Lost Planet 3 PS3 preview: everything’s changed. It’s now a mech FPS that loves Dead Space

Lost Planet 3 is a massive change in direction for the series. It’s dumping Lost Planet 2′s co-op focused and grind-heavy campaign for a story-driven adventure in colossal open hubs where you’ll talk to NPCs, uncover side quests, upgrade your gear, and build your own bipedal mech Rig from custom parts you’ll unlock over the course of the campaign.

“It’s very different,” says Lost Planet boss Kenji Oguro. “Lost Planet 2 focused on online and multiplayer but Lost Planet 3 has a very strong narrative focus. I’ve had a lot of ideas about the series that I haven’t been able to realise until now – in particular how I can make the player perform a certain action or make them feel a certain way. These are the kinds of things I put a lot of thought into realising the third Lost Planet. In that regard, it kind of makes good on a lot the lingering ideas we had for the series in general.”

If all that sounds exciting just bear in mind that  Spark Unlimited is behind Lost Planet 3. They were responsible for Legendary: The Box and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty – two games scraping such low scores on Metacritic they’d barely hit an eighty if you added them together. It’s absolutely the last studio you’d turn to if you were after a guaranteed critical and commercial hit so they’re… an interesting choice.

The story is set in EDN III’s distant past, long before the events of Lost Planet and the thaw which turned the ice world hot for Lost Planet 2. It stars Jim, a common working fella, is among the first human colonists on EDN III, mining the planet down to its core and sending the minerals home to Earth where his family is awaiting his return.

Jim has overcome his handicap of having Nicholas Cage’s face by being a loving father, a hard worker, and a dependable Rig pilot for mining corporation NEVEC. The predecessor of Lost Planet’s militarised VS mechs, NEVEC’s basic Rig stands around thirty feet tall and is equipped with a drill arm and a claw arm, though even early in the game you’ll overhear Jim’s colleagues making demands for mounted weapons to combat the indigenous Akrid.

In the first Lost Planet NEVEC had become a dictatorial force, rounding up the rebel Snow Pirates and plotting to scour the planet of all life in their terraforming efforts, but 150 years earlier humanity went to war against the Akrid and lost.

In the years before that war, NEVEC sought to make the world habitable one acre at a time, using the thermal posts you’ll have found littered throughout Lost Planet 1 and 2, but even in the glory days of the corporation there are rumours that maybe NEVEC isn’t telling their workers the whole story about EDN III. It’s a secret Jim will begin unravelling in the game’s very first missions.

Lost Planet 3 begins at NEVEC’s home base on EDN III. Jim sleeps in his Rig as a pre-recorded message to his wife is mailed back home. He’s awoken by NEVEC’s mechanic, fitting a zipline to the Rig for speedy access out in the field, and he’ll need it, because ice storms can descend in seconds and Akrid swarm in their dozens out in EDN’s frozen wastes.

Around the base Jim can talk with NPCs, accept side quests, upgrade his Rig and equipment using T-ENG – a commodity rather than a health resource in Lost Planet 3 – and buy new weapons, but for Capcom’s Captivate demo from around an hour into the game it’s straight into the story as Jim takes on a mission every other worker turned down.

A new breed of Akrid has them scared but the local NEVEC boss is prepared to pay double for Jim’s help; a nearby location needs scouting, Akrid or no, and Jim is desperate enough to do it. The sooner he can get rich, the sooner he can return home, and so he mounts up in his Rig and prepares for launch.