For those who have yet to fully realize the scale of Halo 4, it’s worth pointing out that the game bears not only the weight of living up to three previous numbered releases, but the responsibility of launching a new age of the Halo brand. To alleviate some of that pressure – or to perhaps get the most devoted of fans on board with the new direction early – 343 Industries is expanding the fiction beyond more than just games.
With novels by award winning science fiction writers Greg Bear and Karen Traviss establishing the larger plot that Master Chief and Cortana will crash in on when hitting the surface of Requiem, the actual campaign of Halo 4 is just the tip of the iceberg. In case reading isn’t one of your favorite pastimes, the developers will be rolling out the live-action web series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, free of charge. The first three preview videos give a glimpse into life at the legendary Corbulo Academy.
The first preview (embedded above), titled ‘Enlist’ gives a brief introduction to three of the main characters, with most emphasis placed on protagonist Thomas Lasky (Tom Green), and his preference for non-violent resolution to humanity’s problems. With the series set decades before the first Halo game, the Cadets and soldiers the series follows – including the Spartan IIs – were being trained not to fight alien threats, but to quell insurrection in the outer colonies.
While the preview may only be a few minutes in length, it’s all that’s needed to establish the political and philosophical questions that will fuel Lasky’s character, not to mention hint at which characters and ideologies will resist potentially diplomatic solutions. The Academy will obviously be populated by those who believe in the necessity of war, like Vickers (Iain Belcher), explaining the set photos showing he and Lasky butting heads (not to mention fists). With Lasky’s story already outlined by 343, we know his final decision to leave the officer training school coincides with the arrival of the Covenant, with the Master Chief not far behind.
Whether Lasky’s ideals are set aside when his friends are put in danger, or whether the arrival of the alien menace unites humanity, thereby giving him a fight he can believe in, the resulting series of events will set in motion events that Halo 4 will be building off of.
The second preview, ‘Cryo,’ gives an explanation of cryogenic suspension as it exists within the Halo universe. The notion of cryo-sleep is seen in just about every form of science fiction these days, but the writers of the series are obviously interested in exploring the distinction between life and death that the suspended state of being implies. If nothing else, the trailer proves that the dark, stark color style of the footage so far is no coincidence, given the subject matter:
Following cadets JJ Chen (Osric Chau) and Dimah (Katerina Katelieva) and their ideas of what cryo-training entails for the subject shows that Forward Unto Dawn won’t be avoiding the more cerebral aspects of training soldiers for combat, in favor of pyrotechnics or special effects alone.
In addition to foreshadowing the kinds of trials that viewers will witness the cadets subjected to, it’s clear that 343 and Microsoft haven’t skimped on getting the appropriate talent. Even in her brief monologue, Katelieva gives a more convincing performance than other actors we could think of, in teen-targeted franchises that shall go unnamed.
The third preview released so far, ‘Flags,’ again follows Chen and Dimah, this time handing the narrator reins to the male of the pair. ‘Capture the Flag’ may be three words burned into the mind of every Halo fan, but the film looks beyond the simple game, to the predatory instincts that it fosters. Have a look:
It’s a shame the clip ends when it does, but no one can blame 343 for keeping fans waiting a few more weeks before unleashing the action of war games. Some may have their doubts about the scope and effects that the battle will be designed around, but considering the lack of any admission price, it will be hard not to get our money’s worth.
The pair of executive producers leading the project, Josh Feldman and Lydia Antonini, both come from a history of short films, so there’s a good chance that each episode will be able to stand on its own. Not that we won’t be picking up the full-length film when it’s released, but self-contained stories and Halo go hand-in-hand.
Lasky and his fellow cadets will be encountering plenty of harsh realities which every soldier is eventually faced with, and the full length trailer confirmed that attacking Covenant forces will be among them. With bullying, death, and murder the themes being explored in each of these previews, it’s clear that Forward Unto Dawn will be an interesting series to watch.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn will be released via Halo Waypoint and Machinima starting October 5, leading up to the launch of Halo 4 on November 6, 2012.
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