343 Industries' Halo 4 will "live up to what gamers fell in love with" about Bungie's original while "bringing new customers into the fiction", according to Microsoft Games Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer.
"The key question for me in managing the studio and the creatives is 'what is Halo?', making sure Halo lives up to what I think gamers fell in love with [playing Combat Evolved]," Spencer told OXM at E3 after the new game's official reveal.
"What does that mean? Playing Master Chief," he said. "We kind of lost our way a little bit, I'll say. And that's why I wanted to make sure that at the unveiling of Halo 4, you knew you were playing Master Chief, that John was back. Because Master Chief is the John Wayne character of that universe, and that's who you want to play."
343 Industries will preserve Bungie's celebrated welding of sandbox dynamics to a linear campaign, Spencer confirmed.
"Halo has this interesting mix of open world, more varied gameplay. Some other of those franchises that I love have very setpieces which really kind of draw certain dramatic elements out of it. Halo has the vehicles, the weapon types, the deep fiction - the fiction around Halo is incredibly deep."
The game's announcement trailer depicts Master Chief and Cortana drifting in space some time after Halo 3's conclusion. An explosion rips through their vessel, and Chief mounts an escape to the exterior with the aid of some nifty ankle-mounted jetpacks.
"We really spent time thinking about the story arc that we want to tell, in the world, to get back to Master Chief," Spencer commented. "Make it simple - it's not Halo-anything, it's Halo 4. You're not going to be confused about what it is. Halo 4, playing as Master Chief, beginning of a new trilogy.
"That's the role I want Halo to play, to be what Halo [already] is. It's not about re-enacting previous wars, it's not the kind of comic-booky pulp that Gears of War is, which obviously I love. Halo is a very story-driven, immersive experience, centred around Master Chief."
As a direct continuation of Halo 3, Halo 4 will be more accessible to those who skipped the Xbox titles than either the acclaimed Halo: Reach, a prequel to Combat Evolved, or standalone expansion Halo 3: ODST.
"If you were a Halo fan for Halo 1, 2 and 3, Reach made sense to you, but fundamentally there are a ton of players on our box right now that didn't start with Halo 1," Spencer remarked. "What we said was: 'let's get back to what Halo is about'.
"I loved Reach as a game - as a fan of the fiction, I totally love the story in Reach, Reach is one of the best stories in the Halo universe. But it made more sense to you if you were a Halo fan.
"If you were new to Xbox 360, 360's where you started playing on Xbox, you understood what Halo 3 was. ODST and Reach, maybe you weren't as centred."
"The game has a history now, and it's about bringing new customers into the fiction," he added.
Halo 4 releases late next year. A high definition Combat Evolved remake is also coming this November.
Predictable question for the thread: what makes a Halo game a Halo game?