E3 06: Halo 3 announced, plot details revealed

[UPDATE]: We got a close-up look at the Halo 3 trailer--which is reportedly rendered in real-time--with Bungie representatives; its setting is a Covenant-occupied Earth.

LOS ANGELES--Microsoft officially unveiled Halo 3 during its E3 press conference today, and the company released a trailer for its highly-anticipated sequel on the Internet and its Xbox Live service. Halo 3 will be the first Halo game designed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, and the importance to the company was highlighted by the fact that Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, was on hand to help announce the game.

When the trailer was shown to the audience at the Grauman's Chinese Theater, where Microsoft held its annual games briefing, the crowd erupted. Halo 2 ended in a cliff-hanger, with the Master Chief, the hero of the Halo series, returning to Earth in the midst of a climactic battle between the Covenant, an alien coalition, and Earth's defensive forces. The Halo 3 trailer begins with a slow shot of the dusty African plains. Wreckage litters the landscape, and a woman's voice is heard. It's Cortana, the artificial intelligent construct that was the Master Chief's main ally. As the Master Chief enters into the frame (armed with what looks like the original assault rifle seen in Halo), she says in a distorted voice, "I know you. Your past. Your future."

Suddenly, Covenant Banshees and cruisers appear in the skies. The music swells, and in the distance, a huge hatch slowly opens in the ground. A bright beam of light begins to build, blinding the camera. Cortana then chimes in, "This is the way the world ends." The Bungie logo then flashes on the screen, followed by the text: "Finish the fight in 2007."

Bungie, the internal Microsoft studio that created Halo, also released the trailer onto the Internet, and a high definition version was put up on Xbox Live Marketplace, the online service available to Xbox 360 owners. To quote the accompanying text found on Xbox Live, Halo 3 is about Earth under Covenant rule: "With its defensive forces, all but obliterated, Earth has fallen to the unstoppable might of the Covenant. These alien occupiers have discovered something beneath the ancient African sands--something incredible ... something Forerunner." The Forerunners are an extinct alien race that built the huge artificial ringworlds called Halos, and the Halo games have focused on the mystery surrounding these strange objects.

The importance of a new Halo game for the Xbox 360 cannot be underestimated. The original Halo was a launch title for the first Xbox, and was easily the biggest hit, driving sales of that system. Halo 2, which launched in 2004, became a cultural event, with thousands of gamers lining up for hours for the midnight launch. Halo 2 made entertainment history by generating $125 million in sales in one day. However, Microsoft didn't mention Halo 3 at all during last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, and fans had been left wondering when the software giant would finally drop the big news. Well, the waiting for news of Halo 3 has now come to an end. Now they'll have to wait to 2007 for the game itself.

[UPDATE] Shortly after Microsoft's presentation, we had an opportunity to get a close-up look at Halo 3 with Bungie representatives. We spoke with Brian Gerrard, one of Bungie's community managers, as well as CJ Cowan, the studio's cinematics director. Cowan stated that the trailer was a good example of where Halo 3 is going, in terms of fiction. By that, he means that the story is epic in scale, but dark as well, and Bungie is going for a distinct mood, since Halo 3 will represent the end of the trilogy.

The Bungie representatives made it clear to us that the trailer was running in real-time on the Xbox 360. The trailer is set in the African desert, and it was taken from roughly a third of the way through the game. Cowan noted that the constant battling has taken its toll on Master Chief, and you can see that by the many scratches and gouges in his armor. The flashes of Cortana seen in the trailer fill you in on the state of her mind, and the Forerunner structure seen in the distance at the end of the trailer represents a pivotal point in the story.

We next met with Marcus Lehto, Bungie's art director, who filled us in on the technology as he gave us a fly through of the locations in the trailer. The crater seen in the trailer is three miles across, and it's all rendered in real geometry. Halo 3 has a new global lighting system that now lights everything uniquely from the same source, which explains just how that setting sun looked that good as it illuminated everything in the trailer. Halo 2, on the other hand, used a lighting system that lit everything separately. Meanwhile, parallax mapping is able to give depth to structures in the distance, such as the clouds above the crater. A new particle system offers different levels of light diffusion to take the quality of the atmosphere into account, and that makes for different layers of light.

The demo shifted away from the crater to the part of the level you see the Master Chief walking in from. He was controllable, which means that the trailer indicates just how good the game will look. Lehto was able to zoom in on the Master Chief with the camera, and you could see the many different ways light reflected objects onto him. For example, you could see light reflect off the ground and onto his armor. A new materials system shows the difference between his armor and the rubber undersuit. It's so detailed that if you bring the camera close to the Master Chief's visor, you see everything in front of him reflected in it, right down to the ammo counter in his rifle.

[UPDATE 2] An update to the official Bungie site, Bungie.net, also gave some hints as to why Cortana appeared to be making semi-sinister statements. "The Master Chief's AI companion Cortana is still trapped in the clutches of the Gravemind--a horrifying Flood intelligence, and a civil war is raging in the heart of the Covenant," read the plot description on the brand-new Halo 3 site. Following the abrupt end of Halo 2, it was unclear if Cortana had been corrupted by the Gravemind or had been destroyed altogether.

Cowan also talked about Cortana's ambiguous status in a Bungie.net article. "Given the variety of character and story arcs at the end of Halo 2, we wanted to boil down our announcement to a few key threads," he said. "Cortana and the Chief being a galaxy apart is a situation we haven't seen before, and is something that is a powerful component to Halo 3. We are using her transmissions in the demo to give the viewer a few subtle clues to her situation and state of mind, without revealing any specifics we want to save for the game itself."

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Discussion

983 comments
73RM1NA70R
73RM1NA70R

You should start working overtime and earning lots of money over the summer. that's wat i plan to do so i can buy it as soon as it comes out. But man this gonna be freakin' awesome. Also if don't know already RoosterTeeth made a PSA on the Beta Multiplayer and its hilariuos and cool at the same time.

telo85
telo85

aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh im so happy yet so sad, im happy cause halo3 is coming and im sad cause i have to wait till december :'(:'(

-HAC-Oscuro
-HAC-Oscuro

Frankly, I'm not only gobsmacked by the awesomeness of the trailers we've seen so far (had them for months btw, only just got round to posting), also a little disappointed about the inevitable PC delays (sorry, no WAY am I getting a 360...but that's another story) and finally intrigued by cortana's little quote. I don't know if it was intentional, and if it was I don't know what it means because I don't know much about the book, but I happen to know that the phrase "This is the way the world ends..." begins the line "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper". It's from The Hollow Men by TS Eliot. I'll be checking it out...

cimbomboy2
cimbomboy2

PS3's going dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooown! makes me happy

RudderZ
RudderZ

Looks kinda bland and boring... i thought halo 1 was good but halo 2 was just too similar with nothing new... i will buy halo 3... but if it doesnt live up to expectations i wont be happy. Its just another FPS

wizman5000
wizman5000

i wonder if ther are gonna make new covenant enimies since the elites and hunters and grunts are on our side now

sparten001
sparten001

actually bone if this game can do the stuff it did as a sequel on the "X-box" then it makes my skin crawl to think how bingi will beef it up using the power of the "X-BOX 360" this game and all the other games coming out for the 360 wil spell the doom of sony.

bonecollector21
bonecollector21

r4v3gl0ry: here are a few things you dont understand... 1. halo 3 is not coming out anywhere near the realease date of the ps3 in the u.s. 2. and it wont blow anything out of anywhere because here's what'll happen: the people who have a 360 will buy halo 3 and the people who have the ps3 wont...this is why bill gates changed the release date from being day and date with the ps3 to 2007, because he realized there is no sense in trying to deter people from buying a console by launching a game on another console on the same day. note: the purpose of this post wasn't to diss halo 3 or anything (i actually love the series and am looking forward to playing the new game) it was just to point out the fallacies of r4v3gl0ry's last post.

r4v3gl0ry
r4v3gl0ry

The moment PS3 is comin out, Halo 3 will blow ALL of their crap out of their @$$es. That will be the Doomsday of Sony.

benderdabomb
benderdabomb

this looks like the best game that i will ever buy. stuff it needs: civilians environments that change during game play ( buildings that start to crumble when under attack or dust storms while walking on the African plains) assault rifle.

Kissmybumper234
Kissmybumper234

I really hope they have a lot more features in Halo 3 like maybe an updated suit. THis may sound stupid but how bout voice interaction to talk to cortana? Like ask her to point out which best direction to go and stuff.

Gundamforce
Gundamforce

Can't wait for Halo 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FlashNovice
FlashNovice

*Sigh* I think there should be more things in it like: Talking Zombies Telephone Poles Civilians Pizza Scientists and Master Chief should fart at some point (that would be funny... hehehe)

mattista
mattista

Interesting sounding storyline but if it's as short as Halo 2 it's not worth getting

CaptainArcher
CaptainArcher

This Game will be the game of the CENTURY, i can't wait to get it when it come's out, when is it coming out anyway ? is it delayed like the movie ?

reaper_123
reaper_123

I have to save up for a XBOX 360 then

PrivateJessard
PrivateJessard

I WISH I HAD A 360 :( I'm just gonna be playin halo 2 when evry1 else is playing halo 3 :(

SuperHunter
SuperHunter

All bow before Master Chief's might. Sounds like this time around the "stuff" hits the fan and I look forward to having my hands on the controller when it does!!

Halofiend
Halofiend

THIS GAME WILL BE THE BEST GAME OUT THERE

Ricko101
Ricko101

gimme now I must kill aliens for wrecking our home!!!!

darkcellblack
darkcellblack

I hope that *really* was an assault rifle. Down with the SMG!! Yes, and I hope its not a dissapointment like Halo 2.... I hope it has a good campagin and that it keeps up w/ multiplayer (including assault rifle).

evilyoda861
evilyoda861

Well I just hope they dont kill off the Chief. That would kind of ruin it for me.

Adhikar
Adhikar

CAn't wait to get it

Bombbay12345
Bombbay12345

You gotta say that was the best trailer at E3.

p1er
p1er

God damn... this game will rock!!! I'm gonna take things real slow when I get it... you know, so I can really take in the wonderful feeling of going to the store and standing in line and buying the game with a big smile, driving home and putting the disc in the 360... then watching the intro when it loads and the "screen saver" that appears when you're not doing anything in the menu... Damn... I'm gonna start crying if I go on about the game play!!!

dusters16
dusters16

see u in line the night before it comes out....

jacques117
jacques117

hey nicklink, Uhh yeah, ARE YOU GAY?

nicklink01
nicklink01

*crys out*i want halo 3 waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.halo was the first xbox game i had and i loved it sense.ive beaten halo 1 and 2 on legendary.cant wait for it to come out...must have it!must make a device that will send me to wal-mart 1 year or so from now with 60 dollars and get it and bring it back to the past to show it off to my friends muahahahhahahaha...day dreaming is so fun.

shinobi20000
shinobi20000

I bought my Xbox because of Halo 1 and now im probly gonna buy a 360 just for Halo 3............and Oblivion

shinobi20000
shinobi20000

I hope that the in game cinemas look better than they did in Halo 2. I hope it'll be just like halo 1 were things didn't pop in or turn from low detail to high detail, but i'm sure the 360's hardware will be able to handle it.

blackhawk887
blackhawk887

halo 3 might be the next biggest event in microsoft history..hopefully enough people will have the 360 by then and sales can generate 125 mill revenue + on first day...

thingta42
thingta42

ohh yeah Baby Bring on The Halo 3 HALO 3 HAS COME! YEHHAAA!

jzimm328
jzimm328

All I can say is....let the games begin! Is it even possible to wait until 2007?

Jgamer125
Jgamer125

holy !@#$, i cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cloud551
Cloud551

Hmmm... I think I know what that dome is in the trailer, and anyone who read the Halo book "First Strike" should know, too. I'll give you a hint about what I think: It's the reason the Covenant didn't glass a part of Reach. Anyone who read "First Strike" should know now.

Angelo_333
Angelo_333

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

JabbasChef
JabbasChef

man halo 3 will look great on the 360 hopefully it isnt rushed like halo 2 was

briankutz
briankutz

It would awesome if the campaign in Halo 3 had the awesomeness and replay value of Halo 1, but who cares... IT'S GONNA BE SWEET!!!

mitchebaby2
mitchebaby2

i need a 360 now, luckily they wont be done by christmas, and i am praying that it is gonna rock soo hard, that i will be forever happy, I also hope they give it replay value, cause i dont wanna beat it in a day.