At its press event in L.A. today, amongst other trailers and announcements, Microsoft previewed Halo 4, the latest entry in the sci-fi action series starring military superhero Master Chief.
Leading into the gameplay demo of Master Chief coming to aid a downed spacecraft, the company screened a live action trailer that focused on the ship and the marines aboard. "We begin like the story of the Titanic, a very uplifting commissioning of this new starship the UNSC Infinity," says Xbox Global Group MarCom Manager Ryan Cameron. "We then juxtapose that hope and promise with the terror of it being ripped out of the sky by the new threat that is in Halo 4."
The two-and-a-half-minute trailer is titled "The Commissioning" and was created out of McCann Erickson agency twofifteenmccann and 343 Industries, the Microsoft group behind the Halo franchise. The spot was filmed in Bucharest, Romania by director Nicolai Fuglsig, known for his award-winning Bravia commerical featuring balls bouncing down the streets of San Francisco. The trailer was scored by Neil Davidge, of the band Massive Attack, who also created the music for the Halo 4 game. Even Mark Rolston, the actor who does the voice of Captain Del Rio in the game, actually gets a turn in front of a camera for the trailer. "Everything is completely seamless between the live action work and the gameplay," says Cameron.
This live action trailer is just the start. In October, leading up to the November 6 release of the game, Microsoft will also launch Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, a live action web series of five 15-minute episodes focusing on the Marines of UNSC Infinity. Though today’s short and the web series share common elements, different teams worked on the films. "Because it’s a world that people always want to see more of, Halo lends itself to live action execution," says Halo 4's executive producer Kiki Wolfkill.
Microsoft has used live action trailers in the past for the Halo series, from a veteran talking about the war in Halo 3, to a commercial directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) showing the life of a Spartan supersoldier for Halo 3: ODST, to the short film from director Neill Blomkamp (District 9 and the upcoming Elysium) as a test for a Halo movie that never made it past planning. So how did the XBox team approach this latest live-action short to differentiate it? Wolfkill says, "It’s less a conscious decision of 'What are the things we need to do better?' so much as 'What is really the exact story that we want to tell?' "
Using a live-action short that leads directly into an action-packed sequence in the game does seem to ramp up the visceral quality of the Halo 4 portion of Microsoft’s event. Wolfkill says, "[Viewers] will experience the same confusion, shock, and awe that the characters in the live action trailer, and as well as the gameplay, are going to experience."
Below is the Halo 4 game play sequence also released at E3.