Star Wars 1313 is the latest game from LucasArts based on the sci-fi saga, though it's not tied to any particular movie. Following a bounty hunter through the seedy underworld of Coruscant, it abandons the family friendly tone of the films for a side of the Star Wars universe fans haven't seen before.
Star Wars 1313 was one of the bigger surprises to come out of E3 2012. Not based on any existing story from the Star Wars films or expanded universe, the game stars an as-yet unnamed bounty hunter making his way through the criminal underworld of the prominent city-planet Coruscant.
Each level below the planet's crust houses a worse brand of criminal than the last, and as the game's title suggest, the action takes place 1,313 levels deep.
Character is key
LucasArts says it is using the opportunity to tell a more mature story in the Star Wars universe, which has typically been a more family friendly franchise. This doesn't mean the game will be filled with gore, sex and profanity, but rather that the developers want to explore the shades of grey that lie amid the struggle between the light and dark side that has dominated the series.
The Jedi and Sith won't make an appearance in Star Wars 1313, allowing the story to centre around character struggles instead of moral platitudes, with ambiguity becoming a central theme.
The hands-off gameplay demonstration began with a warning that the game was still in its early alpha stage, and that to keep the story secret a placeholder character would stand in for the lead protagonist.
Some fans have speculated that players may control the infamous Boba Fett since he once used the alias CT-1313, but lines of dialogue in the demo discouraged that theory. The lead gave off the impression of a rookie bounty hunter, bringing a captured criminal back to Coruscant with his more cavalier mentor to claim their reward.
As they descended through the inner levels of Coruscant, a rival bounty hunter's ship began its pursuit. The bounty hunter appeared to be a nimble droid of some kind, accompanied by a crew of henchmen wearing makeshift armour and stolen Stormtrooper helmets decorated with face paint.
LucasArts hasn't specified when in the Star Wars timeline 1313 takes place, but it appears to at least be set some time after Episode III.
Bringing a touch of Uncharted to the Star Wars universe
The rival bounty hunter and his henchmen attempted to board the player's ship, and it is at this point that gameplay actually began. Star Wars 1313 shares immediate similarities to Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. The unnamed lead took cover behind some crates and began firing at henchmen with his blaster.
From cover he could blind fire, stand and aim, hop between vantage points and even melee or grab enemies hiding on the other side of a crate. When cargo doors on the ship's side opened up, he could also use the blaster's secondary fire to send out a pulse wave to push henchmen out into a freefall.
Though the henchmen were defeated, the rival droid escaped with bounty back to his ship. The protagonist's mentor simply smirked and pressed a button to launch an escape pod, which crashed into the rival's ship at point blank range.
Still needing to recover their bounty, the pair leapt to the now-burning rival ship and began climbing along its exterior.
While the combat was reminiscent of Uncharted, the climbing brought back memories of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Climbing was surprisingly fast with the emphasis seemingly placed on timing your movement rather than trying to find a path of footholds and ledges to make your way across the ship's surface.
LucasArts has said that it doesn't want to put anything in a cutscene that you would want to play, and sure enough even the most stunt-filled action scenes of the demo appeared to be under the player's control.
Game and film makers collaborate for Hollywood-calibre effects
Star Wars 1313 may draw comparisons to other titles from its gameplay, but one area where it is unmatched is its visuals. Even at this early stage in development, Star Wars 1313 may already be the most visually impressive game of this console generation.
The cutscenes were of exceptionally high quality, and an audible gasp could be heard from onlookers as the introductory cutscene transitioned seamlessly into gameplay using the same graphical fidelity.
LucasArts is pooling talent for Star Wars 1313 from across its partner studios, including Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound and Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.
Characters are animated using full performance capture suits, including meticulous facial mapping for accurate lip syncing, using the same technology that helped bring the Hulk to life in the recent Avengers movie.
The team even includes veterans who worked on the original Return of the Jedi film, bringing their expertise both for visual arts and Star Wars continuity to the game.
The results of that collaboration truly do pay off, with visuals that may cause some to wonder whether Star Wars 1313 is really running on current generation hardware.
However, LucasArts was able to confirm that what we saw was running on Unreal Engine 3, not the next-gen Unreal Engine 4. Star Wars 1313 is unexpected in the best of ways, providing a new vision of the Star Wars universe that we can't wait to see more of as it develops.
Star Wars 1313 has not been specified on any platforms, and was seen running on a high-end PC. No projected release date has been set at this time.
Photo gallery - Star Wars 1313 in pictures: