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The Real Reason Cortana Looks So Different In The Halo Series

The upcoming "Halo" series on Paramount+ is a major moment for video game fans. Like the games that came before, the TV series follows Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (Pablo Schreider), a genetically advanced human super-soldier who stands as one of humanity's few best weapons against the technologically superior Covenant.

That said, the "Halo" creative team claims the upcoming series will not function as a sequel or continuation of the video games' storylines in any way. Executive producer and 343 Industries executive Kiki Wolfkill said that the show should be considered an entirely separate continuity so that the story can adapt to best suit the needs of a new medium (via Twitter). It's unclear exactly how that might take shape; for example, the presence of other Spartans in the series' trailer may imply that the show starts before Master Chief stands as one of the United Nations Space Command's last remaining super soldiers.

With "Halo" entering a new era as a streaming television property, some aspects of the games should naturally expect to change. One character in particular experienced a significant re-design for the new series — the artificial intelligence Cortana, who befriends Master Chief and plays a pivotal role in fighting the Covenant.

The Halo creative team wanted to make Cortana feel more real

In the new "Halo" series, Cortana (Jen Taylor) has a distinctly different design than the A.I. gamers came to know and depend on in the franchise's main video games. The character's new design looks more like a real human than the hologram featured elsewhere. "Halo" executive producer and 343 Industries executive Kiki Wolfkill told Total Film that the impetus for updating Cortana's look for live-action television was all about adapting Cortana's look to match the increasingly better technology they have access to. In a detailed, futuristic world that hasn't yet been brought to the screen in this way before, Wolfkill said the "Halo" creative team wanted Cortana to feel "very tangible" in the series' world.

"In this situation, it's so very different from the games in that she has to feel real," Wolfkill said. "And by that, I don't mean feel like a real human. She has to feel like a real A.I., a real hologram, and be a character that real people are acting against."

Taylor, who portrays Cortana in each of the "Halo" video games, was brought on to the series in 2020. Scheduling difficulties left original Cortana Natascha McElhone unable to finish portraying both the A.I. and the character who creates her, Dr. Catherine Halsey (via IGN). Taylor told Total Film that this version of Cortana will differ from how the character is portrayed in other "Halo" media given the new series' standalone continuity. According to him, this Cortana "has different goals than the Cortana we have known the past 20 years."

Sounds almost ... ominous.