Halo 4: “Forward Unto Dawn” (Parts 1 and 2) Review

Real Talk By: Eva

“Forward Unto Dawn”, Halo 4’s series of 20-minute, live-action, promotional videos has started its release. Opening with an enigmatic sequence of a ghost ship drifting through space, the camera zooms to the readouts on the on-board cryostasis chambers, revealing that there is but a single survivor…The action then cuts to (what is presumably) a flashback, of soldiers in a combat situation. Their leader makes a last-minute decision and runs out ahead of his squad, only to be shot squarely in the chest…by a paintball.

The seeming combat situation is in fact, a training program for cadets at the Corbulo Academy of Military Science. The squad leader in question  is Thomas Lasky, and we proceed to watch him get chewed out by no less than three separate, superior officers. Lasky comes from a long line of military vets, we learn. His mother is an acting colonel, and his brother is off fighting a war against a group called “the insurrectionists”. But Lasky is not the sort of “Johnny Freedom”, “Born on the 4th of July”, “Lets kick ass and chew bubblegum” sort that you’d expect, despite his military pedigree. He’s full of doubt as to the purpose of the conflict he’s to be fighting in, and makes mock of those who eagerly gobble down the military credo.

He sees the academy as “a way of brainwashing kids and sending them in to exterminate a bunch of overtaxed farmers”. At the same time, it’s clear that he doesn’t want to let his family down, and as his “Hastati Squad” are all the sons and daughters of prominent UN officials, we are to assume that he and the rest of the cadets have been helped into the academy by a healthy dose of nepotism. He also appears to be afflicted by some sort of mysterious illness, as his physique is deteriorating and his body is covered in blisters. This makes Lasky quite an interesting character, and illustrates the surprising amount of storytelling that “Forward Unto Dawn” is able to do in such short installments.

The first two episodes have largely dealt with the concept of stepping up and assuming a certain mantle–be it service, leadership, or duty to family. Lasky’s cadet friend, Silva, is much the opposite of him in her philosophies, and seems the sort who wraps herself in the flag. Even so, she offers encouragement to him, and tells him that if he disagrees so much with the direction of the military, it should be all the more incentive for him to rise up to prominence and make the changes that he wants. Some interesting themes are being explored, and the plot goes far beyond a simple commercial for a video game.

The overall aesthetic of the videos reminds me a great deal of the rebuild of Battlestar Galactica, perhaps in all the little details of military life, or in seeing the cadets scrapping, relaxing, or pondering in isolation. One clever bit that I enjoyed was a recruit watching a classified feed from the “helmet-cams” on the battlefield, with the screen showing an overlay suspiciously similar to that of a first-person shooter, complete with hands/weapon hovering in the foreground. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of this “footage” was in fact sequences from the Halo 4. Some clever marketing laced into the storytelling.

All in all, I’ve found “Forward Unto Dawn” to vastly exceed my expectations, and it makes for decent entertainment that requires very little commitment of your time. I find myself looking forward to future releases, and wondering about certain unresolved details. What’s with those blisters, Lasky?

Halo 4: “Forward Unto Dawn” (Parts 1 and 2) Gets

Out of Five

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