Lost Planet 3 and the dichotomy of man and machine

There's an interesting clash of play styles I discovered during my preview session of Lost Planet 3. When within his rig – a giant biped mech armed with a huge drill and claw – protagonist Jim is nearly invincible, try as you might to get to the soft, fleshy core of this hulking mechanical giant.

Yet Lost Planet 3 won't let you get away with cruising through the campaign from within the safety of Jim's rig – often he'll be forced to get out, navigating the cold tundras of E.D.N. III alone. It's at these times when I felt weak and without a safety net during my E3 demo. It's an interesting dichotomy not seen in many other games out there right now.

The dangers of a blisteringly cold ice planet are obvious, and the segments where Jim is on foot are incredibly hazardous. Exploring a web of caves, I stumbled upon an akrid nest. Think: the next scene in Aliens. There were eggs everywhere, hatching and releasing akrid spawn. My assault rifle quickly became ineffective at crowd control. Good thing I found that shotgun, which had the just the right amount of oomph.

It wasn't long before I found momma akrid, a large crab-like thing with pincers. It was a boss with an identity crisis, continually charging me like some bull who spotted a man in a puffy red parka. Shoot, roll to the side, and shoot some more.

I felt vulnerable and completely outmatched – the perfect combination of terror and panic only well-crafted scenarios can produce. I didn't have massive wells of ammo to draw from. I had to be nimble and crafty. I had to be smart about when I shot and where. And because of this, the reward of finally bringing this thing down was ever so sweet. Taking on such a thing in my mech would've been a decidedly different gameplay experience, one I feel would've lost all of the characteristics I enjoyed in the tense encounter.

These contrasts of feeling incredibly powerful and invincible within the rig, and feeling alone and desperate and vulnerable on foot, instilled a variety in Lost Planet 3 I haven't seen in many other games. If Spark Unlimited sustains that trend throughout the entirety of Lost Planet 3, I think they'll produce a fine game – and, dare I say, perhaps the best entry in the series yet.
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This article was originally published on Joystiq.