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Star Wars 1313 – Preview

In a private room set high above the rush of the E3 show floor I begin my descent to Level 1313.

‘We have to thank Nvidia for supplying us with the hardware to be able to demonstrate this game,’ begins LucasArts’ Craig Derrick ahead of a demonstration of Star Wars 1313, a game which really set tongues wagging at this year’s E3.

In a private room set high above the rush of the E3 show floor myself and a few other journalists find ourselves gathered within what is essentially a space shuttle’s cargo hold as we begin our “descent” to Level 1313, a subterranean habitat within the planet Coruscant where criminals and bounty hunters vie for supremacy.

Described as the first ‘mature Star Wars game’ 1313 is a collaboration of all of the Lucas brand’s key technology centres with Dominic Robilliard’s design team at LucasArts calling in assistance from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Skywalker Sound to create as authentic a Star Wars experience as has ever been beheld away from the cinema screen.

The session opens with a look at the motion capture equipment used over at ILM – the very same used to capture the movements of Mark Ruffalo as he smashed and bashed in the guise of the Hulk during the recent Avengers movie.

Of course, as is pointed out, the difference between rendering such animation – with the necessary lighting and smoothness – on a film and in real time (as is the case for a game) is huge; the development team confirming that only now has technology caught up to the point where such processing is possible.

As we watch an actor recording his part of the game, in traditional mo-cap suit but with two cameras affixed to his face to cord every single expression (so enabling both interaction between actors and LA Noire like precision of facial movements), the penny begins to drop that what we’re witnessing is exceedingly high-end tech.

Then, as the scene changes to that actor’s resulting in-game character, there’s barely any degradation of movement, coloration or detail and, suddenly, we’re in the game – as an intro which you would automatically assume was pre-rendered due to its quality gives way to playable action without missing a beat – somehow I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

‘We’re unable to confirm release platforms at this time,’ says Derrick at the inevitable tirade of questions (that is, at least, once the assembled press have picked their jaws up from the floor). ‘But could this run on PS3 or Xbox 360?’ someone asks; a question merely dismissed by a wry smile.

As for what can be discerned from the brief glimpse at gameplay, well, it seems we can expect Uncharted in Stormtrooper’s clothing, as our presumed protagonist leapt, climbed, and leapt some more over a burning, plummeting shuttle – his craft having been boarded by a particularly mean looking hunter droid.

In fact, space setting aside, we could have been watching a next-gen Nathan Drake adventure, so similar was the series of breathless events that assailed the bounty hunter hero, albeit one with authentic blaster sounds and that certain Star Wars feel about it. Don’t expect to be hearing the swoosh of lightsaber anytime soon though, the developer confirming that the game will be neither Jedi, nor their weapon of choice.

Worth the wait? Usually ‘yes’ or ‘no’ suffices but here the bigger question is inevitably: How long will the wait be? With the majority of titles at this year’s E3 due to land in March 2013 at the latest (with the only notable exceptions 1313 and Ubisoft’s similarly stunning Watch Dogs) it seems logical that once next March has come and gone we could be due some sort of major technological announcement.

There’s no doubting that such a graphical leap is worth waiting for, but, as to whether there’s the innovation in gameplay to match the that of the visuals, well, that remains to be seen.

For: PC and ‘unconfirmed consoles’
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
When? 2013/2014