There are two types of bad games. Those that try for something great and simply miss the mark, and those that just didn’t care at all and end up being the exact sum of their efforts. While “Lost Planet 3” is an example of the former, which is normally the better way to go, here it’s a frustrating case of a game with incredible potential not making the most of it.
Let’s back up a bit. “Lost Planet 3” is the return of a series that had its 15 minutes of fame during the Xbox 360 launch for featuring an impressive snow world that proved to be one of the initial examples of things that the 360 could do that wasn’t possible before.
Those amazing graphics, and some lightning fast gameplay, made the series stand out for a time, but its star faded only months after its release, and a 2010 follow-up did little to improve its standing, as it only emphasized the same elements and gameplay that by then had more than worn out their welcome.
That’s where new developer Spark Unlimited takes over for this third installment, and their designs to turn the series into something relevant are immediately apparent. A prequel to the initial games, renewed focused has now been placed on the plot, which may borrow liberally from movies like “Alien,” “The Thing,” “Starship Troopers” and other classic sci-fi staples, but is actually really, really good. Told through found audio and text logs, along with traditional cut scenes and environmental clues, it revolves largely around a new energy source on a hostile (and still very snowy) planet, and the trials your blue collar protagonist endures in his pursuit of it as a contract worker for a shady organization.
Like I said, it’s not an entirely original tale, but the way it’s presented is incredibly effective, as nearly every part of the game serves to advance the plot in some way, whether leading you to the next act, or just letting the large cast of characters spout some entertaining dialogue. You may see many of its moves coming, but going through the various twists and turns is truly a thrill.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the gameplay, which simply falls short. The once frantic action has been slowed to a crawl in terms of pacing, and combat that only serves to bridge the gap between story bits, leading to an experience that recreates the fun of mowing the lawn to earn money for a movie ticket. It doesn’t help that the game’s many attempts at tension and fright are usually undercut by the fact your character is a bit of an overpowered smart ass, and that there are only a few constantly repeating enemy types throughout the entire game. Even if those lesser issues weren’t present, though, the wonky targeting system and bad camerawork that fuels most of the action would still send the entertainment factor plummeting.
The developers tried to implement a few different gameplay diversions like mech suit segments and a multiplayer mode to try to help liven up the broken shooting mechanics, but unfortunately, the damage to the core game goes too deep and prevents them from being anything more than victims to the same issues.
“Lost Planet 3” is like that sci-fi movie sequel that fans of the series will eventually trumpet as being underrated, but most ultimately couldn’t really care about either way. While the effort put into turning this game into an intriguing and franchise-saving installment is evident, the way it sets your expectations so high in the early moments, only makes the fall back to reality brought on by the gameplay that much harder. All things taken into account, “Lost Planet 3” is not a horrible weekend rental, or discounted used pick up, but its uneven design keeps it far away from any greater status.