I had the opportunity to have an early look at the first episode of the Halo web series Forward Unto Dawn so here’s my thoughts on it. For those that don’t know, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live-action web series set in the Halo universe and will feature Master Chief and other characters that will appear in Halo 4. It takes place at the start of the human and Covenant war and leads up to the events of Halo 4. The series will be initially released weekly as individual episodes and will also see a Blu-ray and DVD release on December 4, 2012, which after seeing this first episode I'm likely to pickup. Both existing Halo fans and people unfamiliar with the Halo universe should be able to watch and enjoy it as it is meant to stand on its own. I love the Halo universe so I hope that it acts as a great way for new fans to jump in and share the experience.
I don’t want to discuss the plot much or spoil any of the story so I’ll just touch on it here. The opening was probably my favorite part and gave me pretty good nerd chills. It seems to take place somewhere close to the start of Halo 4 and implies some pretty cool things about how the game might begin. It then quickly jumps back in time. The first episode follows Thomas Lasky and sets up some of the story. He is a cadet in a military training program and seems to be struggling with the morality of the decisions being made around him and the direct orders he is given.
This first episode is somewhat uneventful, and Master Chief has yet to make an appearance, but I'm OK with that. I'm just glad we are able to see the fidelity and get a taste of where this is going without being overwhelming. I imagine that the Chief will be making an explosive entrance to save the cadets or something. That is to say, it'll be an exciting introduction.
Do yourself a favor and watch, or rather listen, with headphones at minimum. The sound is phenomenal. Voices are clear, loud, and strong. Weapons sounds are realistic with a nice punchy sound not unlike the new audio sound direction for Halo 4. The music is great and sounded distinctly Halo at one specific part where the camera takes you on a high flyover above a dirt road. Definitely watch with sound from something other than your standard laptop speakers as the sound design and extra bass from nice speakers really added to the experience for me.
There was previous talk about the preview footage not looking quite right on various sites and forums. I feel confident in saying that the final version looks damn awesome. I feel that shots are framed quite well, the locations and scenery look great, and the effects of editing and polish show. More importantly though, it looks and feels like Halo. I always worried about what a live action Halo show might look like from a military or civilian perspective, and I wasn’t sure in my own head what that would look like, but I feel that Forward Unto Dawn nails it. The military base looks futuristic with some familiar Halo structures, and one very familiar and tall structure just outside. A Pelican can even be seen flying above the base. While the living quarters of the cadets looked fairly cold and barren, the smooth metallic surfaces of the walls, floors, and bunks felt appropriate for Halo. The cadet’s helmets feature an electronic heads up display that looks very similar to the HUD in Halo games, including the radar with red dots for enemies. Muzzle fire from the famous Halo assault rifle is bright and flashy. Orange glowing holographic screens make a showing in a few scenes and their sections are flicked and dragged around with the motion of the operator’s hands, reminiscent of both Human and Forerunner terminals from the Halo games. An awesome full size vehicle makes a brief appearance, one I can’t wait to see in action in later episodes. The only think that felt off were the suits the cadets wear. The helmet looks very plastic like and oversized making the actors wearing them appear smaller than they are. The chest, shoulder, knee and foot pieces also seem very plastic like and very loose fitting. They don’t quite look right, but perhaps its due to the young cadets being in training and maybe the armor sets are not battle-ready. I will say that their overall shape and look is very fitting and looks very similar to what the marines in Halo games are wearing.
I must admit that I am not one that is great at critiquing acting. I felt the actors did a great job playing the parts and I am interested in learning more about the characters. A few insults were thrown around and their banter definitely made them feel like fresh young cadets.
Halo fans will love Forward Unto Dawn, but anyone should be able to watch, especially those that like sci-fi. Its not over the top and everything feels grounded. Prior Halo knowledge isn’t necessary, but for fans there’s lots to pickup on and its right at home in the Halo fiction.
I found myself watching with a giant grin that didn’t let up. The ending implies some awesome stuff is about to happen, and I’m excited to see where the series goes. This is Halo live-action done right and I can’t wait for more.