Successful video game franchises seem to come in groups of three as of late. And so the popular Lost Planet series is back, taking aim at that trilogy-completing sweet spot.
But those expecting the same kind of multiplayer, co-op trigger-pulling found in Lost Planet 2 are going to feel a bit, uh, left out in the cold this time around. Because while each of the three games in this trilogy share common narrative elements, Lost Planet 3 veers from its predecessors' run-and-gun action onto a more story-driven path.
And that's a pretty good choice … for the most part.
A Land of Ice, Energy and Secrets …
We're sent back to the creature-packed world of E.D.N. III where the Neo-Venus Construction Company, or NEVEC, is bankrolling a major dig. Earth, you see, is in dire need of resources. And this frigid, ice-encased planet not only has unique thermal-energy lava flowing through its core, its native creatures have the stuff pumping through their veins, too. Besting these beasties result in bucketfuls of life-saving energy for the desperate folks back home.
That's a familiar setup for Lost Planet games. But there's a twist: Even though this third excursion is packaged as a sequel, it's actually a prequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. The action here takes place some 50 years prior to the original, answering a lot of dangling franchise questions along the way with the help of a NEVEC worker named Jim Peyton.
Peyton is a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. He's a mechanic and a heavy machine operator, and he's not afraid to pick up a gun and use it if necessary. Most importantly, however, he's also a devoted husband and father laboring in this icy no-man's-land in hope of eking out enough hazard-duty pay to support his beloved family on Earth.
That surprisingly tender narrative element undergirds the game and gives it its unique flavor. This isn't a tale of a heavily muscled killer or a vengeance-seeking soldier or a superpowered android with a taste for blood. No, it's simply an involving narrative about a regular, hard-working man who's a long, dangerous way from his home planet and those he loves.
In a way, then, we're offered something of an Avatar-like story arc here. Playing as Peyton, you have to adapt to the hostile world around you. You brave blowing snowstorms while fixing generators and nav-coms, fight off monstrous creatures called Akrid that leap from their glacial hiding places, heroically protect others in danger and ultimately unravel the mystery of what NEVEC is really up to in this frozen netherworld.
The result of all those intermingled gameplay elements is a story that's involving, tense and exciting.
… And a Little Packed Heat
It's also violent.
True, this isn't your typical adrenaline-soaked shoot-'em-up. But Peyton still must grab a pistol, grenade, shotgun or knife to fend off all manner of Akrid interlopers. These critters range from man-sized, insect-like marauders to crab-like monsters the size of a small mountain. And they all gush out gobs of that orange T-energy goop when they fall. As the game progresses, a few hostile encounters also involve thumping, rapid-fire survival battles against human foes.
Elsewhere, Peyton pilots a machine that's replete with a grappling claw and a drill … implements he naturally wields to confront alien creatures and rogue human mech operators (when he's not welding pipes or chipping through ice, that is). Not surprisingly, these struggles result in even more messy onscreen splatter and cries of pain.
There are some language hazards to be wary of too. For the most part, character interactions are interesting and help the story unfold. Unfortunately, there's a dash of sexual innuendo in the mix, and you can't avoid hearing words such as "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑tard" and "b‑‑ch."
Lost or Found?
There's no question that Lost Planet 3's design team has worked hard to deliver more here than just your average third-person shooter. They've admirably avoided the genre's typical blow-'em-all-to-kingdom-come clichés—not to mention the gratuitous excesses that saturate so many similar M-rated titles—and replaced them with creative minigames, good-man-reaching-for-what's-right struggles and wife/family/friend dialogue interactions.
That said, this T-rated title still stashes some problematic stuff in its environmental suit pockets.