Monday, February 15, 2010

Halo: Legends Advanced Screening

On Tues. Feb. 16th, the next legendary entry into the iconic Halo franchise is set to launch to eager fans, only this time it's not a game that we're all waiting for. No, you see this Tuesday marks the launch of Halo: Legends, the franchise's first foray into the realm of anime and the home video market proper. The compilation effort of 343 Studios as well as several Japanese anime studios, Halo: Legends is a collection of several shorts set within the Halo universe, expanding on the lore that has captured the imagination of millions the globe over.

On Thurs. Feb. 11th, a few dozen lucky fans, including yours truly, was privileged to attend Warner Home Video's and Xbox Canada's advanced screening. Held at the Hazelton Hotel in downtown Toronto, guests were immediately taken down an elevator (requiring security card access to reach, no less) to await the screening. We were greeted by a promotional poster of Halo: Legends, as well as the Master Chief statue used during the promotion of Halo 2 (which I always wanted for my living room!). Off to one side was a gaming station set up with an Xbox 360 and Halo 3: ODST, and on the other side the same setup featuring Halo 3.

The atmosphere was light as we all mingled, enjoying the free mini-burgers, beer, and other tasty culinary assortments, playing some games in anticipation of the evening's events. Friends who've met at past community events renewed their acquaintance, exchanging thoughts on life, Halo, and any other number of odds an ends. At roughly 8:00 pm, the show was set to start and we were shown into "Mom and Dad's basement," as one promo rep called it. The screening area blew me away, with a very large screen projecting the Blu-ray Disc version of Halo: Legends in full 1080p and surround sound glory. Now normally at these community events we all walk around and mingle for the duration, but having just gotten that out of our systems I must say it was a pleasant change of pace to sit back in such a comfortable seat, enjoy as much white chocolate popcorn as we could shovel, and watch that which we have never seen before: The Halo franchise on the big screen.

Needless to say, it was epic, showing the vastness, care, and scope that these studios poured into their work. The soundtrack, the Halo score we've come to know and love sounded simply breathtaking in surround sound, having been remastered and performed by a full orchestra for this compilation. Without question this was some of the best two hours I've spent in a "theatre" in years, watching these characters that I know and love fully animated and alive.

Containing eight episodes, half of which were already previewed via Halo Waypoint, it was quite the experience to view the complete package in its entirety, and crowd response was definitely the highest for the episode entitled "Odd One Out" and the exploits of Spartan-1337. "The Package," already seen via Waypoint, seemed to come in as the second favourite of the collection with its wonderful CG animation and action-packed firefights. The only problem with watching something this engrossing is how fast the evening flew by.

Of course, it wouldn't be a community event without a nod to the great Xbox Canada Community that these events are held for, and Warner Home Video and Xbox Canada once again paid tribute with a quick prize raffle in which one lucky guest won a framed piece of Halo 3: ODST concept art. Very slick, and yet another fan was able to take home the Halo: Legends poster from the entry way ('cause you never know if you don't ask!).

Each guest also received a wonderful press kit featuring:

- a copy of Halo: Legends (your choice for the Blu-ray Disc or Two-Disc Special Edition DVD)
- a copy of the Halo: Legends - Original Soundtrack
- 2 x Halo 3: ODST Vancouver Boot Camp T-shirts (one was S, the other XL)
- 1 x Halo 3: ODST button
- 1 x Halo 3: ODST lanyard- 2 x Halo 3: ODST stickers

Needless to say, this was one awesome grab bag, and a big thank you to Warner Home Video and Xbox Canada not only for the loot, but also for holding and continuing to hold these great events that not only let us experience these great mediums in ways we normally couldn't, but that also bring the community closer together, letting us place faces to the Gamertags!

Look for a full review of Halo: Legends - Two-Disc DVD Special Edition soon.

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