Halo’s role as gaming’s premiere shooter and entertainment-record-breaker has been taken over by Activision’s Call of Duty. Halo 4 aims to recapture some of that the series’ lost bluster and multimedia grandeur. 343 Industries’ new sequel will do the bulk of the heavy lifting, but it will be backed by Halo’s return to live action video, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
Variety reported on Monday that the new live action series will air on website Machinma over five weeks in fifteen minute installments later this year. Microsoft is hoping that the series will appeal to new players that may not have played the previous Halo games as much as it will the hardcore followers that still devote time to the series’ multiplayer. “We needed to ensure that there was a way for people to get onboard this universe without feeling intimidated,” explained 343 Industries franchise development director Frank O’Connor. He describes the series as “an origin story that teach you about a lot of different facets of the universe.”
Forward Unto Dawn will despite being an origin tale tell a new story about series protagonist Master Chief and his history with a soldier who eventually commands a spaceship called the UNSC Infinity. It will also follow new characters from Halo 4 and revisit events from the war with the Covenant alien race that made up the bulk of past games.
Halo has lost much of its capacity for pop culture spectacle. Five years ago, Halo 3 was dubbed the biggest “entertainment launch” in history. Not game release. Entertainment. The game brought earned Microsoft a cool $170 million within its first 24 hours on shelves, beating not just game totals to that point but also every Hollywood box office opening in history. One million players logged on to Xbox Live for multiplayer matches before that first day was out. That was just the game too. That release was preceded by two years of promotional media, including the alternate reality game Iris and a series of short films produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) and directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9). Those shorts—including “Arms Race” and “Combat” —tantalized with the promise of Halo fully embracing its cinematic ambitions, but the Halo feature film planned by the same creators ultimately fell through.
Forward Unto Dawn however may revive interest in a feature length Halo movie. “I don’t think anybody needs any reminding of [the potential of a Halo movie.] Everyone keeps reminding us of that,” said 343 director of franchise business management Matt McCloskey.
Microsoft will reveal more about Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn at E3 in June.