When I started playing Lost Planet 3, I felt it immediately. Intrinsically, I knew it was made by a different team than the first two games. Lost Planet 3 has a distinctly western feel to it, and its trappings should be comfortable to anyone that has played a third-person shooter made in the last few years. Left trigger to aim, right trigger to shoot – dodge, take cover, reload, repeat. Familiar, perhaps, but by no means is that a bad thing.

Lost Planet has, in fact, changed hands, moving from Capcom itself to California developer Spark Unlimited. It's too early to tell if the change will give the franchise the shot in the arm it needs after Lost Planet 2, but what I experienced seems like a step in the right direction. As Jim Peyton, I was tasked with repairing a communications relay, inconveniently (though perhaps practically) located on the top of an icy mountain. Unfortunately, said mountain is crawling with nasty Akrid – Lost Planet's iconic, exposed-weak-spot-ridden monsters. More specifically, it's infested with some freak show mosquitos, which pop out of glistening, nasty sphincters in the walls of the cavern that lead to the top of the mountain. Dispatching them is simple enough, using either an assault rifle or a shotgun.

Rounding a corner, I ran into a fairly unintuitive quick-time event. After being pinned down by one of the massive mosquitos, I had to line up a reticle with its head and pull the trigger, though this goal was a bit unclear. To simulate the struggle (I suppose) the reticle was difficult to move, to the point that I wasn't quite sure I was in control of it at all until a nearby rep explained how it worked.

The cover system never really shined during my hands-on session, with cover itself only occasionally appearing. Furthermore, when it was available, it didn't seem terribly useful, and the enemies didn't interact with it in any meaningful way. These are giant mosquitos, after all, not Locusts, meaning there wasn't much gunfire to avoid. In fairness, I was told that my trip up the mountain had been greatly truncated to save time for the demonstration, so it's possible that the final version could feature more varied and interesting combat scenarios.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, I scared off a massive, chitinous Akrid and set about my business. After reactivating a few parts of the array via a few more unnecessary QTEs – "Hold B to press this button!" – I summoned my rig (a massive mech detailed by our own Dave Hinkle earlier this year) to help me complete the adjustment of a satellite dish. Unfortunately, before I could finish the job, the huge, scorpion-like Akrid reemerged from its cave.

When operating a rig, Lost Planet 3 is played from a first-person perspective, which drives home the enormity both of the mech itself and the monsters it faces. The mech felt powerful, and it moved with a real sense of weight. From within the cockpit, I could jab at the creature with a huge drill or fire out a tethered claw. In a battle reminiscent of Robot Jox, I traded blows with the beast, eventually grabbing its tail and plunging my drill into the glowing weak spot at its base. Again, this was accomplished via quick-time event which, at one point, explicitly said something along the lines of "lift tail to drill weak point." That's quite a contrast: one QTE that didn't give me enough information, followed by one that gave me too much.

I'm not against QTEs (obviously); they can lend a sense of drama and cinematic quality to a game, but the execution in my demo was definitely a bit off. Ideally, a QTE should strike a balance between instruction and intuition, but that wasn't on display here. With my foe vanquished, I was finally able to realign the satellite dish, turning a massive screw with my mech's claw (seriously, who designed this array?).

Awkward QTEs aside, Lost Planet 3 already feels better than its wonky brethren. I'd like to see more variety in the combat, but the simple, standard approach to its mechanics serves the game well. Coupled with impressive visuals and what seemed to be pretty decent voice acting, Lost Planet 3 could put the icy series on much more solid footing.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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