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E3 2012: Is Capcom Going Too Mainstream With Lost Planet 3?

Posted on June 8, 2012 AT 08:00am

Big Question: Has Lost Planet 3 become too mainstream?

The original Lost Planet was an action title that clearly came from the minds of Japanese developers, but with Lost Planet 2, Capcom showed signs of wanting the franchise to have a bit more of a Western appeal. The frozen setting of the original gave way to more traditional set pieces, and its action felt like it was trying to fuse Japanese sensibilities with foreign refinement. Still, the game was unquestionably Japanese, as was it unquestionably Capcom. It had that certain uniqueness and style to it synonymous with many projects from the country, and it came across like the beginning of becoming a more sci-fi take on one of the developer’s most popular franchises in Japan—Monster Hunter.

Getting a chance to sit down with Lost Planet 3, the difference is actually jarring at first. We return to the idea of an adventure taking place in a wintery wonderland, but right from the start this doesn’t feel like the first two chapters of the series. If the original Lost Planet and its sequel were Asian science fiction, this is more summer Hollywood action blockbuster. This aura exists even in cutscenes, or the way storyline is presented—the sequences are extremely movie-like in how they reveal clues about our main character and the world he inhabits.

That new direction spills over into the core elements of gameplay as well. Given that my hands-on time with the game was just a brief glimpse at its opening 15 minutes or so, it’s a bit hard to quantify the changes that exist here with hard facts or lists. Playing the game, however, I could sense the change in direction.

We’re introduced to a thermal energy mining facility on E.D.N. III that is more open and explorable. We’re given a quest, and we have to find the person to talk to to take us to our next step. When it comes time for main character Jim Peyton to head out into the treacherous world outside of the safety of the base, he doesn’t just hop into a robot and then buzz around in third-person like previous heroes did. Instead, we go into a first-person cockpit view, where we feel the full weight and scope of our new mode of transportation.

I don’t get far before a freak storm ices over my rig, and I have to get out and de-ice it with some well-placed gunfire. While doing so, I encounter my first set of hostile creatures—and after being pounced upon, the game switches to a more dramatic scene, where well-timed button pressed and frenzied stabs of my knife are required. It’s another harkening back to that idea: Making Lost Planet 3 seem bigger and badder than before.

By far the biggest surprise, however, was the drastic change that happened to one of Lost Planet’s trademark concepts: The grappling hook. In previous titles, players could hook onto anything, and it was both a useful tactic and something that set the game apart from competitor’s offerings. In Lost Planet 3—at least from what I played—the grappling hook can only be used in specific pre-determined situations.

For some players, this might not matter—they’ll appreciate the grander sense of production, the more serious tone to the game, and the expanded Western styling it holds more than such a mechanic. I, however, walked away from my time with Lost Planet 3 less excited than I was going in. I can’t blame the decision Capcom has made in this game’s development, as the work Spark Unlimited is producing definitely feels like it’ll give the game broader appeal for the Gears of War generation. Yet I also can’t help but feel that some of what first made Lost Planet stand out has now been lost.

It’s like when you fall in love with that indie movie that was flawed yet totally fun, and then the studio decides that the follow-up has to be a multi-million dollar production. Sure, your head knowns that the end quality on that follow-up will be on a much higher level—but that wasn’t the direction your heart was wanting it to go in.

If you were a fan of the first two Lost Planets, are you disappointed in Lost Planet 3’s new style? Or are these changes exactly what Capcom needed to do to get you interested in the series?

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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