Rolling into our appointment with Lucasarts at E3 we knew we were going to be checking out the newest game in the Star Wars family, but beyond that we weren’t sure what to expect. Let’s face it; there have been a lot of lackluster titles released for the IP over the years.
Not counting SWTOR of course, one of the more recent among them was the much hyped Force Unleashed. A baffling amount of hype had been built up for that game, but at the end of the day it was simply another in a long string of God of War wannabes. Even more baffling is the fact that a sequel ever saw the light of day, but that’s beside the point.
Needless to say, I went into the presentation room with a healthy dose of skepticism swirling through my brain. Shortly thereafter, however, the lights in our makeshift freight elevator began to fade as did any concerns I may have had that Star Wars 1313 would fail to spark my interest.
I’ll even take that one step further; what followed was probably the biggest surprise of my entire E3 experience this year.
One of the first things worth noting about SW1313 is that it focuses on bounty hunters rather than their force-wielding brethren. My initial response was that the game would then likely go in one of two basic directions. Either it would be a slightly new take on the traditional third-person cover shooter ala Gears of Boredom or it the developers would hopefully attempt to break from that particular overplayed gameplay formula.
Thankfully, SW1313 is very much the latter of the two, and in some ways that I absolutely wasn’t expecting. Before I proceed I do want to be up front about the fact that the live gameplay demo we were shown was exactly that – a proof of concept demo level built specifically for the presentation. While that’s entirely common in the gaming industry, it also means that no matter how cool a game may look at events, you really don’t know if it will translate into the final product.
One example of this was the main character our demo driver was playing. Lucasarts was up front about the fact that we were not seeing final characters that we’ll see in the game, but rather demo characters they’ve been using internally as proof of concept filler bunnies.
That said, if the developers are able to achieve the same quality experience in the full game, it could very well end up being the industry’s next benchmark title that makes a sizable generational leap towards true cinematic quality in gaming. In fact, I was sitting right next to our demo driver, and throughout the presentation I kept turning my head to check if he were playing the game or if we were watching an expertly crafted cutscene.
The cinematic presentation of SW1313 is noteworthy for a number of reasons - perhaps the biggest among them being that the game is being developed in conjunction with the various companies that fall under the Lucas umbrella. For example, ILM has been a leader when it comes to pushing the special effects envelope in cinema since back in the earliest days of the Star Wars saga. Their contributions here are readily apparent, because Star Wars 1313 is quite literally like playing a game where the epic, high rez intro cinematic keeps right on rolling, seamlessly transitioning into live gameplay.
The graphical quality of the game is easily one of the most impressive visual achievements I’ve seen in gaming to date. In much the same way the original Crysis had jaw-dropping graphics when it first hit the scene, 1313 takes that same visual experience and cranks it up to 11.
One of Lucasarts’ goals here is to push the graphics as far as they can possibly go while still delivering a game that maintains a solid 30 FPS no matter how graphically intensive the on-screen action becomes. As we watched the demo level unfold, we were able to monitor an FPS counter in the bottom left corner of the screen. While there were one or two points where some noticeable hitching occurred along with a corresponding drop in framerate, overall the counter stayed in the green and well above the 30 FPS target mark.
As for gameplay specifics, much of the details still remain shrouded in mystery for the time being. What we do know so far is that it focuses on the bounty hunter, and takes place on level 1313 of Coruscant which will no doubt be a wretched hive of scum and villainy. If the demo level is any indication, the game reminded me of a rookie cop going out on his first major investigation only to have things go horribly wrong from the very outset.
While that’s a pretty general statement, we also weren’t really shown a lot of gameplay since the bulk of the presentation focused on benchmark achievements in lighting, motion capture, and other techy aspects of what was going on behind the scenes.
Still, Star Wars 1313 came into the ring swinging and will quite possibly deliver the knockout success that the IP really needs to remain vital in the gaming space for the modern era. It’s also said to be a very mature game which is a smart call across the board. While I can appreciate that there has been a lot of time and energy invested in attracting a new generation to the Star Wars universe, it’s about time someone finally realized that core SW fans are now middle aged professionals and might actually want a Star Wars game that isn’t hyper kid friendly.