When Capcom pulled back the curtain on Lost Planet 3 early in 2012 it wasn’t the change in direction that turned heads, it was the fact that development duties had handed over to a Western studio, namely Spark Unlimited. Anyone a semblance of interest in games will recall the Sherman Oaks based developer as the team responsible for two of the most horrific games of a generation: Turning Point and Legendary: The Box.
It’s no wonder then, that Capcom did everything it possibly could to steer the spotlight away from that particularly sour detail that it no doubt hoped to turn into a success story, much like the coupling of Dead Rising and Blue Castle, or Devil May Cry and Ninja Theory. So then, has the bet paid off? It has, for the most part. The surprisingly solid narrative follows Jim Peyton, a colonist sent to E.D.N. III to aid in terraforming the icy rock. Jim’s a family man, his wife and child waiting patiently back on Earth, their relationship and history deftly woven into the game’s tapestry via a series of video messages. Cut scenes are plentiful, but handled with aplomb (much less so in-game), bolstering the experience without ever feeling like they’re treading on the need to get to actual gameplay.
VS Mechs have now been replaced with Rigs; slower, larger and more brutish machines equipped with powerful drills and claw arms rather than heavy-duty firepower. That’s not to say they’re any less useful. In fact some of Lost Planet 3’s best moments take place inside the Rig’s steel cockpit, including a digital dust up with a gargantuan crab-like beastie that called for blocking, parrying and the gloriously gory drilling of its orange fleshy parts.
Combat on foot has been suitably altered too, with Spark leafing through the pages of the usual suspects for inspiration, including Gears Of War and Dead Space. In fact, Lost Planet 3 owes more than its fair share of debt to Visceral’s deep space terror tale. Jim’s suit is kitted out with a device eerily similar to that of Isaac’s holographic HUD, and there are more than a handful of sections that evoke memories of exploring the Ishimura. Sure, Spark has borrowed heavily from what’s come before, but its strength lies in how it manages to weave each element neatly into the next without compromising too much of the series’ identity in the process, and its clear that a studio dogged by the stigma of underperformance has poured its all into delivering a sequel that stands on its own, while trying to push the franchise in a new and intriguing direction.