E3 2012: Star Wars 1313 First Look
Developer: LucasArts / Publisher: LucasArts / Platform: PC / Release date: TBD
WHERE IS YOUR FORCE NOW?
There is a great disturbance in The Force looming–and here I am using ‘great’ in the sense of ‘totally awesome’: As if suddenly, finally (and as it were, communally) re-discovering the badass wisdom in the quote “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no substitute for a good blaster at your side”, the people at LucasArts are chucking the rampant Jedi-worship out the nearest rusty airlock and taking the Star Wars gaming franchise in a promising, darker, and reasonably grittier direction. In a very, very early peak at this direction it appears either substantially or wholly devoid of children, Muppets, precious hooded cloaks, chicks who are either offputtingly anhedonic and/or your actual sister, and, most of all, ‘Force Powers’. For the first time, the combined efforts (or Forces, if you prefer) of Lucasfilm Animation, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light & Magic are coming together to help produce a ‘Mature’-content game set in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars 1313, then, puts you in the boots and bandoliers of a morally-ambiguous, scruffy, money-grubbing, nerf-herding, blaster-packing bounty hunter, and offers a cross-sectional glimpse into the reality of their space-mercenary lives. In this case, the cross-sectioning is down…one thousand, three hundred and thirteen levels straight down, in fact, into the menacing depths of ultra-subterranean Coruscant, where—at least according to this game—nothing so Light-side and noble as a Jedi is very damn likely to be found. Well, we assume all that about the main character, since in ultra-secretive mode (and given the game is likely at least a year, if not two, from release—and, we’ll openly speculate, to appear on next-gen consoles as well as the present high-end PC—a “stand-in” was used to demonstrate graphics details and motion capture work so as not to give away the identity of who you’ll be playing as…cough…Boba Fett…cough…(we again speculate).
At a presentation during E3, we were trooped into a conference room that had been temporarily converted into the interior of a spaceship (complete with shades-of-Star-Tours ‘blast shields’ that would retract to reveal vistas that one might see from within such a vessel). There, we got the first substantial glimpses of the work behind LucasArts’ first above-Teen-rated Star Wars title ever. The first behind-the-scenes look at the game focused on the various aforementioned departments within the Lucas force-field teaming up to create the “emotional and visceral” connections needed to produce a gripping gaming experience.
“At ILM, our whole team has worked on so many feature films, with all sorts of directors like Michael Bay to J.J. Abrams to George Lucas; we can throw as much time and resources and processors at something to get a final image out the door—but here in games, there’s such an added level of complexity,” commented one senior LucasArts staffer in the behind-the-scenes video. And so there is, especially when you’re making what has doubtless by now been referred to hundreds if not thousands of times, based on this very early look, as ‘Uncharted in space.’
And that’s a fair enough—and it must be said, complimentary enough and lofty-enough—comparison; in the PC-driven game demonstration, we follow two human merc/bounty-hunter types who, having just packed away a particularly-unhappy Trandoshan bounty/prize inside a large-yet-uncomfortable-looking transit container, want only to pass the time required for their vessel to descend from the surface of Coruscant down, down, and down a yawning, mind-boggling deep shaft to subterranean level 1313 (where, presumably, their charge can be exchanged for profit). The older, gruffer of our two bounty-hunter ‘heroes’—possibly also a placeholder for the real characters that will be in the final game—makes a crack to the effect that this surface atmosphere is the ‘last fresh air’ the two can expect for some time (the younger replies that ‘fresh air is overrated’).
Of course, the prize-transit situation soon goes from Casual to Shitstorm; their vessel is assaulted and boarded, mid-descent, by yet another craft manned by soldiers and/or combat droids. All hell breaks loose as our heroes—temporarily stunned and deafened by an initial, hull-breaching blast that leaves their ears ringing—attempt to fight off the intruders using a mix of stand-up and cover-based blaster-fire combat. At one point, the older (presumably more-experienced) of the two bounty-hunters cripples one of the attackers, stuffs him into one of the escape-pods, and unceremoniously fires the pod directly into the hull of the other ship, using both pod and occupant as a sort of makeshift ship-to-ship missile. Ten out of ten for style.
Alas, it turns out, also minus several thousand for good thinking; the two vessels are in such proximity that the now-gutted enemy ship, careening out of its controlled descent, plows right into our heroes’ conveyance, and the two ships are now falling, burning, rending asunder and all-around basically fuster-clucked; cue the cinematic, Uncharted-style bailing out of our two protagonists, their subsequent free-falling to land on the other, now-disastrously-entangled, slightly-less-totally-screwed falling/burning craft, and their subsequent tense, improbable but totally-gripping struggle to cling to, clamber on, and jump from one section of the doomed ship to another, while men, droids, ships and burning chunks of ships all tumble together willy-nilly down Coruscant’s multi-thousand-level rabbit-hole to danger.
Masters of showmanship that they so often are, the LucasArts folks abruptly cut us off from the demo at this point—but said Point was well made: Star Wars: 1313 looks intense, gritty, and refreshingly free from the distracting (and sometimes frankly annoying) extra-natural influence of Force-powers. Who, precisely, the player-character(s) is/are is not a subject LucasArts wants to delve into at this juncture, so we’ll just have to wait and see—but if the demo we witnessed was even a rough indication of the game’s capabilities, Star Wars fans will have some extra-attitude action to look forward to as 1313 fleshes out; be sure to check back into our own online, wretched hive of scum and villainy for further intel.