343's campaign to theoretically say a lot about Halo 4 without actually saying much continues, as studio boss Frank O'Connor and his cohorts discuss the difficulties of fiddling with a treasured gameplay formula.
The Microsoft-owned studio believes any modifications it makes will be picked over ruthlessly by series fans. "Our goal is an amazing Halo game," creative director Kiki Wolfkill told OXM during an interview you'll read in our Halo Limited Edition Special, on sale now. "People looking back will probably be able to say: 'this is the flavour that 343 added' in relation to the games that came before."
"We'll come under a lot more scrutiny than Bungie did, even though their teams shift monumentally between games," O'Connor added. "There's definitely core people still there, but other than that vastly different people worked on each game. There'll be differences in style that will be attributed to 343 that wouldn't have been examined under the same microscope if it had been another Bungie team doing it.
"You get that between levels in a game - level 2 in Halo 3 is different to level 3 because slightly different pockets of the team are working on it. There's little subtle things that we'll be held to an exacting standard for, that would have happened anyway. But there will be 343 elements and there will be core Halo principles."
Though mindful that Halo fans regard those core principles as sacred ground, creative director Josh Holmes insists that change is necessary. "There were so many ideas, and part of the challenge was to really focus on the things that we felt were the most important.
"The other big challenge was finding the strength and the confidence to take risks, and bring a new and fresh perspective whilst balancing that with the core of what makes Halo great - the things that made us fans of the series in the first place. We can't just regurgitate the same experience.
"For the team, I think finding that balance has been one of our biggest challenges: how do we push new ideas, whilst continuing to respect the legacy. In terms of specifics, we're still pretty tight-lipped about what we're doing."
If 343 has yet to reveal anything concrete on Halo 4, a gallery of lush environment art aside, the developer's praise of competitor Call of Duty is suggestive. "There's a lot of things COD does beautifully that we should do better," O'Connor told OXM last month.
O'Connor has also revealed that the Halo 4 team isn't afraid to tamper with Halo's fiction, asserting that "the game is the king". Master Chief has changed a little in the time since Halo 3, with modified armour and new "behaviours".
Cortana's advancing age will play a key role in the new Reclaimer trilogy - according to series lore, older AIs experience a condition known as Rampancy, short-handed by O'Connor as "thinking itself to death".
Pick up the Halo special for more, including in-depth looks at how each game in the series evolved.