As we should all know by now, Halo Reach's first reveal aired on Spike for the Video Game Awards. Probably the biggest thing everybody is wondering about are the graphics? Are they really improved? Will they set a benchmark for graphics like what Halo Combat Evolved achieved? Here, I'll go though several scenes from the trailer and explore them in depth.
To clear things up first: this cinematic was rendered in-engine on the Xbox 360. They do not necessarily represent the exact graphics you will see when you're actually playing the game, but they will be incredibly close. If you examine Halo 3's graphics from cinematic to in-game, the only thing you will notice are lower quality shadows. You can expect to see this level of visuals in-game. There is nothing to worry about, especially considering that Bungie still has one year of development left.
Things You Will Need
The HD trailer:
Halo 3 promised a sense of massive scale. It definitely delivered, providing some of the largest battlefields ever seen in shooters, but it somewhat under-delivered in its visuals-rendering resolution was heavily sacrificed for it's unique double-pass HDR lighting system. The lighting was certainly impressive, but came at too high of a cost. Bungie seems to have adopted a different lighting system in Halo Reach, allowing for much more on-screen at once. This scene in particular boasts an epic sense of scale and enormous draw distances. There also appears to be some impressive fog effects at a distance.
The camera gets close to the ground in this scene, and we get to see the ground textures in detail. They are not impressively high-resolution, but not too low as to distract the watcher (or player).
The soft smoke effects coming from underneath the transport air vehicle are a massive improvement over those of Halo 3's.
And here, we get to see one of the new weapons in Halo Reach. It appears to be the new battle rifle.
The animations seem to have been greatly improved, but it's not clear if it's motion capture or really good key-framed animations. Bungie has stated that they won't use direct motion-capture animations in Halo games though.
If there's one thing I would criticize, the lip syncing animations aren't very strong, but it's a small complaint.
Amplifying the WOW factor of this scene is the detailed skybox; the art direction really shines here. This doesn't come as a surprise, as even Halo 3 and ODST skyboxes impress gamers today.
Some extraordinary textures and lighting effects are shown off in this clip. The textures are evidently buffed up for the purpose of the cinematic, but it's not too far fetched to believe that the texture quality will not stray too far. The model, however, seems plausible enough to be in-game.
This trailer/cinematic shows a lot of aspects of Reach. Some may be disappointed with the lack of story explanation and gameplay footage, but the graphics should please all. The Xbox 360 hasn't been showing it's full potential recently with the lack of exclusives, but if anyone can bring out the beast in the machine, it's Bungie.
More previews will appear mid-January. Stay tuned!