Book Review: Halo: The Art of Building Worlds

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (October 18th, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857685627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857685629

Summary: 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.

It’s been 10 years since Bungie first put players into the green armored boots of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, the last Spartan soldier of the UNSC, to save humanity from the scourge of the Covenant invasion in Halo: Combat Evolved. When players first picked up their black, clunky XBox controllers, they had no idea of the journey they were about to embark upon, or how it would affect the First Person Shooter genre for all time.

Halo: The Art of Building Worlds is a visual treat deep into the minds that created all of the wonderful places we’ve fought desperately to survive in the Halo universe. It offers fans a deep look into the creative process behind the planets, characters, species, and weapons that we’ve immersed ourselves in for the last decade. Fans are treated with detailed concepts behind some of the Forerunner’s greatest (and deadliest) architectural achievements, the UNSC, The Covenant, and the technology that has made Halo so violently satisfying to players.

There are a number of elements that made the Halo franchise the critical and commercial success it is today. Most FPS gamers would point to the weapons, the maps, and the fast-paced multi-player modes that have made the games replayable for hundreds of hours on end. I’m not one to argue those points either. They all have a lot to do with why Halo is a success. But personally, where Halo succeeds the most, is in drawing in fans from other realms of gaming.  I’m not an FPS fan. In fact, I suck the cojones at FPS games. Even when I devoted enough of my life to Halo to call it a religious practice, I was barely mediocre. Sure I had those rare, scary moments where I would thread multiple enemies with a single headshot from my sniper rifle, or even made it through an entire match without dying while dealing critical amounts of punishment to wailing 12 year olds who swore worse than any sailor I’ve ever known (and with less effect I might add); but at the end of it all I’m, “just okay,” at FPS games that I try really hard at.

What got me with Halo was the epic scope of the story, told not only through the writing, but through the environments I would spend countless hours trying desperately to survive. I can’t tell you how many times I would clear an area and then just run around and explore, trying to see as much of it as I possibly could. I’m an action platform and RPG fan. Environments are one of the things I appreciate most about games and Halo was never a sloucher in that arena.

Halo: The Art of Building Worlds is an excellent supplement to fans of the genre, and those gamers like me who were drawn into the fold because of the detail and nuances of the Halo mythology. It’s the kind of art book that you can get lost in; each page is peppered with little bits of story that supplement the gorgeous and imaginative artwork of the hardworking artists at Bungie who spearheaded the artistic vision of this franchise. If you’re a fan of videogames, or just a fan of damn good sci-fi art, then Halo: The Art of Building Worlds, is a must have for your collection.

I give Halo: The Art of Building Worlds Five out of Five Stars.

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Brandon Johnston
Written by Brandon Johnston

Brandon is a Reporter, Critic, Tornado Alley Correspondent, Technomancer, and Book Department Editor for SciFi Mafia®. When he's not writing for SciFi Mafia®, he's busy being a dad, a novelist, and a man with more hobbies and interests than is healthy for any one person to have.