Lost in Space
Its freezing cold, my mech is tumbling wildly to the side as I take yet another brutal assault from a rolling Akrid and I'm looking at the HUD to see the mech's structural integrity falling rapidly with each failed block. It might feel a bit like an extended QTE where I'm meant to tap the right bumper to intercept the Akrid roller and smack it down, but I'm hitting other buttons and loving the fact I can do this without needing to block. I'm testing Jim Peyton's (my) Rig to destruction and I couldn't be happier.
The X button punches the Akrid with the Rig's arm and then it's stunned, I grab it with the other and lift it up to introduce the varmint to about 10,000 RPM of titanium-tipped spinning deathkill, it's a great feeling and you might actually be soul-dead if you don't appreciate the use of a good Rig based drill grind-down on the enemy.
Golden glowing T-Energy fills the screen as the blood of the Akrid rains down onto my Rig's cockpit glass, the whine of the drill mixes intoxicatingly with the screams of the dying creature. The atmosphere here created by the mix of the graphics, the sound and the feeling of physical combat totally works and it's making me remember Pacific Rim and in a good way.
I'm all too focussed on my impending victory to notice the other rolling Akrid, it hits my Rig like a freight-train and the warning siren sounds. I'm ejected automatically onto the cold frosty ground of EDN-III. Am I scared?
I should be, because the Akrid looks menacingly larger now I'm down on the ground and he's brought some friends. There's a nimble monstrous panther-like beastie and some smaller annoying Akrid that move around and try and get a good chunk out of my hide as I roll to the side. My weapon of choice is a shotgun, a meaty thing that spits leaden death in a variety of special weapon ammo flavours - in this case it's a bounce shot and it's pretty damn effective.
I manage to toss a grenade into the charging panther-Akrid's open maw and it goes boom with a satisfying chunky explosion, bringing the large beast sliding to a halt before it shuffles off to a better place. The shotgun puts pay to the annoying mini-Akrid as I keep out of the way of them, their rolling big comrade and dive nimbly to the side of the Rig - right into the wash of lights cast by the really smooth looking graphics.
The Rig looks fantastic if a little beat up at the moment, but I know the self-repair circuits are working overtime and soon I'll be back in the driving seat - just got to hold out a little longer. All around me more Akrid are swarming and the roller is getting ready for another blast.
I'm knocked off my feet this time and that hurts, I let him have a few shells from the shotgun and then it's off to the side again. I keep moving because staying in one spot ends in a grisly death so I'm told. I'm not going to go down like that! I've fought the Covenant, the Locust and more space aliens than you can shake an XCOM at.
The Rig rises up and the lights brighten, I rush toward it and hit the enter button. Jim's harness snaps us up into the cockpit and in a few seconds I'm able to stun the final roller. Now its payback time, as I lift the big monster right up into the whirling drill arm I'm getting Big Daddy flashbacks from Bioshock and grinning like I just won the Space Derby. It's over all too soon and I sit back from the fight thinking - yeah, this is a good game.
The Rig controls were a little awkward at first, but like climbing into a copter in Battlefield 3 or GTA IV - once you get used to them it feels pretty decent. These aren't the agile mechs of Titanfall or anime here, this is a work Rig and it feels cumbersome - not a finely honed war machine.
I flip to my HUD and check my mission objective. I'm looking for a side mission, to plant a T-ENG post out here in the vicious EDN-III. It's not too far now and I decide I need a bit of Rig trundling music - so I flip to the in-Rig stereo and the game scans my networked music on my network.
Soon there's Wanted: Dead or Alive playing in the background and I eject down to gather up resources and poke around for secrets.
The music sounds different in the harsh outdoors, played over the Rig's external speakers and I gather up the fallen T-ENG scraps. This is now my currency for buying upgrades to the Rig and weapons/mods/upgrades for Jim's arsenal.
I like the feel of the game. I like the on-foot controls and they feel natural as I explore even more. I really like Jim, he's come across as a genuine guy and through various cut-scenes he is brought to life with some of the most amazing facial animation that the Unreal Engine can offer. It's fantastic stuff and when combined with the animation of the game in general it's really quite a decent all-round package.
Jim's relationship with his wife is explored in video logs and communications that he sends back home, it helps ground the character and give him more heart and soul than a dozen G.I. Joe cut-out clones.
My scavenging leads to a couple of scraps with minor Akrid, they're wasted without too much of a problem and their T-ENG will help to bolster my resources too.
I notice that the mission marker isn't far away from where I need to be, so I step lively. I am being brave as all around me the hostile planet of EDN-III is brought to life through sharp visuals and even sharper sound-design. There's a big storm just in the distance and I've seen one of those up close and personal. I know it was a scripted event but it was amazing really. The game does a good job of presenting these big areas as part of an overall sandbox and whilst there' s loading for Lost Planet 3, if they decide to push this angle onto Next Gen then those loading screens will be a thing of the past.
So, I get to the mission marker and I notice that one by one as I step further away from my Rig's HUD umbilical connection elements of my HUD are going dark one by one. Fading away before my eyes, it's kind of horrific in a good atmospheric way and one of the nice little touches that makes Lost Planet 3 kind of neat.
Soon I have no HUD and I am all alone out here in the Akrid infested tunnels, shooting bugs and having more fun in the game than I've had in the recent slew of Alien games. All save for AVP and AVP 2 since they were superb entries to the franchise. In many places Lost Planet 3 feels like on-foot in AVP 1&2 albeit in 3rd person; with a decent movement and combat control system and a passable cover system too. It's not doing anything amazing or fantastic, but it works and that's what matters.
With my T-ENG post finally planted I make my way past more Akrid, down to my pistol only now and forced to dish out less damage but with endless ammo. You need it too, the Akrid swarms are relentless and they can come from damn-near anywhere.
As the HUD elements fade back in and I hear the strains of yet more music from the Rig, I know I'm getting closer. The welcome lights of the Rig shine through the area and soon I'm back in the safe and warm cab. It's time to return to the HQ and cash in some of these T-ENG credits for more goodies.
The journey back brings more Akrid and some brutal battles with more rollers, this time though I've got the block-stun down to a T and its over pretty quickly. More T-Eng collected on foot - I'm back in the Rig and on track to home. After a slog through the areas towards the base, I finally reach the hangar and leave the mech in a parking spot.
A few people want words with me, so I indulge in some talking before I head off to the shop and see what I can buy.
In many ways that's what Lost Planet 3 feels like. It feels like you're an Everyman hero, like Isaac Clarke in Dead Space...you're not a Space Marine or a Badass Cog soldier - you're Jim Peyton - aka Nicholas Cage in Space (seriously - he looks like a young bearded Nic Cage). It works for me too, it might not work for everyone and judging by many of the game industry critics its hit far lower scores than it deserves.
Yet the user scores are much higher. So you gamers, like me, must actually quite like the game. Odd that.
So, me and Jim Cage are best friends now. I have cashed in my T-ENG and I'm ridin' high on new weapon mods, new ammo stocks and a few mods for the Rig. I can take more damage in big monster combat now and I can dish out more too.
I haven't had this much fun with a game for a while.
I won't say much more about it in terms of gameplay, save to say that the game looks nice, it plays well and as you get further into it - even though the story is a prequel to Lost Planet it answers a few questions you might have about NEVEC and a bunch of other Lost Planet things you might wonder about. Including why Jim's face doesn't freeze off when he leaves his Rig.
The game has a gear-gating system that locks certain areas off until you get further into the story and there are a few twists and turns along the way. In one section it was a better Aliens game than Aliens Colonial Marines (not hard I grant you), but the analogy works.
The music is also great too. Jack Ward brings the game's score to life with a mix of strangely compelling tracks fused with a definite Starcraft 2, Starhhawk, Firefly - Country vibe. The score is really decent and I bought the soundtrack on the strength of just that. I couldn't resist.
The Akrid are a tricky bunch and they all have varied attack patterns based on their particular type. The rollers are vicious and evil bugger who will charge at you and keep on mercilessly eroding your resources unless you're by the Rig. If you're by the Rig then you can get to the weapon lockers on the legs and replenish your non-specialist stocks right away. Special ammo has to be bought from shops.
The deeper you get into the game, the more enemy types and encounters you'll find to keep you on your toes.
Lost Planet 3 has a lot going for it on the strength of the single player and to casually dismiss it as just another dumb shooter is pretty unfair. Yes the developer doesn't have a stellar track record, but this one is far from a turkey at all. It might not be to everyone's taste but there's a lot going on here and the graphics are solid when it comes to the character designs, the facial animation (as mentioned previously) is really good and the characters have real depth and feeling.
The voice acting in the game helps to solidify that too. There are some really good performances and Jim is a really excellent character as he communicates his intentions and evolves over the course of the game.
The rest of the cast does an equally good job.
Then there's the multiplayer side of the game, one which I did get to spend some time with and mentioned in my last article. I'll refresh it here right now...
It plays like it does on the tin, and I'm not all that into the multiplayer side of the game. It works though and it's relatively lag free. I did have a few initial issues with it and at one point it crashed.
When it works it's really quite fun and I can see a lot of Lost Planet fans enjoying a return to being able to use the old VS mechs from the first couple of games.
With all that said: why is the game only an 8?
The multiplayer crash didn't help and the load times can be a bit on the long side, especially when you're used to quicker loads on other games. Whilst the game is really well detailed it doesn't push the boundaries of an 8.5 or a 9 title.
Don't discount it just because it's an 8 though, give it a try and see what you think yourselves - because at the end of the day I'm just a gamer who loves games and I'm sharing what I think about this one. You might love it, you might hate it - if you don't play it though how're you going to know?
I personally think the game's superb fun and visually stunning when the big set pieces kick off. That's good enough for me when I'm enjoying it for the spectacle and competent shooter / mech game it is.
Catch you out there on EDN-III I hope, just listen for the country music in the distance.