The internet sensation, Red vs. Blue, has been a favorite of Halo lovers everywhere for quite some time now. Rooster Teeth's twisted take on the Bungie/Microsoft video game franchise took the web by storm in 2003, and to this day it's still going strong. Multiple episodes have stretched across several seasons and there have been some DVD sets released along the way. A new collection is coming out later this month, however, and if you skipped the first editions you may be interested in this one.
The nice thing about Red vs. Blue is that you don't exclusively have to be a Halo fan in order to appreciate it. It holds generally universal appeal for any lovers of video games and/or comedy alike. But, just what is this series about?
In it's simplest form Red vs. Blue is simply what its title insinuates: Red Guys versus Blue Guys. This first series, "The Blood Gulch Chronicles", is set in the Halo map of the same name. Essentially it's a desolate canyon with two bases at opposite ends. The Red team resides in one of the forts, while the Blue team holds down the other.
The premise is that there's some sort of civil war and the forts were constructed in response to the other team already having a fort, which creates a chicken and the egg "Which came first?" scenario. The details are just plain silly in all honesty, though they're meant to be. The ultimate goal of each group is to defeat and capture the flag of their opponent, or so one might think. More often than not the soldiers goof around, slack off, and just spend the day trading insults with each other. Think of Red vs. Blue as a twisted sitcom with Spartan soldiers as the cast and you'd be on the right track.
Through the five seasons that made up "The Blood Gulch Chronicles" there are several characters that are introduced. The Red Team is lead by Sarge (Matt Hullum), who is as quick to deliver an insult as he is a mind-numbingly-stupid response. The team also consists of Grif (Geoff Ramsey), Simmons (Gustavo Sorola), Donut (Dan Godwin), and Lopez (Burnie Burns). On the Blue side of things there's Church (Burns), Tex (Kathleen Zuelch), Tucker (Jason Saldana), and my personal favorite Caboose (Joel Heyman). Other characters come and go, but primarily that's the core cast. Each has a way of counterbalancing each other's personality, with some characters being slightly more serious and others just being plain stupid.
If you've never seen Red vs. Blue the one thing you should know before coming to this collection is where to set your expectations. Don't looking for a massive sweeping story that rivals what one would experience in the Halo game franchise; you simply won't find it here. There are plotlines and stories as the series progresses, but none of them are really captivating. Instead this series offers a cluster of five minute episodes with rapid fire humor, one-liners, and slapstick comedy. References to Halo and other games are plentiful. There are also several running gags, which become a mainstay in the show, and things evolved as additional Halo titles were released during the show's run.
Taken as it is in its most basic form Red vs. Blue is entertaining mindless fun. The series really hits the ground running, and once you start watching the show you won't want to stop until the final disc is in your DVD player. This is the kind of show you watch with a group of buddies (preferably ones who all like Halo), drink some beers, laugh, and have a good time. It's innocent fun that offers nonstop jokes and camp, and in that sense it's highly recommended.
When looking at the presentational quality of this Red vs. Blue collection, it's important to keep a couple of things in mind. For starters the set has a higher resolution than the previous DVD collections, and what was shown on the web. Things generally look better all around, though really it's not until the fifth season that things look their sharpest. There's low resolution, muddied textures, and otherwise unappealing blemishes here and there. This leads me to the other point to keep in mind: this show was built with the Halo engine. The show's quality is mostly limited to its resources and there are many glitches and flaws that stem from its source. The fact that Rooster Teeth was able to make a show based on this was impressive in its own right, but it's not something that translates extremely well to a home theater.
Presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Red vs. Blue doesn't leave one stunned at the quality of its recording. The dialogue sounds as though it comes through scratchy microphones, but with that being said it almost perfectly mimics the Xbox Live experience. That may fit the motif, though it doesn't exactly leave positive impression as the volume pitches and the sound is sometimes muddy. The music and sound effects are decent at least.
Though the presentation of the show leaves something to be desired, the real meat and potatoes of this DVD release is the supplemental content. To put it bluntly, the bonus features in this collection is downright daunting. Each disc offers something and this boxed set even includes an additional disc full of material.
Disc one includes a hilarious series of Public Service Videos and some outtakes that feature the cast attempting to get things right. There's also a Special Edition version of the first episode with a better graphics engine. In addition to this there are also two audio commentaries with the cast and crew: an original commentary from 2003, and an anniversary commentary for this 2010 release.
The second disc continues the trend by offering an audio commentary for the season, some outtakes, and more Public Service Videos. There are also a recap of the first season, some deleted scenes, and "Recommended Titles", which is basically a quick series of small videos. The third includes an intro, character profiles, outtakes, more Special Videos ("Cold & Flu Season" for the win), an audio commentary, and even more spoof videos.
Disc four includes character profiles once again, another recap, an audio commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes, more special videos, and an intermission, which is basically environmental shots from some maps from Halo 2 set to sound effects. The season five disc offers some more profiles, a recap, a commentary, alternate ending, behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, and special videos. There's also the five-part mini series "Out of Mind" included on this disc.
The final DVD in this collection houses a ridiculous amount of extra stuff. There's a series of videos that all date back to 2002 when Red vs. Blue was still in development. There are the first recordings, a version of the series done in Lego, awards shows, some stuff with BNL, several more videos from conventions across the globe, and mini-series that lead the way up to the release of Halo 3. There's even a selection of fan art and photos to click through.
Red vs. Blue is the epitome of a good time. Each of the five seasons of "Blood Gulch Chronicles" is packed with laughs, action, and all manner of camp set in the Halo universe. It's simply a must watch for Halo fans and video game junkies everywhere. This collection improves upon the presentation a little, but the real meat and potatoes of the set comes in the form of hours of bonus features. It's a nice homage to fans and it's a sweet collection that's truly a labor of love. Highly Recommended
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!