Walking into the LucasArts demo room for Star Wars 1313, there was palpable sense of anticipation in the air. Among those attending this presentation off the show floor were industry professionals, former LucasArts employees, Star Wars superfans attending E3, and me, a guy who struggled to finish the first Force Unleashed game and hasn’t touched Kinect Star Wars. (Well, what is there to touch other than the game disc, am I right?) Suffice to say, this was an audience that was hoping for a new dawn from the publisher that gave us Knights of the Old Republic, Republic Commando, Rogue Squadron, and Dark Forces.
As the lights in the booth dimmed, and the introductory reel gave us a look at the team behind 1313, it was clear that these were indeed the droids we were looking for. And by droids, I mean the corporate synergy that probably should have coalesced into gaming magnificence long ago, finally borne fruit. 1313’s development team at LucasArts is being assisted by the creative talent of Lucasfilm Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, a pleasing amalgamation of Lucas-owned properties that should be familiar to anyone who has seen a special effect in a movie in the last twenty-five years.
Our demo began aboard a vessel in Coruscant’s crowded spaceports, with our protagonist and an older associate following a cargo container being stored in the ship’s hold. Their banter is interrupted when the ‘rust bucket’ shows its age and the container drops to the deck, which concerns the two men. They race to keep the shipment secure as a dangerous looking alien species attempts to claw itself free from the stasis chamber, and finally secure the package and return to the cockpit for their journey into the depths of the Jewel of the Core.
Immediately evident from this cutscene is the care and detail that LucasArts has gone to in their new world. Our main characters here walk fluidly, mouths move in sync with the dialogue, and their interaction with the environment is precise and genuine. Much of this has to do with the full-body motion capture used by ILM, and now more frequently found in video games from studios like Naughty Dog and Ninja Theory, which allows for performances taken directly from the actors to be digitized and translated into the game. This lends 1313 a sense of actual existing within the Star Wars universe in a way that The Force Unleashed never quite seemed to grasp.
The second half of the demo, however, really stood out as some of the best I’ve seen at E3 this year. Set upon by a group of mercenaries, led by a droid that bore a passing resemblance to General Grievous’ IG-100 MagnaGuards, the pre-rendered cutscene shifted seamlessly into realtime gameplay, with little-to-no discernible change in quality of environments or character models. An explosion rips apart the rear end of the vessel, allowing the team to show off their particle effects, sound design, and improved physics engine. Smoke and flame pour from the ship’s stern, and crates (and characters) not secured are tossed around the cabin. The smoke effects in particular impressed, doubtless a product of ILM’s care and attention to even the smallest detail.
As enemies descend upon our (anti)-hero, the game’s combat system comes to light, employing a cover-based mechanic similar to other third-person action games, especially the Uncharted series. The unnamed bounty hunter drops into cover smoothly, pops out to blast aggressors, vaults over and around cover with ease, and even pulls one of Uncharted hero Nathan Drake’s signature moves when he pulls an enemy over the cover they both shared and knocks him out with a blaster to the forehead. Jumping forward a bit in the trailer, our player clambers and climbs over a burning ships’ hull from one point to the next, with the ease and agility of Sony’s signature fortune hunter.
If I had been sitting down, I may have been on the edge of my seat for much of presentation. Star Wars 1313 may still be a ways off from release but the promise of this E3 demo has me firmly in the camp anticipating more information from Lucas and co. Many thanks must go to Brooks Brown, community manager and social media specialist for LucasArts, who was a fantastic host and spokesperson for this game and for his company, and made this Star Wars fan’s dreams a reality. In the midst of high profile gameplay demonstrations from Assassin’s Creed III, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, and Halo 4, 1313 stands out as one my highlights of E3 2012, and one of my most anticipated titles for the foreseeable future.
With no release date announced, keep checking EUCantina.net for all your information on Star Wars 1313.