Insight Editions has gotten to run with one of the largest flags in the industry the past few years, and this year is no different as they deliver The Art of Halo 5: Guardians to a throng of eager fans. If you read our Editor Travis Northup’s review of Halo 5: Guardians, you know that 343 Industries has delivered a masterful product, earning a rare 100% “Phenomenal” score. In his review, Travis commented “Halo 5: Guardians might be the best-looking game on the Xbox One so far. At 1080p, and a rock-solid sixty frames per second, there is very little left to be desired”, so expectations were sky high for this collection of concept art.
I’m happy to report that the book delivers on the same level as the game this artwork produced.
The Art of Halo 5: Guardians opens with an intro from concept artist Nicolas Bouvier, better known as Sparth. Sparth has contributed to concept art for such games as Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Rage, Halo 4, and now Halo 5: Guardians. Speaking to his evolution as a concept artist, and his move to Art Director at 343 Industries, Sparth talks about his role as a leader and the collaborative efforts with his team. Sprinkled throughout the hardbound book’s 208 pages are little bits of wisdom, or explanations on the thought processes at each stage of production. It’s a window into the creative process that we don’t normally get, even within these sorts of art books — it’s a welcome addition, and one I hope Insight Editions continues moving forward.
Following the forward, we also have a two page introduction by Frank “Frankie” O’Connor, 343’s Franchise Development Director. Involved with Halo from the second installment forward, it’s likely that he knows more about Halo than any other human on the planet, so it’s appropriate that he kicks off the incredible work in this book.
Chapter One focuses on pre-production, showing how the team brought a subtlety of emotion to Master Chief, given that we never see his face. We also get to see some incredibly detailed work around setting the stage in broad strokes. Like our reviews, I don’t want to reveal too much about the storyline, leaving it for you to experience on your own instead. Suffice it to say, these pencil sketch, hand-painted, and detailed line art images convey a great deal without needing a narrative to back it.
Chapter Two showcases Shae Shatz, Darren Bacon, John Liberto, and Sparth’s incredible environmental work. Halo has always had an incredible sense of scale, but Halo 5’s artwork absolutely nails just how large some of the vehicles and locations are even when compared to a 7 foot tall Spartan. Meridian’s concept art immediately reminded me of LV-426 from Aliens. A blend between military and industrial, the repurposed mining facilities look well worn and grimy. Other areas I can’t mention without spoilers give off a more organic feel. It sets a fantastic tone, and I imagine it was extremely helpful for the production team’s process.
It’s no surprise that Chapter Three was one of my favorite as it focuses heavily on the characters in Halo 5: Guardians. Much like Master Chief, the armor doesn’t exactly emote well, so the team was tasked with creating armor sets that still conveyed the personality of the wearer. Blue Team is more angular, but Osiris sports cleaner lined and more rounded-edged armor. Osiris Team’s armor is also more aggressive looking and semi-organic in style — frankly, it’s a whole lot of badass, and a large departure from the Spartan style. That said, they don’t hold a candle to the armor style of the Forerunners. This whole chapter shows just how much thought goes into the design of the personalities that power the Halo series.
You aren’t fighting a war without weapons, so Chapter Four handles exactly that. Much like the armors in Chapter Three, there is a great deal of variation in firearms in Halo 5: Guardians. Turret emplacements, Needlers, Plasma Swords, and Battle Rifles get the royal treatment in this shorter section. Chapter Five is a little longer than Four, showcasing the vehicles we’ve come to expect in any Halo adventure, adding a section for Forerunner armaments to round things out.
Chapter Six closes out the remainder of the book, showcasing the design and aesthetics behind the Arena and Warzone modes for Halo 5: Guardians. Multi-page concept work shows what multiplayer could look like, as well as a few peeks at the locales you might encounter in Warzone. Also included is a handy cheat sheet for some of the multiplayer armor and weapon variants, though it doesn’t cover the vast array present in the final product.