The “Pre-Rendered” Advantage

The “Pre-Rendered” Advantage

Every Halo trailer that stands out in people’s minds has followed a pattern. From the announcement trailers for Halo: CE, to the in-engine trailer for Reach, every game has attempted to set a standard with its previews, a visual indicator of what we can expect from the game itself.

Halo 2 showed us the new and improved graphics over Halo 1 as well as our first in-game view of Earth, and Halo 3 showed us the updated textures and self-shading, as well as the mysterious Forerunner artifact under the African savannah.

Additionally, each trailer has marked the debut of the new soundtrack for each game, not only presenting us with a visual indicator of what is to come, but an auditory one as well. ODST (at the time known as “Recon”) and Halo Wars were the only two trailers to break from that mold and show pre-rendered trailers for their announcement, ODST because it was not technically a full game, but rather a spin-off of Halo 3, and Halo Wars because its gameplay and graphics were not suitable for an in-engine reveal.
However, things took a turn for the different with the fan community’s reaction to the Halo Wars cutscenes.

Because they were pre-rendered, and allowed for a much more cinematic makeup, they struck an appealing chord… one which allowed Halo fans to see elements of their favorite universe portrayed in a way which had previously only been described in the novels. Younger teams of Spartan-IIs in action, ship-to-ship engagements and naval maneuvers, and open combat. It was an amazing realization that in order to achieve the level of enjoyment out of the game that the designers wanted, the immersive in-game cutscenes were not required.

Enter Halo 4. On June 6th, the first announcement trailer for Halo 4 was revealed at E3 2011… and it, too, was pre-rendered.

If we are to follow the pattern established by all the major Halo releases up until this point, disregarding ODST, this would indicate based on a very shallow pattern analysis that Halo 4 might have pre-rendered cutscenes. Blasphemy, you say?

While I’m not outright suggesting that this will actually be the case – and in fact would be against it myself – I am suggesting that we all take a step back from our established “Halo comfort zone” (coining the phrase now), and consider how Halo 4 might actually benefit from this.

Just as with Halo Wars, it would allow us a much clearer picture into the Halo universe. Smaller miniscule details could be added throughout, giving the most scrutinous of us fans even more content to pour over for hours and hours. The constraints of rendering a cutscene in-engine would be eliminated, giving artists and animators more freedom to make their work as accurate as possible. Cutscenes wouldn’t be limited by the amount of characters and items populating the screen, and would obviously suffer no potential playback issues. If one were to really consider it, the sky is the limit… or perhaps the Ark. Either way, nothing would be impossible, and everything would be allowed for. There would be, quite simply, no reason for any of us (except those that exclusively enjoy fitting warthogs and other objects into cutscenes they shouldn’t necessarily be in) not to be happy with pre-rendered cutscenes, assuming that they are of the best possible quality and that the Spartans are not animated using mocap again.


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  1. richard
    March 26, 2012

    okay i see what you’re saying and as a long time player and reader of halo, it would be nice to have cutsences like that, in fact it would be nice if they just made the books like that but as we all know 343 might not even listen to this small group but it would be nice.

  2. Rakete
    March 26, 2012

    I would really like pre-rendered cutscenes like the ones in Halo Wars, but I suppose this will not happen for the first-person-shooters due to memory constraints. With all the assets for campaign, MP, Forge etc it is the question if there is still enough space for enough high-res cutscenes.

  3. drossello
    March 26, 2012

    I always have thaught that ingame graphics for the cutscnes is the way to go. It doesnt hype you over the actual game and maintains a reason for designers to really push themselves. Besides, even though i love prerendered movies, I think in a game they always over hype you with what you might get to play and then gameplay never is at the same level of art/ awsomeness/ amplitud/etc. I think they might be a great adition through terminals or extras, but not in game scenes.

  4. March 27, 2012


    No CGI cutscenes. Halo had always great ingame cuntsenes and every game got better and better. Halo wars CGI cutscenes are brilliant, but that is a different case – it is a strategy and the engine is not build for cinematic ingame cutscenes. Legular Halo games, that is a different case. Having an ingame cutscenes making the game as whole much personal experience. Even during the cutscenes zou feel that zou are actually still there. CGI is like watching someone´s else story. It would split game apart.

    Nowdays, even the best possible CGI wont amuse anybody, becouse there is just too many cgi films and cartoon around. Ingame animations can be also very cinematic (Halo 2 remember ?) and it supports very much the gameplay itself.

    Halo 4 engine will be even upgraded and it will support some neat depht-of-field effect so i dont really think that they need to invest int CGI.

    BTW Halo 4 cgi teaser Sucks.

  5. drossello
    March 28, 2012

    not the directors cut does not. Thats a good one. God knows why they chose the one that got released…its shame. Shame Microsoft, Shame 343. well…at least they are making the game.

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