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Spark Unlimited has not had the most stellar track record. Of their three games previous to this one, Call of Duty: Finest Hour, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, and Legendary, Finest Hour was arguably their best. The sad part is that that game isn’t all that great. I’ll admit, when I’d heard that Spark was developing the third main entry in the Lost Planet franchise, I did not have high hopes. I highly doubted that they’d be able to make a good successor to what are two very challenging and fun third-person shooters. At best, I expected some drab cash-in of piss-poor quality because, hey, that’s what Capcom’s been fond of doing these days. Originally, I hadn’t heard good things about Lost Planet 3, either, and thus avoided it, only to grow curious recently. So I gave the game a try and, frankly, it’s one of the biggest surprises from gaming I’ve seen. Oh, and just to add… friggin’ John Carpenter even liked the game. John Carpenter!
In this prequel to the first two games, you are Jim Peyton, a simple man who has left Earth to travel to the ice planet of E.D.N. III as a private contractor in hopes of making money for his wife and newborn baby boy back home. As you’d expect from a video game story, however, the plot gains in complexity, as Jim stumbles upon secrets that place himself, his friends, his family, and even the planet at stake. Yay, drama. In actuality… the game’s actually really well written. Astonishingly so. No character is a stereotype, the dialogue is very natural, the video messages sent between Jim and his wife are incredibly organic, and the plot has nice twists. Not all of the twists are unexpected, but innovating while writing a plot is actually ridiculously hard if you’ve ever tried it (and I have… and failed miserably). Seriously, though, this is one of the best written video games I’ve ever played. In fact, the Writer’s Guild of America has nominated the game for the “Outstanding Achievement in Writing for Video Games” award, right up there with The Last of Us, Batman Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and God of War: Ascension. I, uh, actually hope Lost Planet 3 wins, too. Don’t kill me for saying that, please. I know everyone loves The Last of Us, but I have to give credit where credit is due.
Gameplay-wise, the game is nothing special. It’s not altogether that different from the previous two Lost Planet games, but it does have its differences. For one, the all-important T-Energy that kept you from freezing to death before now serves simply as currency and nothing else. The jump button’s been kicked out in favor of a dodge (which I prefer), and the grappling hook’s… actually been nerfed, surprisingly. The Vital Suits, which were basically mechs, from the previous games have been removed for their predecessor, a Rig. It’s basically another mech, but larger and has no guns. Yes, you read that right. You never get guns for the thing. The game explains that the Rigs can’t be weaponized due to everything being a mining operation and not a military one, with your boss possibly getting fired if people were to put firearms on the big mechs, though you do get a grappling hook that serves as a ranged weapon. As a part of combat, the Rig doesn’t have a huge part. It’s mostly just a way to get you around areas relatively quickly, since there’s a rather large amount of traveling in this game. Most of the game actually revolves around walking about in your mech, then getting out and shooting the inhabitants of E.D.N. III, the Akrid. Of course, the series’ famous orange weak spots on the enemies are still here and serve as practically the only way to kill armored Akrid. The problem I perhaps have with on-foot combat is that the weapons are all really rather conventional. There’s an assault rifle, a shotgun, a pulse gun, a grenade launcher, a pistol, a hunting rifle, a rivet gun (which isn’t actually that cool), and other basic weapons. Nothing special, really. They do the job, though, and while they aren’t particularly amazing to shoot, they aren’t boring to use either (save for the rivet gun). There is a nice variety of Akrid on the game, too, and there’s certainly some large baddies that are exciting to fight. I will say, though, that the game is too easy on normal difficulty. If you want any sort of challenge, kick it up a notch.
There’s a lot of content in the game, too. There’s albino taarkas (a special form of Akrid) to kill, audio and text logs to collect, Akrid DNA to tag, and a number of side quests to complement the main quest. Some of these quests require backtracking, but I never felt as though the backtracking was illogical. Getting T-Energy from previously established energy posts, for example, makes sense and nets you extra money for just a bit of effort. The main story itself can last you a good 10 hours. If you’re a completionist, you’ll probably get about 14 or 15 hours out of the game in total. Replay value, though, is more or less nonexistent, so it’s a good thing the game is as long as it is. If you’re thinking about playing the multiplayer for the game, though… too bad. It’s dead. Deader than a hooker picked up by Joel Rifkin. It doesn’t really look like a huge loss, from what I’ve seen. I’ll likely never know how good it was, though. What I do know is that a dead multiplayer mode isn’t exactly giving you more content, really.
I should also like to point out that the game doesn’t look bad either, so you certainly won’t hate spending time on the planet. Textures are far from great, but they aren’t ugly. The ice could’ve had more done to it, however. Foot prints, for instance, would’ve been nice, especially considering the previous games had that. Lost Planet on PC also had some damned good fur on Wayne Holden’s coat when playing with DirectX 10. However, Lost Planet 3, to my knowledge, still uses DX9, which means that while the game still technically looks better, there are parts that are a downgrade. I know it’s a different engine and all, but a downgrade’s a downgrade. There are some nice vistas, though. Animation is typically good, but not exactly astonishing. That doesn’t surprise me, however. I highly doubt this game had that high of a budget. Now, where the animation doesn’t bring life to the characters, the voice acting does. All of the characters are well-acted, especially Jim Peyton (voiced by a man named Bill Watterson. And no, not the Calvin and Hobbes artist) though there is a rather large amount of Laura Bailey in the game. Other elements of the sound are fine. Gun effects aren’t great, but they get the job done, save for the Pulse Rifle which may be one of the most useful guns in the game, but it basically goes ‘pewpewpew’, as these guns tend to do in games. The soundtrack… is amazing. It’s a pleasant mix of your typical cinematic orchestral score with… space country? Aha, it’s certainly a unique mix, and done very well by the excellent Jack Wall, who has composed music for Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1 and 2, amongst a number of other games. I actually ended up buying the OST, actually, and am enjoying it immensely.
There is certainly no doubt that the game’s main appeal is the story. So, for those that are looking for an excellent story, especially in which the gameplay doesn’t sacrifice the story’s logic, then look no further because this game has an excellent one. If you’re looking for the next amazing third-person shooter and couldn’t care less… I’m not sure I could recommend this. I mean, the mechanics are solid, but they’re not done exceptionally well and I had more fun in gameplay with the first game. The game obviously isn’t for everyone and if you’re one of those that loves the first two games for their gameplay, you might be a bit alienated with this one since it doesn’t go batshit crazy. For the former group, I can fully recommend the $50 purchase. For the group looking for a TPS more than anything else, wait for a sale.
-This review was based off of the PC version of the game.-