Game Lore

Book Review: Halo – The Art of Building Worlds

A Stunning, Visual Collection of Halo’s Ten-Year History

Today sees the release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary for the Xbox 360, a remastered version of the original Halo game from way back in 2001. That’s right, it may only seem like yesterday, but Halo was released a whopping ten years ago. Being able to go back and play through classic moments such as The Silent Cartographer in stunning HD is an experience that all die-hard Halo fans will cherish. Throughout the past decade, we’ve slaughtered hundreds of Elites, run over plenty of Grunts with our trusty Warthogs and even managed to save the universe along the way.

Everyone that has played Halo usually has a great memory of a particular moment that stood out for them in one or more of the games. It’s these memories, as well as the incredible history built up by Bungie, 343 Industries and the fans, that have caused the franchise to have such an impact on both gaming and popular culture.

Cue Martin Robinson’s Halo – The Art of Building Worlds, which is best described as a visual collection of some of these defining moments in the Halo franchise. This art book compiles tons of concept art, screenshots and art pieces that focus on the core components of the Halo games and provides brief, yet interesting commentary on how many of the things within the game came into being. With its beautiful imagery, informative content and staggering size, The Art of Building Worlds is the perfect addition to any Halo fan’s collection.


One of the most notable things about this book is how both the foreword and introduction refer to the Halo series. Both remind you of some very key points, such as how the game’s universe encapsulated a generation of gamers and, more importantly, how it challenged (and conquered) the notion that home systems were incapable of first-person shooter experiences akin to that on the PC at the time. This particular approach makes it so much easier to be absorbed by what The Art of Building Worlds has to offer. Its written commentary is just as strong as the artistic imagery that accompanies it. While there are a few moments of marketing waffle (I’m sorry, but saying that Halo is this generation’s Star Wars is taking things a little too far), the majority of written content is superb.

For example, when analysing Halo’s wonderful variety of characters and species, there’s typically some input from the original artist responsible for its creation, stating not only what influenced it, but how its design was moulded to work within the game. The Art of Building Worlds, for all of its beautiful imagery, reminds us that, at its very core, Halo is still a video game, and learning more about how artists must work around the limitations of GPUs and system memory is fascinating.

Some Halo fans may be disappointed that the written information itself is quite light, but then The Art of Building Worlds’ purpose isn’t to inform – rather, it serves to evoke those powerful memories that players associate with the game. Admiring glorious vistas of Reach or scanning over the frantic battle against the Flood in the city of Voi reminds you of everything that made those moments so spectacular at the time. While the artwork may make it seem more epic than it actually is, it’s more in line with our memories than we think. Any and every Halo fan has a tendency to add a certain degree of grandeur to recollections of their playthroughs. It enhances your experience of the franchise, reminding you of everything you loved about the games.

One minor criticism that can be levelled at the book centres around the absence of some important things that are key to the Halo franchise. The book intentionally focuses on only the core aspects, such as the enemies and game environments you come across, yet artwork of the Arbiter or Tartarus, for example, is extremely limited. While this doesn’t massively detract from the overall enjoyment of the book, it feels as if some classic memories were missed.

The artwork itself is flawless. Much like the games on which it is based, the images in this collection evoke an awe-inspiring yet lifelike quality. Nevertheless, The Art of Building Worlds takes this further, providing a far moodier, realistic edge to the games’ aesthetics. There’s everything from small concept images of grunts to two page spreads of Halo’s fantastic landscapes. There’s isn’t any new content or information so to speak; however, existing landscapes and scenes are perfectly portrayed in immaculate detail.

The Final Verdict

The Art of Building Worlds is a beautiful collector’s item that should be in every Halo fan’s stash. It serves, perhaps even more so than 343 Industries’ Anniversary game, as the perfect means through which to celebrate Halo’s vibrant and astounding ten-year history. Superbly written and full of small, interesting facts, this art book is an engaging experience that will easily hold your interest for extended periods of time, as you stare in awe at the luscious environments and epic battle scenes. It may not have some of content we were hoping to see, but these few, minor omissions are insignificant compared to what is on offer.

This book reminds us not only of the great memories many of us share with one of the most iconic franchises in video game history, but also reinforces the fact that games are art. The incredible amount of detail and the thought process behind it is staggering. If there’s one thing that The Art of Building Worlds truly succeeds at, it’s capturing this message and presenting it so perfectly to a wider audience.  By learning more about the artistic and creative brilliance that went into forging the franchise, it’s not hard to understand why Halo has grown to become the phenomenally popular videogame series that it is today.

Relive the memories of finishing the fight and go buy this wonderful art book now. You won’t be disappointed.

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