Almost immediately upon the Halo TV series’ first trailer debuting in January, a section of the fanbase were laser-focused on Cortana’s new design – and far from impressed.
In a departure from the companion’s bright, sci-fi look in the games, the Paramount Plus version of Cortana is a more human-shaped AI, complete with a more muted and clean color palette.
"Can we Sonic movie them into changing Cortana please?" one viewer said at the time (opens in new tab), making pointed reference to the pushback over Sonic the Hedgehog’s initial design in the 2020 release. Unlike the Blue Blur, Cortana is staying put.
Speaking to GamesRadar+ about the controversy ahead of the Halo series launch on March 24, executive producer and head of transmedia at developer 343 Industries, Kiki Wolfkill, explains the reasoning behind the tweaks.
"It's so funny, because we change her design for every game. And a lot of that is driven by technology," Wolfkill says. "A lot of the design changes as we progress[ed] through the game generations was because we had access to better graphics, technology, more pixels, and more effects. And so it's always been about adapting Cortana to the environment."
Wolfkill continues: "In this situation, it's so very different from the games in that she has to feel real. And by that, I don't mean feel like a real human. She has to feel like a real AI, a real hologram, and be a character that real people are acting against… That was really the impetus in designing her – how do we make her feel very tangible in this Halo world?"
Jen Taylor, who has played Cortana since 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved and will reprise her role in the series, is coming into the role with an open mind.
"I understand why people are protective of that [original design]," Taylor says. "I am curious to see how it’s received. I’m interested in seeing something different and seeing something new. I apologize for my wishy-washiness: Yes, I understand. Yes, I’m also interested to see what she looks like in this new version."
A new take on Cortana doesn’t just extend to her design. Taylor reveals that we’ll see "a pretty different Cortana to the one we’ve met before."
"She has different goals than the Cortana that we have known in the past 20 years. So that is really fun. I get to do some slightly different things," Taylor explains.
The Halo series is set to premiere on Paramount Plus on March 24. For more on the iconic series, check out our ranking of the best Halo games.