- Writer: Paul Davies (Foreword by Kenneth Scott)
- Artist: Various
- Publisher: Titan Books
- Orig. Publish Date: November 6, 2012
- Price: $34.95 (Regular Ed. SRP)
When games (especially blockbusters) with a history attached to a specific developer change hands, it’s always a bit of a nerve-wracking time for both the new developers and fans of the franchise leading up to the release. What will change? Will the game live up to its predecessors? Those thoughts can be reflected on the Halo franchise and the latest installment, Halo 4. Developer Bungie was known to be at the helm of this series, creating the most memorable and core installments of the series. Now Bungie has moved on to other projects and Microsoft’s 343 Industries took up the mantle with the development of Halo 4. Fortunately they had ties to the franchise already and proved to be more than capable when it came to developing the game. Many are calling Halo 4, “the best Halo yet.” It should be a treat to see where they take the franchise and its iconic multiplayer; But it would be great to take a step back for a moment and look at how the game came to be. Titan Books has once again provided us with a look at part of the development of the game focusing on the art side in the deluxe hardcover book, Awakening: The Art of Halo 4.
Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 is a 192 paged book showcasing some concept art from the hit game, including a lot of never-before-seen art and concept designs. The book is divided into five chapters with a host of sub categories covering everything from environments to characters and weapons most accompanied by a brief description and look at that particular phase of the art’s creation.
The book is fitted with a matte slip cover with a beautiful depiction of Master Chief looking upon the artificial world of Requiem where the game is primarily located. The art piece is prominent on the front cover but the back cover also contains a glimpse at some of the art you can find within the book, in addition to a faint background image. Even the front flap contains an image of The Spartan soldier in action. From the front slip covers to the back cover of the book, you are greeted with the greens, blues, and greys that make up the primary atmosphere of the Halo 4 world. Underneath the slip cover is a glossy black hardcover with the halo 4 logo outlined on the front and back of the book. We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of an artbook, especially one like this, the cover does justice in building anticipation for the epic art pieces held within the pages.
Opening the book, you’ll immediately find tons of large-scale art. The inner cover provides an eerily serene look at the inside of the Forward Unto Dawn ship, drifting lifelessly through the dark void of space, Cortana sitting alone and looking vulnerable. You can find this same image on the inside cover of the book at the back as well. From there, you’ll be greeted with title pages and the table of contents showing the Master Chief and Forerunner Knights. The book opens up with a foreword from Halo 4′s Senior Art Director, Kenneth Scott, who expresses quite vividly the honor he felt along with his team, in taking up responsibility found in the creative design of this new game. Thereafter we go right into the chapters of the book which break down the art piece by piece.
The book is divided, once again, into five chapters. They are as follows:
- Environments – The various settings found throughout the game
- UNSC – A look at the characters, weapons, and vehicles from the UNSC .
- Covenant – A look at the covenant characters, weapons, and vehicles.
- Forerunner – A look at the characters, cryptum, and weapons found within the forefunner world.
- War Games – A look inside the armor and environments found in the game’s multiplayer.
Each chapter has subcategories that hone in on each specific concept art that fits the category, how they came up with the idea, and how the team wanted it applied.
The foreword is followed by a beautiful two page spread by John Liberto and Concept Arts, revealing a breathtaking look at the planet Requiem and the words “Wake Up John.” A fitting opening to the book’s main content as it’s essentially the same words you hear Cortana say when you begin your adventure as Master Chief in Halo 4. Throughout the book you can find a number of these two page spreads, along with single full-page images. More often than not, the book is divided up with a couple of images on each page and a small area of text.
Something that I really appreciated in this book, each work of art is credited, something that is sometimes neglected in video game art books. So every artist is credit for their piece, from the front cover, inside covers, to the back and everything between. Another part of the book that I enjoyed was the fact that the written pieces were not just a summary from the writer Paul Davies, but a lot of quotes came straight from the horses’ mouths – so to speak. Instead of telling us what he found out, he let the art team who worked on the game describe in their own words, their thoughts, emotions, and the process they took when creating each piece of art and each design that went into the game. Now, not every picture has a quote, and in fact not every image has a description, still the ones that do, provide a nice bit of insight on the artistic and creative design of the game.
The art book even shows how far the team went – beyond just the Halo games but also into other arenas such as the Halo novels that deal which introduced settings and characters never before seen in the games until now. It’s a bit of a treat to see their thought process on this and how everything was translated into the game and evolved during the conceptual period.
The Art of Halo is a fitting companion, not just to the game Halo 4, but to the franchise as a whole. Although I would hold off on reading the book until after you play the game (there are a few small spoilers inside), art lovers and fans of the series will love this book. So if you’re able to put down your controller for a moment and take a break from some war games, pick up Awakening: The Art of Halo 4, you’re bound to be glad that you did.
[Note: A free copy of Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 was provided for review by Titan Books]