Sneak peek: The evolving universe of 'Halo 4'

"Halo 4," the next chapter in the hugely popular sci-fi action franchise, will be released in November.

Story highlights

  • Microsoft shows its upcoming "Halo 4" game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo
  • Game will reveal more about the relationship between Master Chief and companion Cortana
  • "Halo 4" is due out on November 6, exclusively on the Xbox 360
Reborn by a new developer and bolstered by Microsoft's new SmartGlass technology, "Halo 4" is getting ready for its closeup.
The next installment of the popular sci-fi action franchise looks to be another epic story in the saga of Master Chief and the Halo universe, while introducing a new enemy ready to challenge the Chief for domination.
"Halo 4" is being created by a new developer, 343 Industries, taking over from Bungie. It will take place five years after the conclusion of "Halo 3." The universe is at peace, but a nemesis rises to ruin the calm and sets Master Chief, the series' iconic protagonist, on a hero's journey.
At a Microsoft demonstration Tuesday night at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, 343 Industries' General Manager Bonnie Ross said it was an honor to take over the franchise.
"The 'Halo' universe is one of our most important characters," she told CNN. "That's what I'm passionate about. We put together a bible of the 'Halo' universe so we could look at the [direction of the] franchise for the next 10 years."
From video games to books, Ross described the "Halo" franchise as a rich creative vein from which to tell many stories.
Frank O'Connor, franchise development director for 343i, said Bungie left his team with "a foundation to do something special." "Everything we've done is embedded in the fiction that people already know about."
The new story will also reveal more about the relationship between Master Chief and his artificial intelligence companion, Cortana. While the Chief will grow as a character, everything in the story had to be kept within the framework of the game, O'Connor said.
"There are things that will completely turn people on their heads," he said.
"He [Master Chief] has never met his match," added Ross. "He's never had to make decisions before by himself. He's more human than ever before."
A new multiplayer mode also will offer its own storyline, much like a television series, 343i execs said. It will feature weekly episodes, set up by short videos describing events preceding your team's current missions. While the missions can be done by one player, they are designed to bring friends together to do battle for a week.
"It is like a TV show you can play," O'Connor said. "I'm really hoping for water cooler moments where people gather to talk about -- not what they watched on TV -- but what they did in the game, like plummeting to their doom."
During Tuesday's demonstration, the game play looked and felt similar to what "Halo" has previously offered, with a wide variety of weapons, grenades and abilities. Ross said there are some game play changes, but he wants players to discover them for themselves. On first glance, the new game's environments looked rich and beautiful.
Ross and O'Connor said "Halo 4" would utilize Microsoft's new SmartGlass app, which lets gamers use a "second screen" tablet or phone to augment their game play, for a richer experience. They said they haven't fully fleshed out how to best utilize the new SmartGlass technology.
"Halo 4" is due out on November 6, exclusively on the Xbox 360. Microsoft plans to introduce the game with a series of live-action videos beginning about a month before its release. Ross said the videos will lay the foundation for the new game.
Ross and O'Connor said they feel the weight of meeting the expectations of the "Halo" franchise's legions of fans. They believe some elements of the game are iconic but that others must change to move the universe forward.
"You have to put your foot down and make the right changes," O'Connor said. "You just can't make changes for change's sake and expect it to work."
Longtime fans and new players will judge for themselves in five months.