A good friend of mine once posed perhaps the most intelligent question I’ve ever heard him utter: “Is Capcom an American company with Japanese influence, or a Japanese company with an American influence?” At the time, I thought he was just being a jerk about Resident Evil 5 involving a strong white man beating black people with a cattle prod, but it got me thinking. Capcom seems to be a company so desperate for American approval; they’d sell their own mothers for button-up shirts that had the American flag on them.
Lately they’re games have been drawing ever closer to the world of the West. Their two most recent Resident Evil games had abandoned so much of their original design that they were nothing more than a generic indie zombie shooter with a triple-A budget. Now with Lost Planet 3 in the scene, I’m a bit worried. The frozen survival title from the Xbox 360’s launch had already seen a huge change with the addition of a co-op focused storyline, making me cautious to the release of a prequel with Johnny America as the protagonist.
Visually Superior - I generally don’t like to go on about the visual appeal of a game, but Lost Planet 3 has me impressed. As a title riding on the end of the current generation’s life, it’s a very beautiful game that pushes these consoles to their max. Everything from the character’s faces, to their clothing is well done, allowing Lost Planet 3 to leave unique impressions despite it being a shooter. The cool blue and orange color palette also accentuates everything, making important details stand out sharp.
Hilarious Stereotypes - Say what you want about being racist, but I don’t think anyone at Capcom checks anything for improper ethnic stereotypes before submitting it to print. All the Americans are backwards rednecks, the random French fellow is more offensive than Pepe Le Pew, and the only intelligent scientist is a savant who looks like he was hit in the face with a shovel. Don’t get me wrong, these stereotypes actually hold the game together in an odd way. All of the character’s odd stereotypes add a great deal of humor to the game, making every random conversation worth hearing.
Atmosphere - EDN III is a deserted ice planet from Satan’s own imagination, and I’m not just saying that because that’s how I feel I should describe it. Capcom has gone all out to make you feel like you’re suffering right alongside your bearded protagonist. Everything from the sluggish robot moving from one place to another while pot shooting bugs with your exacto-claw cannon to hiding from killer centipedes in an abandoned outpost drips with atmosphere. It’s really quite impressive when you get down to it. There was one part in particular towards the beginning of the game where Jim falls into an Akrid nest that really stood out. Ultimately, it’s the atmospheric work that I wish had gone into a better game, but I’ll get to that later.
Deception - Lost Planet 3 may be a prequel, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything new to be learned. Sure the NEVEC guys are kinda jerks, but you figure that NEVEC at least takes care of its own archeological scumbags, right? That’s the thing about Lost Planet 3. Sure you know that in a few years a kid is going to wake up with a harmonizer and have a huge Zone of Enders battle sequence before coming down with amnesia, but that doesn’t mean the story of how harmonizers came to be isn’t interesting. The story telling in Lost Planet 3 is simply amazing. Once again though, I wish these skills had been used on a better game.
Terrible Controls - I remember the first Lost Planet had some pretty messed up controls with the whole “the same button you use to pick up weapons also ejects you from a cockpit during a huge boss battle” set up, but at least they were bearable. Lost Planet 3 has taken any sense of intuitive controls and launched them out the window. Now, I was playing this title on the PC, so my gripes about the P key being the button that picks up junk probably isn’t valid for console gamers. However, having to hold down a key to access an inventory system is nonsense. It’s as if the developers forgot what the toggle command was halfway through development.
Gears of War 4 - Remember when I said that Capcom is being too heavily influenced by American ideals back in my introduction? If you don’t believe that the garbage that was Resident Evil 6 was inspired by American design, play Lost Planet 3 for five minutes. All original semblance of vertical combat has completely disappeared in favor of cover based shooting. Not that cover based shooting is a bad thing. It’s pretty nice to have a shooting mechanic that only requires one hand. However, going from amazing, intense jumping gun fights to cover based shooting with key grapple points is a terrible decision for a unique franchise.
Regenerating Health - Lost Planet set a new standard when they introduced a new concept on regenerating health. Rather than regenerating health every time you duck behind cover, Lost Planet forced players to keep hunting due to the fact that their health was reliant on how much juice was in their harmonizer. Lost Planet 3 doesn’t seem to like this idea anymore and has gone to basic regenerating health. Now, to be fair, the game regenerates health slower than I imagine a real human could recover from injuries, but that doesn’t matter. Balls-to-the-wall combat has been replaced with cover-based shooting.
Useless Side Quests - I remember in the beginning of Lost Planet 3, my boss at the time offered me up a gig to fix random pieces of equipment throughout the base in exchange for orange crack. I thought it was a pretty good deal and began to focus my time and efforts into checking every place I visited for stuff to repair. Ultimately, I found pretty much nothing. This quickly became a common theme. Someone would tell me to do something on the side, and then I’d never do it because it wasn’t worth it. In fact, the only quest worth doing was hunting for albino Akrid in a freaking snow storm, which made me feel right silly for doing so. The problem with the side quests was that Lost Planet 3 didn’t necessarily have any fun ways to navigate from point A to point B, making doing them more of a glorified chore than a mission.
Give Me Back my Hook - I can handle making a pretty good level based platformer an open-world cover based shooter, I can. However, I cannot choke down the fact that they took out my grappling hook. No, seriously, I understand the game is a cover-based shooter, but Capcom just took one of the most defining features of Lost Planet and watered it down to pig piss. You don’t take out the grappling hook to accommodate your level design; you design levels to make an awesome feature even more awesome.
Prequels Aren’t Invitations to Backtrack - The problem with Lost Planet 3 is that it’s a prequel, and cool things like an upgraded grappling hook or a Harmonizer haven’t been invented yet. However, that is a terrible excuse, at best. Just because a game is a prequel doesn’t mean you can’t include the ideas from the first two titles. Look at Halo: Reach. They figured out that backtracking from Halo 3 all the way back to the first title would have been a terrible idea that would set gamers back to the age of the unstoppable pistol sniping. What did they do? They said “making a game feel like a genuine prequel is less important than an awesome and fun game, to hell with backtracking!” That logic made Halo: Reach awesome, and why doing the opposite made Lost Planet 3 suck.
I Hate Everyone - Despite being hilarious, there’s not a single character in Lost Planet 3 worth listening to. Jim’s mechanic reminds me too much of Ellie from Left 4 Dead 2, the Frenchie is a real bastard in every sense of the word, and I have a creeping suspicion that being abandoned on a frozen planet by your employer has a tendency to turn people into Native American cultists. In fact, the only character I can say was worth listening to was Jim, and he was only bearable because he cracked terrible jokes and couldn’t think about anything other than earning a quick buck. To put it simply, past their terrible stereotyping, the characters aren’t going to be remembered.
Covered in Bugs - I can enjoy a good glitch as much as the next guy, but Lost Planet 3 has some of the worst. Enemies randomly getting stuck in objects seems like a welcome change to having to restart checkpoints because interaction spots on the map didn’t load properly. It got so bad at one point that I found my character stuck levitating while making a falling motion during a protection mission. You figure a game with someone like Capcom backing it would have a half decent bug-test team.
The biggest problem with Lost Planet 3 was that Capcom was trying to use a familiar IP to try a new idea. They realized that people have a tendency to buy cover-based shooters and figured if they slapped a recognizable face to it, people would buy it without a second thought. The issue with that logic is that fans of the series get disappointed, and people who never played Lost Planet probably won’t be interested in the title because it’s too unfamiliar to them. It’s a big slap on the face to Americans as it feels like Capcom has said “We want your money and realize you stupid American dogs love Gears of War, here; have Gears of War 4: The Frozen Chapters.” Ultimately, it’s a bad idea with a triple-A budget.
*This review was based on the retail PC version.*