Last October, we saw a listing for Star Wars: First Assault, an unannounced Xbox Live Arcade game developed by LucasArts. Today, Kotaku can reveal that Star Wars: First Assault is a downloadable multiplayer shooter that was originally slated for release in the next few months.
The game supports up to 16 players -- one eight-person team of rebels and one eight-person team of Stormtroopers -- as they face off on Star Wars worlds like Bespin and Tatooine.
And according to one person familiar with the project, First Assault is "step zero" to the heavily rumoured, highly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront III. If First Assault sells well -- assuming it is released at all -- the third Battlefront could be next.
A few weeks ago, Kotaku reported on the status of Star Wars 1313, a game that could be in trouble thanks to unrest and uncertainty at LucasArts, the storied studio that has developed or published every official Star Wars video game to date. We mentioned a Call of Duty-style first-person shooter codenamed "Trigger".
That's First Assault. According to our source, this game is a downloadable "predecessor" to Battlefront III -- part of the studio's strategy to show that there's a market for Star Wars shooters running on the Unreal Engine.
The story of Star Wars: Battlefront III is long and well documented. Commissioned as the third game in the Battlefront shooter series, Battlefront III has bounced from developer to developer over the past few years. Although LucasArts has yet to officially announce the game, leaked footage and images show what could have been, and development studio Free Radical has claimed the game was 99 per cent finished when LucasArts killed it.
Star Wars: First Assault, our source says, would lead up to Battlefront III. This new Battlefront would use nothing from the Battlefront III that has already been in production at studios like Free Radical and Slant Six, our source says. Instead, LucasArts would build Battlefront III based on code from First Assault.
According to our source, a small team has already been prototyping vehicles for Battlefront III. Current code allows you to fly a TIE Fighter or ride an AT-ST walker.
There are no vehicles in First Assault, nor are there Jedi. LucasArts intentionally decided not to use the Battlefront name so expectations wouldn't be too high, our source says. And the game is almost done.
But Star Wars: First Assault may never actually make it out of the studio.
Last September, when executives at LucasFilm -- the parent company of LucasArts -- found out that Disney had signed an agreement to purchase the company, things got murky. LucasFilm froze all hiring and new game announcements, our source says. They had planned to announce First Assault and launch a closed beta by the end of September -- which explains the Xbox listing leak on October 1 -- and First Assault was supposed to be out this spring.
So since September, employees at LucasArts have been working on the game with no knowledge as to whether or not it will actually come out. According to our source, LucasArts is "bleeding talent" as employees wait to see what executives at Disney and LucasFilm want to do with First Assault and other games the studio is working on.
The status of First Assault -- like the status of Star Wars 1313 and other projects that LucasArts is currently working on -- remains unclear today. We've reached out to LucasArts for comment and will update should we hear back from them.
For now, our source says, the only way to get games like First Assault out of carbonite might be for Star Wars fans to speak up.
"Fans should tell Disney/Lucas loud and clear they don't want shitty titles from random developers; they want games to be taken seriously, and they will only pay for quality," the source said. "I believe that if Disney/Lucas lets LucasArts die, it means the death of Star Wars as a storied game franchise is right behind it."