A few years back, Capcom gave you plenty of reason to fear the cold when it first introduced Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, an action/adventure game taking place on a frozen tundra of an alien planet, forcing you to face off with hostile extraterrestrials and mercenaries alike.  The game was a huge success for the company, prompting them to release the sequel, Lost Planet 2, which featured lush new environments and a slew of new alien threats to take down.  That game was well received by fans, but the company felt it was time for a change, a new direction.  And it’s giving us that with Lost Planet 3, a sequel that’s being developed by a new team, Spark Unlimited.

Spark previously worked on the apocalyptic first-person shooter Legendary, which had a great theme but, due to bad marketing, wasn’t as well received as the developer was hoping.  However, they aren’t letting that get in the way of the bold vision being presented with this latest Lost Planet. 

Lost Planet 3 takes place years before the events of the first two games, with E.D.N. III (the original exploration planet) still covered in snow.  A scattering of colonists is on the planet, employed by the Neo-Venus Construction company (or NEVEC for short).  The main hero, Jim, is employed by the crew, sent there to do some mining with the help of a top level droid called the Rig, which uses a drill and claw for arms.  Though not much else has been revealed about the story, it’s expected that Jim will run head-long into extraterrestrial trouble, making him question what NEVEC’s motivations for the mining experiment truly are.

Capcom had a playable demo of Lost Planet 3 on the show floor at the Comic-Con International at San Diego last week, as part of its fully packed booth.  While we were there, they showed us two gameplay segments to show just how serious Spark Unlimited is at putting action into the game.

The first segment takes place in the Rig, the huge robot that you’ll occasionally guide through parts of the game.  This droid is a slow-moving one, definitely not as fleeting on foot as Jim is running through chasms.  However, what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in power, as you can use its drill and claw to not only get through openings, but also deal with alien threats on an up-close level.  As a result, you’re in for some fun fights, even though you’re not as fully armed as other mech units from previous Lost Planet games.  Hey, sometimes you just have to keep it simple.

The other portion of the game introduces us to Jim, and his ability to either follow story-based missions that help move the plot along, or side missions that help out his local colonists.  For our demo, we opted to do some exploration deep within E.D.N. III, digging deeper into the mountain by rappelling off ledges and eventually settling somewhere near the core of the planet.  Unfortunately, it’s here that we’re introduced to a huge alien creature, one with a set of glowing legs and a nasty habit of charging at you.  Fortunately, Jim can dive out of the way, temporarily distracting the creature and giving you time to shoot at the weak spots in the legs, slowing it down enough so you can expose its back and dish out some real damage – if you live long enough, that is.

We won’t lie – Lost Planet 3 has a much better scale of battle than the previous two games.  Spark redid the controls in both parts of the game so that it feels a lot more natural, and not nearly as iffy when it comes to using utilities and weapon selection.  That didn’t stop the game from being a beast at times, but the final product should provide ample opportunity to really move forward – especially if you’re working with a friend in online-supported co-op.  (Sadly, we didn’t get to try that, but we will soon enough.)

Spark may not have the biggest development slate out there, but Lost Planet 3 is definitely looking spectacular thus far.  The attention paid to both indoor and outdoor environments is fascinating, and every icicle and snow heap appears convincingly real.  Not to mention that the game has some nastier creatures than the first two Planets provided.  The dialogue isn’t bad either, though Capcom is staying mum on who’s doing the voice for Jim.  We’ll find out soon enough.

If Capcom and Spark can keep up on this kind of development scale with Lost Planet 3, it could very well pull off quite a feat that even the first two games couldn’t come close to.  And let’s not forget that the co-op could be quite effective as well, provided you have the right kind of partner to keep you out of trouble.

We’ll get a better look at Lost Planet 3 – including its surrounding details – a bit later, well before its early 2013 release.  But it’s looking better than intended, which is a good thing.