Capcom is returning to the frigid origins of its bestselling Lost Planet franchise with its third game, which serves as a prequel to the franchise. In development at Spark Unlimited in California, Lost Planet 3 will be released in early 2013 across PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game debuted at Captivate 2012 with a hands-off playable demo driven by the game’s creative director Kenji Owasan and producer Andrew Szymanski.

“When you think of Lost Planet, images of snow, ice and frigid and harsh conditions come to mind,” said Owasan. “Lost Planet 3 is the closest any of the games have come to the original idea for this franchise. Key tenants for this game have been creating a harsh and severe environment that challenges players to survive on E.D.N. III, while uncovering new mysteries of the planet and enjoying fun and engaging gameplay. We’re pleased with how these core tenants are coming through.”

Owasan promises a dynamic battle field that’s more dangerous than ever before with an ever-changing climate that will affect the way you play. Extreme blizzards and solar storms will impact the game just as much as the alien life forms called Akrids, which come in a variety of deadly shapes and sizes.

 “We wanted to return to extreme conditions of the franchise,” said Szymanski. “We’re taking the foreboding nature of E.D.N. III and blowing that out. To do this, we went back in time prior to events in first game, when the planet was in its most dangerous state. We’ve also introduced a very narrative-driven game. Jim, the main character, is a working class guy from Earth who has agreed to drive a rig on E.D.N. III, which is a very difficult job, because he needs the hazard pay to send back to his wife, Grace, and newborn son.”

In what looks like something out of the Rebel base on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, the Coronis base is a combination of naturally occurring cave formations with man-made elements built into them for a natural look and feel. The cavernous hangar area serves as the game’s main hub. It’s in this hub that Jim can talk to NPCs about what’s going on outside as well as buy upgrades to his rig before accepting missions and side-missions before heading out into the cold.

Working for Neo-Venus Construction (NEVEC) , which is preparing the planet for colonization, Jim joins his fellow pioneers and begins surveying the uncharted terrain and obtaining samples of the planet’s energy supply – Thermal Energy.

“This is the largest robot we’ve ever had in the franchise,” said Szymanski. “We’re introducing a first-person perspective inside the utility rig to show the scale of the machine. Players can enter and exit the rig at any time, which is when the game switches to a third-person perspective. The rig has a retractor cable that allows Jim get on and off the ground on foot.”

Once inside the hulking rig, anti-icing procedures are implemented to prepare the machine for the frigid temperatures. The demo required Jim to use the rig’s two large arms to turn and de-ice the pistons that operate the huge hangar bay doors before heading into the snowy landscape. Throughout the game, a video message board flashes relays on-screen from Grace to keep the personal story front and center – even when in the middle of nowhere battling wintry elements. Often times these vignettes are used to play over loading screens and keep the immersion going.

“Our goal was to create a planet that was very cold, but never look like Earth,” explained Szymanski. “When out exploring, extreme storms are a regular occurrence. These storms are unlike anything seen back on Earth and they play an important role in how players can achieve objectives.”

On a regular basis, Jim is forced to exit the rig to shoot the ice off that freezes the legs in place. In addition to navigating storms and the harsh terrain, players will also have to contend with brand new Akrid threats. Akrids are indigenous alien creatures that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and seem to be everywhere. A new pack hunter species of Akrids are introduced in the demo, which requires a cool new interaction between man and machine.

“In order to fight pack hunters you’ll need to use your guns as well as toss several grenades into their mouths,” said Szymanski. “All Akrids have a glowing orange are to illuminate their weak points. By using the rig, players can pick up a pack hunter with its huge arm and then use the drill bit on the other arm to kill it.”

Throughout the game there will be obstacles, in the form of weather, terrain or Akrids, that force Jim out of the safety of the rig and onto foot. The trademark grappling hook returns and allows Jim to navigate large caverns and tunnels through ice formations. In an effort to show how isolated Jim is from the world, the further he gets away from the rig, all of the on-screen readouts fade away.

Szymanski said the shotgun comes in handy for close encounters with Akrids on foot, just as a giant crab-like Akrid rises from the snow. A lot of strategy goes into finishing off Akrids without the rig nearby. In this case, each claw needs to be shot off and a few grenades need to be tossed into its open mouth before shooting at its weak spot on the back of its shell.

“The objective of this mission is to plant a thermal post, which have appeared in past games and have been planted by guys like Jim,” said Szymanski. “These posts emit T-Energy, a powerful source of heat that instantly melts away a century’s worth of ice and snow.”

In the demo, the thermal post opens up hidden area with an old decrepit base that has been built by humans. This plays into a mystery that runs throughout the game, as the company has told Jim and the other workers that they’re the first colonists on the planet. The gameplay moves from the open, white space of the caverns and snowy landscapes to the creepy, more suspenseful close confines of the base. In here, assorted aliens attack – much smaller, but just as deadly. One face-hugging alien Akrid species called leeches swarm from all corners. With each dead Akrid, Jim picks up energy that can be used to update weapons and upgrade his rig.

Once back outside, Jim reunites with his rig only to take on another giant crab Akrid. This time, he’s able to use the rig to tear off its claws and then drill into its back to go in for the kill. As the storm blocks his way forward, the rig turns to see dozens of Akrids emerging from the snow. And the demo ends, leaving you wanting more.