Microsoft's mad keen to let you know about Halo 4, providing all you want to know is: "will it have Master Chief", "will it be out on Xbox 360" and "will there be outer space and stuff". Sensible that this is 343 Industries' first proper crack at the franchise, the publisher's spent the months since the E3 reveal in full detail lockdown, wary of conveying a partial picture. Beyond the debut trailer, there's very little to go on.
Fortunately, we happen to be (a) masters of deduction and (b) the foremost Halo scholars, having published a massive Chief-themed edition of our magazine earlier this year. We've been harvesting key snippets of 343 insight over the past few weeks, reading between the lines and putting two and two together. The result: another blisteringly comprehensive 12 for 2012 Q&A. In this endeavour, OXM High Command gratefully acknowledges the hard work and sleuthing of editorial intern David Cornish, a man so at home with Halo he calls Master Chief "Johnny". Good grief.
Will Halo 4's story follow directly on from the events of Halo 3?
It certainly will. Specifically, it'll follow on from the events of Halo 3 when you complete it on Legendary. The "Legendary Planet" glimpsed after Master Chief goes into hibernation aboard the ruptured Forward Unto Dawn is the same structure you see at the close of the Halo 4 Awakening trailer.
And Master Chief's still the hero, right? No last-minute Spartan swap-ins?
Yes, he's still the hero. Stop "Reaching", arf arf. Well aware of fan displeasure over the Chief's absence in Bungie's final Halo game, Microsoft and 343 are focussing squarely on John 117 this time. He's changed though.
Difficult to say. Fans quickly picked up on changes to the Chief's armour in the Awakening trailer - rather amusingly, he's missing a codpiece. There's some speculation over how this happened - Cortana passing the time while the Chief slept? - and what it bodes, which could be enormously little. O'Connor has said he's happy to mess with Halo's lore providing it makes for a better game, and this could be a minor instance of that, to loosen technical overheads. Yes, we're aware cutting back on a character's underwear is an odd way to loosen technical overheads. Yes, we're aware we've just suggested that the Chief's junk is too large for Halo 4's memory allowance.
A bit more compellingly, there's evidence to the effect that Chief has undergone a psychological shift, with 343 staff hinting at "different behaviours". It's possible all that time in cryo-sleep has done nasty things to John's brainbox. It's also possible the years of Grunt-popping and Elite-dicing are beginning to drag on his subconscious. Don't forget - Spartan training is hell on earth, and the Chief hasn't exactly had it easy since he graduated.