If one game’s sequel rut is another’s sequel groove, Lost Planet 3 offers evidence that Capcom is trying to get back in rhythm with the derailed bug shooter. In a wave of new demos of the game in the run-up to E3, the publisher is trying to throw out the parts that didn’t work in the first two games and rebuild the entire concept around a groovy variation between empowerment and disempowerment.
Most strikingly the demo footage reveals a sequence with the be-furred space hero trotting along a frozen plain with no weapon while being attacked by a space slug with claws in its mouth. In the first game these dopey little creatures were the weakest in the game but a player’s relationship with an enemy can be completely changed by a simple change in design, in this case taking away the character’s gun.
The short sequences are reminiscent of the brain slug parts of Playdead’s Limbo, where players suddenly lost the ability to jump while a glowing beastie burrowed into their head. The much-loathed Duke Nukem Forever had a similarly interesting reversal of mechanics with a mid-game sequence where Duke was shrunken down and had to fight a standard alien hog who, at that size, became a screen-filling endboss.
Scenes like this are important because they add a semi-predictable sense of variation to a game’s patterns. As with music composition, it’s not just a matter of finding the right melody, but presenting it in a way that makes it perceptible above the din of backing instruments and harmonic clutter. Lost Planet 3 follows up these scenes of dramatic disempowerment with scenes where the hero tromps around in a giant mech suit and discharges whatever tension and unease the gun-less parts of the game will have built up.
Whether that’s a groove worth building a whole game around is unclear, but it’s definitely a rhythmic refinement that benefits from having a few earlier tries to reference.