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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 this spring. 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-rumored, 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. And according to our source, who is familiar with the project but says he is "no longer familiar with the goings-on" at LucasArts, 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% 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.
The status of First Assault—like the status of Star Wars 1313 and other projects that LucasArts is currently working on—remains unclear today. The new direction of LucasFilm is also unclear—just today, the company announced that they would no longer be releasing new episodes of the Clone Wars television show on Cartoon Network.
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."