08th Oct2011

Book Review: Halo – The Art of Building Worlds

by Baron Fortnightly

Written by Martin Robinson | Published by Titan Books | Format: Hardback, 192 pages

halo-the-art-of-building-worlds

“The award-winning Halo series of video games is 10 years old. Having sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, millions of fans have spent billions of hours with the Master Chief and Noble Six, defeating the Covenant and saving the Universe. Now, for the first time in a single art book, Halo: The Great Journey: The Art of Building Worlds brings together a lavish and spectacular collection of groundbreaking art from the entire range of Halo games. This is the ultimate gallery of the Halo universe, with over 400 images including sketches, commentary, and concept art from all stages of development, including characters, weapons, and sweeping landscapes as envisioned by more than thirty of the amazing artists behind the first ten years of Halo including Isaac Hannaford, Shi Kai Wang, Frank Capezzuto and Jaime Jones.

From the earliest concepts for Pillar of Autumn and The Maw to the streets of New Mombasa, from the Master Chief to Noble Six, here you’ll find unparalleled access to the artistic innovation of the Halo archive charting the glorious decade that gave us HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED, HALO 2, HALO 3, HALO WARS, HALO 3: ODST, Halo Legends and HALO: REACH.”

I’ll hold my hand up now and admit that I came late to the Halo party, having never owned the original Xbox I’ve only played the series from Halo 3, but multiplayer Halo quickly became a Sunday afternoon fixture for me and my friends; Therefore I jumped at the chance to review an art book covering the entire series of Halo video games.

Halo: The Art of Building Worlds is designed in keeping with the Halo universe, even the chapter numbers and headings feel like they’re from a UNSC training manual. The book is split seven chapters which each cover a section of Halo lore. “Architects of the Past” is about the Forerunners and their creations, including the ringworlds that Halo is named after and the Ark which plays such a huge role in Halo 3. “We Are Their Instruments” is a look at the design of the different Covenant forces, and how they’ve been tweaked for each game. “Tools of Conquest” covers Covenant technology and features every vehicle I can remember seeing in the game, including the innovative Scarab – a level boss/combat platform that actually becomes a section of the level when you damage it enough to allow you to board it. “A Monument to All Your Sins” takes a look at the development of the Thing-like, parasitic Flood, an enemy that makes you wish for the Covenant.

”Welcome to the Corps” is the largest chapter of the book and is packed full of detailed concept art and artist insights about the design of the UNSC forces, including Cortana, the Marines, Spartans, Noble Team from Halo: Reach, ODST and all of the UNSC vehicles and vessels. It also includes a lovely double-page spread of UNSC weapon variants that makes me wish there was weapon customisation available in the Halo games, or a Halo RPG (hint, hint). “Folks Need Heroes” obviously covers the main man himself, the legend that is Master Chief. Originally this iconic hero was just an infantry class when Halo was first being developed as a Real Time Strategy game. The final chapter “Homeworlds” features stunning vistas and concept art for many of Halo’s important worlds including Reach, Earth, Harvest, and Arcadia. There are also a couple of pages on wildlife, which again makes me long for a Halo RPG.

Halo: The Art of Building Worlds is an amazing art book, the design involved in bringing a video game to life is probably more than for most feature films and Titan along with Bungie and 343 Industries have done the Master Chief proud. Whilst the text is relatively light (as it usually is in art books), the images are breathtaking (the Ashley Wood illustrations were an added bonus, having been a fan of his for years) and the book feels grounded in the Halo universe. At £24.99 this book is worth having on your shelf if you’re a Halo fan, a video game concept art fan, a science fiction fan or just a fan of illustration. The only video game concept art books that could possibly top this would be for Gears of War and Mass Effect.

Halo: The Art of Building WorldsThe Great Journey is available from Titan Books from 21st October 2011.

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