As a sad footnote to a year strewn with the corpses of shuttered studios, Free Radical let go most of its 180-plus employees on December 17. Best known for the TimeSplitters series, the Nottingham, England-based shop had bet heavily on the success of its oft-delayed PlayStation 3 shooter, Haze. Unfortunately, the Ubisoft title was a critical and commercial disappointment, selling just over 128,000 units in the US.
Free Radical's closure raised doubts about the status of Star Wars Battlefront III, which many presumed to be the mystery LucasArts collaboration it unveiled in 2006. While the game remains officially unannounced, this week saw evidence surface that the Second Sight studio was hard at work on Battlefront III when its time ran out.
The proof came in the form of several character renders posted on the personal site of 3D Artist Richard J. Smith, whose resume lists him as still working at Free Radical. Though the shots have since been pulled, German fan site Swbf3.de managed to snag 10 of them, which are all dated 2007 and bear a Star Wars Battlefront III logo.
Familiar characters featured in Jenkins' portfolio include Han Solo, Senator Palpatine, the red Imperial Guards that protect Palpatine after he becomes Galactic Emperor, and one of the rebel soldiers that revolt shortly thereafter. The artist's site still displays several characters from TimeSplitters 4 (pictured), announced just over 1 year ago for the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
With Free Radical's closure, the status of Star Wars Battlefront III is unclear. Unconfirmed reports have it being taken over by Rebellion Software, maker of Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron for the PSP. Prior Battlefront console games were developed by Pandemic Studios, now part of troubled megapublisher Electronic Arts. Via its BioWare studio, EA is currently partnering with LucasArts on the massively multiplayer project Star Wars: The Old Republic.