LOS ANGELES - Master Chief will awaken in November.
Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday that "Halo 4," the seventh game in the popular sci-fi franchise starring armored hero Master Chief, is scheduled for worldwide release Nov. 6 on Xbox 360. Set four years after the events of "Halo 3," the shoot-'em-up sequel will focus on Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and sidekick Cortana battling an ancient enemy.
"Halo 4" marks the return of the superpowered protagonist, who has been absent from the series since drifting into space in cryogenic slumber at the end of 2007's "Halo 3." (2009's "Halo 3: ODST" and 2010's "Halo: Reach" focused on other characters in the "Halo" universe.) It will also be the first "Halo" shooter installment not created by Bungie Studios.
After the developer broke off from Microsoft in 2007, Microsoft established 343 Industries to push the "Halo" universe into the future. For Master Chief's latest intergalactic adventure, 343 Industries is giving him a minor makeover, tweaking both the supersoldier's iconic suit of armor, as well as his usually silent, oh-so-stoic attitude.
"One of the things we wanted to do was put Chief up against new challenges and have him face obstacles unlike anything he's faced before - some of those are external and some of those are internal," said "Halo 4" creative director Josh Holmes. "Throughout the course of the story, we wanted him to undergo some kind of meaningful change as a character."
Holmes said one of the most noticeable changes in Master Chief's armor is the bodysuit that he wears underneath the outer shell. It's slicker and more prominent than in previous "Halo" editions. The bodysuit regulates Master Chief's physical functions, and Holmes joked that it's the reason "he doesn't need to go to the bathroom in the middle of battle."
"There's definitely some really clear changes in the shape and placement of the armor," added executive producer Kiki Wolfkill. "For us, Chief is such an athletic and agile warrior. It was necessary that his core armor design reflect that. As he is fighting his way through the environments in this game, he needs a freedom of movement that feels believable."
Wolfkill noted the physical changes aren't merely cosmetic. She said "Halo 4" art director Kenneth Scott redesigned the suit to prepare Master Chief for a new trilogy. Unveiled at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, "Halo 4" is the first of three new "Halo" games planned by Microsoft. 343 Industries has dubbed the new games the "reclaimer trilogy."
"Kenneth's intention was to make sure that the things we needed Chief to do were supported but to also look at the things we need Chief to be able to do over the next decade, building in a visual vocabulary around attach points and different functionality on the armor that we may not be using now but hopefully will be utilizing in the future," said Wolfkill.
Over the past 10 years, the "Halo" franchise has evolved into a huge moneymaker for Microsoft. It has spawned novels and toys, sold more than 40 million games and boosted the sales of Xboxes, the only consoles where "Halo" can be played. Microsoft released "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary," a high-definition version of the original 2001 game, last year.