I recently got to go hands-on with the multiplayer portion of Lost Planet 3. Which basically means that myself and a bunch of other writey people sat in a dark room with our own screens and console boxes to shoot each other in the face for a few hours. It was rather cathartic. The sitting in the dark bit. The game? Well, read on to find out.
Note – the session I attended was an organised preview session using the same Xbox 360 alpha build of the game as the one shown at E3. As such, the final experience may be different. Grain of salt, etc.
We went (mostly) four on four in multiplayer, playing four game modes. First up was team death match. It was your typical TDM fare, with team scores and killing and shooting and maiming. Second, we tried out a mode called Scenario. It played like an assault mode, with a variety of objectives to complete. The slight twist was in the type of objectives, like capturing or defending a point, or repairing a static object, or hacking a device, or retrieving an object in a CTF-style situation. It was interesting and varied, making players adapt their tactics rapidly to different situations. Next we tried Akrid Survival – a hoard mode with a twist. Instead of one team battling the Akrids together, two teams competed in separate arenas against different enemies for points. After a time limit expired, more of the map opened up for another wave of Akrid enemies. In the third and final wave, teams were pitted against each other in a TDM/King of the Hill mashup, and points accrued went towards the score. It was a chaotic game mode, and the innovation in the gameplay was enough to keep it fresh. Finally we played Extraction, which was basically pure King of the Hill.
The most interesting modes by far were Scenario and Akrid Survival. Though they were essentially familiar game modes, the minor tweaks to the gameplay resulted in more unpredictable and chaotic games. It delivered a freshness to the familiar game types most multiplayer gamers have seen before.
Character equipment and loadout are customisable. Killing enemies and completing objectives delivers cash into your bank account, which is stored up like XP and used to unlock various passive abilities, weapons, and equipment using an unlock sphere. There were quite a lot of them, all told, so completionists will have something to do.
More directly affecting gameplay are the custom loadouts you can create and equip. You have a handful of loadout slots, which you can customise and store your favourite setups. You can choose two weapons, a grenade, two deployable items, and two passive perks. Deployables are an interesting way to mix things up. Turrets, energy shields, health or ammo regeneration stations add a variety of tactical options, although most people would probably stick with the turret, since, at the moment at least, it’s overpowered. Deployables are unlimited in use, but can only be activated when you accrue enough points during gameplay, which serves as a way to limit spam. Perks are generally standard fare, with increased reload speed, or faster health regeneration. Some interesting ones included a sixth sense that indicated when an enemy was aiming at you, and a gas grenade that you can release on death.
There are three major differences in Lost Planet 3’s multiplayer gameplay that shake up the status quo. Each gun has an alternate ammunition type. Holding reload switches your main ammo store for a smaller pool, but with added effects. Assault rifle explosive ammo will do greater damage, or grenade launcher bio grenades do extra damage, or incendiary ammo lights targets on fire, or explosive crossbow bolts do the typical/dreaded tag and explode. It’s not a revolutionary idea to have alternate fire modes, but delivering it as an alternate swappable ammunition type feels fresh.
Next up is the Vital Suit. It’s essentially an armoured mech-suit that players can enter or exit. While inside you gain a rocket launcher and a mini-gun, and become rather unstoppable. Killing becomes a breeze, but watch out if you’re damaged too much – your Suit will explode, possibly killing you and your allies.
Finally, we come to my favourite addition – the grappling hook. With a tap of the left bumper, you’ll cast out a line towards the nearest ledge. It’s handled similarly to Arkham’s Batman, with a speedy thunk and zip to the next position. You can go upwards, get a quick horizontal boost if you spot a box, or rappel down, which removes the slight stutter of jumping off a ledge. Lost Planet 3’s grapple has a shorter range, but it comes in very useful to traverse the maps and get the drop on the enemy. And there are many ledges, from natural caves, to glassless windows. Grappling opens up many unconventional paths that can bypass a well-guarded objective and keep the defenders on their toes. It’s smooth and intuitive, and works very well.
Weapons feel slow and heavy. The assault rifle in particular has a slow-ish rate of fire. This lends weight to combat, which was pleasant to experience. Melee attacks feel strangely detached from the character, though. The hitbox for the melee attack was strangely off at first, requiring practice to pull off a strike or instant kill first go. The overall impression I got from the combat was one of weight. Everything about Lost Planet 3 feels crunchy – almost clunky, but deliberately so.
That translated to the enemy monsters – the Akrid. In the survival mode, the Akrid enemies tended to be quite strong. Projectile firing Akrids were nimble, accurate, and hit hard, while the larger charging beasts took a massive volume of fire to take down. Unfortunately, Akrid enemies were difficult because they were bullet sponges, not because they called for complex strategy. Shooting the bigger ones, even as a team, was a chore. I can’t comment on what they’re like in single player, since it was a multiplayer demo, but I do hope the Akrid enemies in the campaign have a little bit thinner hide.
So, overall, Lost Planet 3 is a heavy presence on the gaming horizon. If Spark Unlimited and Capcom can keep the weightiness of combat that I felt consistently throughout the single player campaign, and balance the Akrid enemy strength, then we may just be on to something. Hopefully, a distinct mood, strong story, and tactile combat will mix well together to sate our third person shooter needs. We’ll all find out if that happens when Lost Planet 3 is released this August.
Lost Planet 3 is scheduled for release on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on August 27th in North America, August 29th in Australia, and August 30th across Europe. You can view the latest trailer below.