No, I didn’t get to play Halo 5 in virtual reality. I wish. But I sure as heck just stepped into a sci-fi video game dreamland at E3 2015, thanks to Microsoft’s amazing HoloLens. Getting briefed for a mission by a holographic soldier? Cross that off the bucket list.

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My first stop at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo was Microsoft, and I knew things were going to be rather interesting when I spotted a certain phrase on my badge:

The last time Microsoft gave me an “optic calibration,” so to speak, it was to measure the distance between my eyes so as to properly adjust the HoloLens headset.

(What the heck’s this whole HoloLens thing about? Read this and this. Today’s headgear appears to be the same—it’s a crazy sleek plasticy cyborg prototype headband with a too-narrow field of view.)

Sadly, once again, I couldn’t bring a camera inside to give you any proof:

But once inside that armored door, sure enough: a rack of HoloLens headsets were waiting for me and my fellow journalists. The room was decked out as a sci-fi marine barracks, complete with a glowing bench and lockers—clearly the inside of some heavily armored mammoth spacecraft. Called one by one, we sat down on the bench as staffers dressed as Halo scientists helped us fit the mixed reality headgear to our skulls.

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Then, the headset took care of the rest—giving us glowing, floating waypoints to follow down the spotless grey armored bulkhead of a hallway. Just like a video game! We emerged in a command center, where a giant translucent table with huge metal railings gave each of stations at which to stand—and in the center, a floating starship. The UNSC Infinity.

Go ahead, click the magnifying glass to see that hologram at full resolution. I’ll wait. What you can’t see: while I was staring at the UNSC Infinity, little portions of the ship would light up when I looked at them, giving me details about her armaments.

Sadly, Halo’s favorite holographic lady Cortana didn’t make an appearance—flitting about the galaxy with Master Chief, no doubt—but the imposing Commander Palmer made a decent substitute, decked out in aggressive Spartan-like armor. She briefed us on the skirmish we were about to face in Halo 5’s new 12 vs. 12 multiplayer mode. You know: here are the objectives you should capture, the enemies you’ll face, things like that. Except each of the buildings and foes she showed us appeared to exist, ghost-like, in the center of that table. Trust me, it’s a real trip.

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Only after her speech was over, our handler asked us to take off our HoloLens headsets. That was it? Well, not quite: we also got to go play Halo 5 for a bit. Which was fun! But yeah, no Halo in virtual/augmented/mixed reality. Not yet.

It feels like exactly the kind of experience that would spiff up a really awesome amusement park ride, at the very least.


Contact the author at sean.hollister@gizmodo.com.