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Star Wars 1313 Looks Real, Real Good

Just talking graphics here, but it's a safe bet you haven't seen many games operating on this sort of technical level before.

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The game that seems to be getting the most buzz here at E3 all of a sudden is Star Wars 1313, and there's a good reason it's grabbing a bunch of headlines: it looks absolutely goddamn amazing. I'm not blowing hyperbolic smoke, just making a quantitative statement about the kind of raw visual fidelity LucasArts is achieving by adapting a bunch of Industrial Light and Magic's film-industry rendering techniques and throwing them at the best PC hardware you can get right now. Lucas is being all cagey about when this game is coming out and what platforms it will actually sell on, but it's obvious that the demo on display at the show is targeted at machines a hell of a lot more powerful than the ones in your home right now.

Reading a lot of effusive language about nice video game graphics is kind of boring, right? Instead, here's a pretty good cross-section of the demo being shown at E3 so you can just get an idea for yourself how good the game looks. The craziest part about this footage is how much detail you can't see simply due to the compression in the video. Seeing this thing running in person, the natural look of the lighting, character skin and so on is pushing the graphical quality near the level of photorealism. It's absolutely something else to see when the camera goes in close and you can barely tell that the guy you're looking at is a video game character. (That has as much to do with the advanced performance capture LucasArts is doing in collaboration with ILM as it does with advanced pixel shaders and camera effects.)

Actually, forget the graphics. There's other stuff about 1313 to get excited about, primarily the fact that everything about its aesthetic and tone made it feel like the prequel trilogy doesn't exist, and that this is based directly on the original movies. It reminded me of that wonderful heyday of Star Wars PC games in the '90s that included stuff like X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Dark Forces, purely due to things like classic-looking costume and spaceship design, and the focus on telling a unique story with new characters in some unknown corner of the Star Wars universe (in this case, the seedy criminal underworld of the city-planet Coruscant). The people making this game want to steep it in a moral grey area, rather than the black and white morality that goes along with the jedi in the movies. Come to think of it, the phrase "no jedi, no Force" was used in the demo I saw, and I'm perfectly fine with that. It's time for something else. Something with more blasters and more attitude!

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The playable demo of 1313 being shown here paints the game as Star Wars Uncharted, split as it is between cover-based third-person shooting against mercenaries boarding the player character's ship, and the sort of superhuman climbing and gymnastics that you see Nathan Drake engaging in on a regular basis. That might sound more reductive than it should--I'd be perfectly happy to play a well executed game like that, if the story is on point. Though, I do hope the full game has some more potential for exploration at some point.

In any case, LucasArts really stepped it up at what's honestly been a bland E3 overall, coming in with a demo that's extremely impressive largely because it's utterly different in at least one respect from everything else at the show. It's a tantalizing glimpse at what the next generation of hardware might offer, and it makes me hopeful that there might once again be a Star Wars game worth getting legitimately excited about in the not-so-faraway future.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+