the slow movement speed of your mech and Jim, is murder on the pacing of the game. When the action kicks in, though, Lost Planet 3 is a solid third-person shooter. It plays it very safe within the conventions of the genre, but battling the alien threat on a snowy cliff or on rocky terrain above lava pools makes for an exciting time. That solid foundation carries over to the competitive multiplayer, which features all of the standard modes (deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.), in addition to a standout variant wherein you work with teammates in a Horde-style battle against the Akrid before facing off against another human team in a showdown for the prize.
Online or off, though, the game struggles to distinguish itself, especially in the middle of a year packed with so many other incredible gaming experiences. The human element that Spark emphasizes in this entry offers an interesting take on the series’ lore, but it’s obscured by other aspects of the game that don’t hold the same appeal.