Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360
"Coruscant is the jewel at the centre of the galaxy," explains Star Wars 1313's lead artist Dave Smith in a new dev diary we were privy to behind closed doors, tucked away in Activision's booth at Gamescom. "You think of Coruscant in a golden hour, but you go down and it gets ever darker. In every city you have a bad part of town. But this is a city made entirely of those 'bad parts of town'."
This is true. For so long, Coruscant has shone, bathed in the glorious hue of dusk, or glittering in the night sky - the diamond at the heart of Republics Old and New. But not in this game. A planet whose rich politicians enjoy a life of luxury upon the surface, hides five thousand levels of increasingly deep, dark territory. Level 1313, a place where the sun has never shone, is a pit of inequity. Here, with the weight of over a thousand levels above pressing down upon them, the gutters of the planet come teeming with criminals from all backgrounds.
"Level 1313 is a character in and of itself," we are told by LucasArts. "A dark, vast, subterranean metropolis. We wanted to make it feel oppressive." There's little idealism here. None of the spiritual binaries encompassed in Jedi or Sith, and none of their parlour tricks either. This is a place bereft of lightsabers and the Force, where one's mortality is never far from thought, and characters are couched in fifty shades of moral grey.
Not that the characters are set at this juncture. We're told that the two bounty-hunting smuggler types - one young pup, one grizzled veteran - are still very much subject to change.
Much of the live gameplay demo we saw featured the mission shown off in the game's Gamescom trailer. Our two mercs are delivering something, a creature of some kind, that manages to break its bonds and force the lid open on its cage. A brief struggle, accompanied by some frantic stabs of music, sees the creature subdued.
"I get it," says the rookie. "You brought me down here to do your dirty work."
"It's only gonna get dirtier," his older companion replies.
Star Wars 1313 is certainly going for a darker take on a very familiar universe than we've seen before. Gravelly voices abound, as do ominous hints at "where we're going". 1313 sounds like the pit that bad demons go to when they die...or Hull on a bad day. It's not difficult to detect that our anti-heroes' business is not without jeopardy. The descent into Coruscant's bowels provokes the attention of a second ship - evil red lights gleaming all over it. A giant cord lashes out towards our mercs' cargo ship, ripping a hole in the hold, and an angular Decepticon-wannabe leaps aboard.
It's not long before armed foes start streaming in as well. Cue some weighty, bass-heavy third-person cover shooting, with blaster packing a pleasant wallop. It's a straightforward affair that seems rather familiar; there's even a Nathan Drake-esque takedown - dragging an adversary to the other side of a spot of cover, and bashing their face in.
Gunmen and droid smashed to smithereens, the old timer chucks a thermal detonator into the escape pod, and launches it straight into the enemy ship, before rather inexplicably jumping onto it. There's more Uncharted-lite activity as the ship begins to fall to pieces. This time, it takes the form of some hurried platforming - leaping to slightly glowing ledges to avoid the flames of death, and a near infinite drop that would turn one's spine into dust.
The gameplay demo did little to actually tell us anything about the game, or rather certainly nothing to distinguish it from the pack, which was something of a shame. That said, it looked absolutely gorgeous on PC. LucasArts have mustered the troops and really made the game shine, even at this early stage. We were told that the facial animations were overseen by the chap who fulfilled the same role when it came to the Hulk in Avengers Assemble. The pedigree at ILM and Skywalker Sound is on display for all to see. This game is shaping up to be jaw-droppingly good looking.
"This game is really all about engaging with the cool weaponry and the gadgets of the world," we're told. "Playing with these toys really form the core of the game along with agile platforming."
It's just a shame we didn't really get to see any of that. Jury's out at the moment.