In the past, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of promotional, live-action film shorts that help build excitement for an upcoming game. They usually aren’t very compelling, typically look low budget, and are often cheesy. Recently, however, Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon, with Assassin Creed Lineage and Ghost Recon Alpha respectively, have surprised me with acting, writing and production that exceeded my expectations. The same can be said of Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries 10 million dollar production, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, Microsoft’s largest, most expensive live-action promotion. But is it worth your time? Absolutely, especially for Halo fans.
The series plot takes place just months into the war between UNSC and Covenant forces, focusing on the exploits of a young Thomas Lasky and providing a humanizing look at the Human/Covie conflict. Who is Thomas Lasky, you ask? Well, as the executive officer aboard the UNSC Infinity, he’s a prominent figure in Halo 4. How his role with play out in the actual game has yet to be seen, but his encounter with Master Chief in the series will serve some significance. In the web series, Lasky is but a young cadet at the Corbulo Academy of Military Science, struggling to come to terms with his brother’s death and find his identity within the ranks of the UNSC. As the conflict between the UNSC and the Covenant intensifies, threatening the safety of the cadets, Lasky has to dig deep and find his inner hero.
Seeing the Halo universe from the eyes of a cadet provides insight into a part of the Halo universe we rarely see: a glimpse into the lives of your everyday, non super-soldier type soldier. It also provides perspective on humanity’s sheer vulnerability to the technology of the Covenant. This lends more credence to the effectiveness of the Spartan II program and augments the importance of their actions to the UNSC’s success in Human/Covenant war. This kind of perspective (Halo: ODST to some degree) hasn’t been possible within the games since your vulnerability can be likened to that of a tank on a busy city highway.
I sometimes forget that for the majority of the UNSC troops, encounters with the Spartan IIs are incredibly rare, giving them a “unicorn-like,” mythical existence to the populace. Watching the cadets in awe over a classified video of the Spartans in action reinforces this sentiment. As for the Covenant, they appear much more threatening, towering over humans and easily dispatching those unfortunate enough to cross their paths. If you ever thought that the Covenant Elites were nothing to be feared, seeing them portrayed here would quickly strike that from your thoughts.
The limited exposure of both the Spartans and Covenant throughout the web series works incredibly well, keeping the focus around the human cadets and their vulnerability. Again, this lies in spirit of maintaining that human perspective on the conflict. If you needed evidence in support of a Halo Movie, this would be it. With the extended cut clocking in at about 90 minutes, this is the closest thing you’ll get to one for now. If Microsoft ever decides to move forward with a full Halo Movie, they should definitely look to this as inspiration. Focus on the perspective of individuals with which people can relate, keep Master Chief present, but on the periphery, and make the enemy a threat worth worrying about. As an added bonus, the intro to each episode provides a brief glimpse into the rampancy Cortana is facing, giving us an idea of the kind of Cortana we’ll face in Halo 4.
A 90-minute extended cut of the series will be included with each limited edition copy of Halo 4. The series will also be available for Blu-Ray and DVD on December 4, 2012. However, thanks to Machinima Prime, the five episodes can be viewed right now at the following links below:
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Part 1
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Part 2
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Part 3
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Part 4
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Part 5