Stranded on the surface of E.D.N. III, the first thing that strikes you is just how blue it is. It's an endless azure expanse, punctuated only by Lost Planet's ubiquitous lashings of orange, and it takes the eyes some time to adjust.
One thing that Capcom was keen to impress during our recent hands-on preview was that in this prequel, the blue of E.D.N.III represents a bold new frontier. As Capcom producer Andrew Szymanski describes it, "this is the planet in its most natural state." Taking control of Nevec new recruit Jim Peyton, you're a pioneer; trailblazing your way through previously uncharted terrain. It's man vs. wild, so think of Jim as a particularly beardy Bear Grylls who has no qualms about upsetting the natural order if it means mining as much of that sweet, sweet thermal energy as is humanly possible.
The main bulk of our preview takes us through the game's initial single player missions, in which Jim recovers a transponder from a crash site, tangles with the Akrid - the planet's indigenous creatures, and accompanies a vehicular drill to report for duty on Nevec base, Coronis. Once safely there, we dutifully check in with our superior foreman Braddock. Jim is no soldier- he's here to earn a quick buck and leave a rich man, which explains his eagerness to take on the riskier, and thus higher paid jobs.
"I think that we've made a lot of great strides," said Szymanski, "with the performances, with the characterisation, with the dialogue and the writing, to make it feel as though Jim and all the other characters are actual believable human beings instead of just these stereotypical soldier types." Wandering around Coronis, you get that impression from the people you meet and overhear. These aren't military jarheads, they're salt of the earth, blue-collar workers employed to do a job. The fact that this job requires them to tolerate and indeed destroy giant space crabs is just an inconvenient occupational hazard.
A mission later on in our playthrough introduces us to young Gale, an enthusiastic tech prodigy who cheerfully takes us through the basics of operating our very own Akrid-cracking utility rig. There's a greater emphasis on rigs throughout Lost Planet 3, and this is reinforced with a so-called 'umbilical' link between Peyton and his bucket of bolts. If he ventures too far away from the mech whilst out in the field, our HUD radar disappears.
Controlling the rig itself is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our playthrough; it's a lumbering and cumbersome beast, but because of that you feel the weight and power behind every stride. It also switches you into a first person perspective, which gives a better sense of the rig's size and scale. Nestled in that cockpit with a drill arm at your disposal, you feel nigh on untouchable - a feeling that'll surely dissipate as soon as we get up close and personal with some of the planet's larger, uglier natives.
Peyton's first official assignment is to find and rescue a wayward co-worker, Renard LaRoche, in a network of underground caves. Due to a steep incline, we're forced to exit the safety of our rig halfway to locate the missing Frenchman on foot. This leads to picking off some skittering, swarming sepias - the most basic organisms on E.D.N.III - and then a duo of heavily armoured Dongos, who require evasive manoeuvres and of course, a few shots to their glowing orange posteriors to defeat. This sequence, and all the combat we've experienced in LP3 thus far, feels familiar - and not in a good way.