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Lost Planet 3 preview: Get ready for more big boss fights (hands-on)

Lost Planet 3, a video game prequel coming in early 2013, will continue the tradition of putting a player in front of impossibly big monsters on the fictional ice planet of E.D.N. III.

Spark Unlimited, the maker of games such as Legendary: The Box and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, has replaced Capcom’s internal teams as the developer of the title. We’ll see if the change will put some heat into the franchise. The first entry in the series, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, debuted in 2006 sold and more than 2.8 million copies, but the second, Lost Planet 2, was a disappointment with 1.5 million copies sold in 2010.

The story is narrative driven. In this prequel, the main character has no idea what he is getting himself into. Jim Peyton is a blue-collar energy mining worker who has come to E.D.N. III to mine a power source known as T-Energy. Working for the Neo-Venus Construction interstellar corporation, he is earning “hazard pay” money for his wife and young son who live on a distant planet. He communicates with them via video messages, and their correspondences are laced with the emotional tug of separated families. To make more money, Jim volunteers for dangerous assignments, even if they mean risking his life.

The foreshadowing of bad things to come starts with a cinematic scene involving a fellow worker, Larouche, who had his “rig” attacked on his last outing. Larouche’s giant “mech” harvesting machine was heavily damaged on the last mission, and he refuses to go out again, but Jim volunteers to return to the dangerous location of an energy source anyway.

You take control of Jim and move out of the safety of the base. When you mount the rig (via a quick-pull retractor rope), you really get a sense of power. The mech stomps off into a beautiful sunrise above the ice world of E.D.N. III. The base radio operator warns you that an “epsilon class” storm is coming. It gets so icy that you have to stop, get out of your rig, and shoot the ice off of it. While you are on foot, some of the planet’s smaller but toothy creatures attack you, but you can take them out with small-arms fire.

To get to the critical energy area, you have to continue on foot. But, once you get there, you find you have to battle a giant crab-like monster, which is one of the Akrid monster-insect-like species that inhabits E.D.N. III.

To fight this beast, you have to choose between your shotgun or assault rifle. Then you try to get around to the side or back of the monster and fire away. It will charge you, and you have to dive out of its way.  You can shoot the crab’s vulnerable spots, eventually taking off its claws. But it’s hard to do that without running out of ammo. When the crab runs at you like a bull, you sidestep it and shoot at its vulnerable back. You eventually take the monster down.

At the energy location, you set off a T-Energy device that melts the surrounding snow and ice in a flash. It reveals a huge structure, apparently an abandoned mining post, for you to explore. Inside, you find more of the fanged monsters that you take out with your shotgun. You have to find ammo along the way, and you pick up the energy that seeps out of the monsters after you kill them. You explore the underground structure, and meanwhile, you see video playbacks of Jim’s psychological evaluation.

You make your way back to your rig and have to deal with another giant crab. The crab swings an arm at you, but you can block it with your mech arms, much the way a boxer blocks a punch. After you swing at the crab, you can grab its arm and use your giant drill to cut its claw off. You can also take your drill and drive it into its soft orange spot on its back. When the crab deals you a big blow, you have to jump out of your mech and start shooting with your gun on foot. Then you use the retractor to get back into your rig before the crab gets you. Eventually, you take down the crab.

After that, Jim says, “Next time I’m asking for triple pay.” Then, Jim sees the signs of seven more crabs coming at him from under the ice.

This preview shows that the story will be more tightly guided through the experiences of a single character. It will be cinematic and full of one boss battle after another. Not everyone will like this game of swatting giant bugs, but the narrative style is probably the right approach for reaching out toward a larger mass market.

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