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ARTICLE

Halo 4: E3 Essentials

Microsoft opened their E3 conference by showcasing their most famous character, the iconic Master Chief. Their talisman.

Did you miss me?

A trailer roared onto the screen. Master Chief watches on as the UNSC Infinity crashes onto the unknown planet. The familiar tones of Cortana echo in our ear. And now her face is on the HUD too. Game on.

Master Chief is on an intercept course, following a strange orb to the crash site in the distance. And there's plenty of adversity for him to overcome on the way. First up is an old enemy. Covenant.

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Phantoms and Banshees scream overhead. A forrest environment reveals fodder. Grunts feel the force of the Chief's Battle Rifle. Triple burst.

The base Covenant unit looks good. Really good. More threatening than before. 343 has done a great job in adding menace to the Grunt.

Jackals and Elites accompany them, and as Master Chief is drawn from his hiding spot into combat, a well worn grove is settled into. Nothing unusual here.

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As expected, the assembled throng of Covenant lackeys are dispatched, save for the last. This one is killed by a mysterious energy beam. Cortana and the Chief shrug it off. They've obviously seen some weird shit in their time.

Next up is something new.

First they look like the local wildlife. Then they start firing Starship Trooper-esque liquid projectiles. If there was any doubt, Cortana puts it to rest: "These things are some type of defence AI, definetly not Covenant."

A well armed, heavily armoured alien attacks. A helmet opens to reveal a glowing red skull. It looks almost human save for the volcanic glow. Face for radio. Master Chief knocks him away with a right hook.

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The creature, presumably Forerunner in origin, has backup. A drone is released, seemingly from its alien arse, giving the chief something else to shoot at. The creature activates a portable energy shield.

The Chief throws a sticky grenade into the mix, only for the drone to catch it in some kind of energy beam, and slingshot it back whence it came. Clever trick.

The Chief knows what he's doing and dispatches his foe with the military precision we've all come to know and love. The drone flies off to safety as the creature disintegrates like a vampire hitting daylight.

We see our first new weapon. The Light Rifle. Cortana helpfully points out its Forerunner design. As if we hadn't guessed already. We chase after the drone.

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Chief lobs another grenade, but this time it ain't sticky. Before the hot potato can be thrown back, the ‘nade detonates, destroying the tricky ariel threat. Another Forerunner creature enters the fray.

He teleports away from combat, but not far enough to avoid a head full of Light Rifle ammo. It's a powerful gun. But not as powerful as the Scattershot.

As soon as the Spartan picks it up, another enemy descends from above. One shot is enough to send him into a shower of sparks.

It's getting dark. An callout flashes on the HUD. The Infinity is in trouble, but then so is John 117. It gets dark, and on comes the heat vision. Surrounded.

And thus ended the gameplay demonstration. As you can see, there is plenty of information to absorb. But also plenty of promise. Much we already knew about, like the returning Battle Rifle, but the new enemies further point to some serious changes to the franchise.

Enemies made the original trilogy. When you weren't taking on the intelligent and organised Covenant, you were scrambling for survival against the rampant Flood. If the ancient evil faced by Master Chief in Halo 4 can bring something genuinely new to the table, it's likely to resonate well with the fans.

Whilst the first signs are positive, we're still along way from knowing whether the Forerunner threat measures up against the thrill of fighting foes of old. I guess we're just going to have to wait and see with this one.

Live Action

The obligatory live-action trailer was also released. It starts with a spiel about building a vessel for peaceful exploration (at which point you know it's doomed) rather than war. 17,000 of "Humanity's finest" are off to spread peace and love into the farthest reaches of space.

Before long they're in serious trouble. A mysterious beam penetrates the vessel, scanning all on board. Engines are reversed, but it's not enough to halt a decline into the neighboring planet's atmosphere. At this point events intersect with those shown to us in the gameplay demo.

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There's been a slew of assets released for Halo 4 this week.

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Halo 4 - War Games

Wargames gives us a look at competitive multiplayer. 343 will be desperately trying to get this one right, because without Halo's vibrant and dedicated online community onboard, the franchise isn't going anywhere in a hurry.

It looks like the tradition of revisiting and re-imaging classic maps remains intact. We saw maps entirely reminiscent of Narrows and Avalanche in the trailer, there are undoubtedly more.

There are brutal new takedown animations, including one back breaking assassination. Other than that, lots of grenades, several new Forerunner weapons to play with, and a whole load of Warthogs. Looks like business as usual.

Stills from The Commissioning

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Halo 4 - Spartan Ops

This video gives us some insight into the content drops that 343 will be regularly making for Halo 4. For those not in the know, Spartan Ops will see a weekly downloadable co-op mission made available. Each will come complete with a backstory and animations, as 343 seeks to maintain longevity and appeal in the title.

The trailer shows combat with Elites and Forerunners, and we're shown some more of Halo 4's new tricks. Spartans holding portable energy shields and new takedown animations against Forerunners, are just two of the things you can see in the trailer.

Weapon renders and cutouts

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Multiplayer & Environment artwork

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This time last year

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