Awakening: The Art of Halo 4
The latest iteration of Halo is the first to be designed by a new studio.
Bungee, the entity responsible for Halo up until 4, was taken off the property and replaced with 343 Industries.
Many believe the Xbox wouldn't have succeeded without the original popularity of Halo. That's arguable, of course, but one cannot deny the franchise's rampant popularity across demographics, nor its ability to attract new players - to the chagrin of some old-guard gamers.
By nearly all accounts, Halo 4 is a great game, with the few critical reviews mostly complaining the title doesn't differ enough from the rest of the franchise. Personally, I think 343 managed to make a game that felt like a Halo title the entire time, but still drew on its own expertise and design style.
This same thing can be said for the art of the game, which I’ve long admired. If there is only one thing the Halo franchise has done extremely well, it’s the use of design and visuals to really bring the game into its setting.
At all times in Halo you know just what kind of environment you’re in, and everything looks very cohesive. When you’re on the Halo, you know you’re on it—and not just because you can see other parts of it in the sky (though that certainly helps). When you’re on Reach, you know you’re on Reach.
This consistency continues through to the new game, but manages to look fresh simultaneously. One building may give the impression it was built by the Covenant, but it somehow seems like this was a different design philosophy, while remaining in the same cultural confines, using the basic design components not as a template, but as a set of memes to be recombined in new ways.
This art book offers up a stellar accounting of the design process, ss well as a closer look at many of the elements crafted specifically for this game. New environments, new enemies, new vehicles, it's all broken down into hundreds of paintings, sketches, and renders.
The paintings of the various environments are beautiful works of science fiction art, and the drawings of other elements are a fantastic study in design and image evolution.
It’s not just images either. While the images are beautiful, colorful, stark, and creepy, each element is accompanied by a brief description, reminding readers where the elements tie in to the plot of the game, and detailing the design process a bit. Not all of this copy is well edited or clear, but this doesn’t detract from the beauty of the book.
Finally, the book itself is very high quality—full stock hardcover with a slick design. Under the dust-jacket, the plain black cover is embossed with a large logo, and all the pages are full-color printed heavy-weight semi-gloss.