Hands-on: ‘Halo: Recruit’ is the First Taste of Halo’s True Scale


Today Microsoft revealed the Halo: Recruit experience, launching on October 17th for Windows VR headsets. I got to go hands-on with the experience during an event today at the company’s San Francisco developer hub.

Among a number of exciting announcements Microsoft made today, including open pre-orders for their range of VR headsets, the company revealed Halo: Recruit, the first official Halo experience made for VR. It’ll be available (for free, as far as we know) beginning on October 17th through the Windows Store. I got to give the experience a go on the new Samsung Odyssey headset.

Up front, let’s set the expectation—this is not a Halo game. It’s an experience—so it’s going to be short and simple, but it’s both a first taste of Halo in VR, and a commitment from Microsoft and Halo studio 343 Industries that they are exploring the medium. On stage at Microsoft’s Mixed Reality event in San Francisco today, 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross said that Halo: Recruit “is just scratching the surface of what Halo could be in mixed reality.” On the studio’s official Halo blog, they write, “we’re inspired and excited to do more.”

Though 343 Industries was overseeing the project, it seems the company worked with VR studio Endeavor One to bring Halo: Recruit to life.

Image courtesy 343 Industries

Halo: Recruit is a quick five minute experience that boils down to a Halo-themed shooting gallery. Sounds boring, and it probably will be for people who don’t have any investment in the Halo franchise, but as a long time fan myself it was definitely a special moment to get my first true-scale taste of a fictional universe that I’ve spent hundreds of hours viewing through the window of a TV screen.

When you play as the iconic Master Chief on a TV screen, you assume his massive seven foot stature; enemies, vehicles, and world around you thus look small by comparison. On a TV screen, Grunts, the game’s undisciplined cannon fodder, look like they might be three or four feet tall, while Elites, the premiere soldiers of the Covenant, feel about as tall as ‘you’. Shield wielding Jackals seem to be about 5 or 6 feet, the size of a normal man.

But that’s all way wrong. The books and games have alluded to the scale of these creatures, but never been able to truly convey it. Halo: Recruit however, is your first opportunity to see this universe at its proper scale.

Note: At times the mirror output (filmed from a computer monitor) appears choppy in the video above, however the game remained perfectly smooth inside the headset.

I was introduced, in encyclopedic fashion, to each of the aforementioned Covenant aliens by standing in front of an animated model of each, at true scale, with a few facts and figures floating nearby. Those ‘little’ Grunts, it turns out, are about as tall as an average man, while Jackals stand at a menacing 7 or 8 feet tall, with their vicious bird-like beaks. Elites truly tower over the player, standing 10 or 11 feet tall, with shining armor, energy sword, and spiked mandibles sprawled. The Master Chief has made defeating these beasts look so easy over the years that standing before them in VR gives entirely new meaning to their deadliness, and I didn’t even get to see the Covenant’s largest foot soldier, the massive Hunter.

Though I would have been happy to browse a huge model library of the game’s enemies, vehicles, and weapons, unfortunately you only get to see the three aforementioned aliens briefly before moving onto a simple shooting gallery mini game.

A table rises up in front of you an open pops a heavy case hiding one of Halo’s iconic pistols. I reached out to grab them with the motion controllers and one snapped into each of my hands. What followed was a shooting gallery with a few rounds of moving ‘cardboard’ cutout targets shaped like Covenant aliens. It’s clear that this was meant to flesh out the experience with a little ‘action’ but it wasn’t terribly compelling; the pistols had unlimited ammo and required no reloading and little precision aiming.

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Following the shooting gallery, Master Chief himself enters the scene as a ‘Warthog’ jeep pulls up behind you. “You’ve got the turret,” he says. And just as you get excited about the prospect of firing the vehicle’s tri-barrel gatling gun, the scene fades to black. Master Chief, you tease!

Sure it wasn’t extensive or highly produced, but it was polished and the models all looked authentic; indeed a look at things to come. Here’s to hoping it won’t be too long before 343 Industries puts more resources behind a Halo VR project and builds a proper VR game.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    My god is this 5 years old VR tech demo? I know that only stupid people buy xbox and play Halo, but this is lame. Why is this website reporting on MS VR, this will bring VR down the drain, not help the industry. MS will make people hate VR.

    • Luke

      imho is not a tech demo. maybe just the tutorial part of the game before the true game starts. I do not know. shooting at 2D targets on a 2D monitor in a 3D space in VR looks not a great excitement.

      • If they put this much work into it. I would say this is the whole thing.

        • Laurence Nairne

          This was definitely the whole thing. Without sources, I expect the conversation went:

          Microsoft – “Hey 343, we’re releasing a ton of headsets into the market and needs something cool for the people most likely to buy into our tech, we’re thinking Halo themed?”
          343 – “Err, ok how much time do we have to get it ready?”
          Microsoft – “‘Bout three months…”

          • Microsoft – “Also there is no extra budget for this. This is just a small side demo”
            343 – ” Okay, hey interns we’ve got a great opportunity for you to work in an upcoming Halo game and you can use the latest Halo game assets.”

          • Jim Cherry

            you forgot to read the article it states “Though 343 Industries was overseeing the project, it seems the company worked with VR studio Endeavor One to bring Halo: Recruit to life.”
            so the conversations were more like
            Winter 2017
            ms m.r project manager to m.r team: We need halo by fall
            m.r team: ok lets find a studio thats done vr to make it
            spring 2017
            m.r team: congrats Endeavor One we’ve chosen your proposal you have 6 months good luck.
            summer 2017
            m.r team to 343 studios: go help Endeavor One incorporate Halo assets into the game.

    • PrymeFactor

      Given that the MS VR efforts seem much more user friendly and just as good as the Rift/Vive, I’d say MS is giving PC VR a timely boost indeed.

      For most people, that Samsung headset is much better value than a Rift or Vive.

      But troll away, child.

    • Nobody

      “experience” not demo

    • Armando Tavares

      Have you tried one of these devices? Tell us about your experience with it.

      I’m sure you’re not bashing these without ever trying or even being in the same room with one. That would be kinda dumb… right?

      • Jean-Sebastien Perron

        You are right, but I have not seen any good hands on videos. All of the people who have tried it report problems : ugly image, low fov, tracking problems, no eye separation adjustment, painful ergonomics, cheap plastic, no headphones, no games until 2018 (when steam will be available). MS and it’s looser friends are 2 years too late and bring 4 years old tech at premium prices. Only Samsung has oled, the others are lcd. The minimum they had to do was to be as good as the oculus and they are not.

  • Duane Aakre

    How did you feel the image quality with the Samsung compares to the Rift/Vive? Do the higher resolution panels significantly improve the screen door effect?

    At the moment, I’m far more interesting in learning that than about an experience which sounds like something we have seen a thousand times before.

  • GigaSora

    I’ve always said VR’s greatest achievement was the ability to make 2d screens. Now I know I was right.

    • Max

      It was the pinnacle of VR tech, truly. Especially that janky tracking/framerate at the end

      • Laurence Nairne

        The note above said the juddering was just the output from screen – the experience inside the headset was smooth.

        But yeah, it’s just Batman Arkham VR again. We’ll see a lot of these before studios work out how to use their IP in VR properly.

    • Lol a VR game about shooting at a 2d flat monitor.

  • Mane Vr

    god that sucked

  • Graham

    That was terrible! I hope that’s not the flagship experience!!

    • Jim Cherry

      it wont be the flagship experience those will mostly be games that exist already like superhot.

      • Graham

        Yeah true – but I guess this is the “halo experience” that I’m assuming they were hoping would be a selling point to fans. Don’t get me wrong, I want the new headsets to do well (I’m interested in odyssey) but this halo demo is a let down and no mistake.

  • GrangerFX

    This is going to piss off a lot of people who paid up to $500 for their MR headsets.