Halo 4 marks the return of John-117 as a playable protagonist after three Halo games focusing on different sets of characters. Having been lost in space for five years after the finale of Halo 3, John-117 and Cortana, adrift aboard the wreckage of the aft section of the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, find themselves near Requiem, the Forerunner shield world first seen in the Legendary ending of Halo 3.
The story of Halo 4 will be heavily focused on mystery, exploration and discovery, and has been described as being grand in scope and scale. Forerunner elements will be featured extensively, including elements in Halo 4's online multiplayer. It has also been suggested that the game will reveal how humanity and the UNSC have adapted to the post-war world, particularly how they have co-opted Forerunner technology into their military devices and assets. The former subject species of the Covenant Empire return in the game, in the form of a renegade splinter group known as the Storm, consisting of Sangheili and their former Unggoy and Kig-Yar subordinates still loyal to the tenets of the Covenant religion who have banded together and engage with John-117 in combat. However, the Covenant are taking a backseat to an entirely new antagonist, the Prometheans, an elite class of Forerunner Warriors and their legendary leader known as the Didact, which has been said to be a "threat beyond anything that Master Chief has faced before." The subject of Cortana's ongoing rampancy, a year beyond her ideal functional lifespan, will also be thoroughly and prominently detailed in Halo 4.
Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 4 is designed to be part of a three-game arc from the beginning. In addition, 343 Industries is aiming for more complete connectivity among all of their future media than that of the original trilogy; the Forerunner Saga and Kilo-Five Trilogy novels, and the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary terminals have been stated as "definitely" having "resonant connections" to Halo 4's story. The third and final Forerunner Saga novel, Silentium, is expected to be released on January 8th, 2013. Frank O'Connor noted that Silentium will be released after Halo 4 for "specific strategic reasons" likely referring to the connectivity of the game and the novel. A live action series, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, will provide a backstory for several characters set to appear in the game; this series will consist of five episodes totaling 75 minutes. The Halo 4 Collectors Edition will include a 90 minute extended cut of the series.
Gameplay and designHalo 4 is being developed for the Xbox 360 console. The game's creative team, which comprises nearly 200 individuals who have been developing the game for nearly three years, is led by creative director Josh Holmes. The game will continue the Halo series' tradition of inspiring wonder in the player while providing engaging, visceral gameplay. The game will utilize much of the "sandbox" that has been featured across all six prior Halo games and other media, in addition to introducing new characters, weapons, vehicles, and other elements. The game's "sandbox" and overall style are meant to be evocative of Halo: Combat Evolved moreso than of later installments.Dual wielding will not be accessible in the game.
The narrative design team of Halo 4 is headed by Armando Troisi, who previously worked on Mass Effect and its sequel, along with an in-house team of writers. The original draft of the Halo 4 script was written by Chris Schlerf, who has also had major influence on the script since then. Brian Reed, who wrote the 2010-2012 graphic novel adaptation Halo: Fall of Reach, is also part of the writing team and has made significant contributions on the story.
The art director for Halo 4 is Kenneth Scott. He described the visual style of Halo 4 as being more ingrained in the expanded universe fiction, and more "mature" than before. With the game's increased focus on the Forerunners, the artists have invested heavily on the look and feel of Forerunner technology. It has also been stated that there will be more diversity to Forerunner structures, including fully active Forerunner technology as opposed to the mostly inert and abandoned structures seen in the earlier games.
John-117's experience and the player's experience are meant to be intertwined, with the Master Chief essentially serving as the player's avatar within the Halo universe. John's character will also be explored and developed in more depth than in the prior games, and the relationship between John and Cortana will be heavily featured and greatly expanded. In addition, 343 Industries has stated that Halo 4 will feature much more athleticism, as the background of Master Chief and the SPARTAN super soldiers in general promise a feeling of "a super hero", a feeling they want to convey to the player.
With the increased focus on the character of Master Chief, the Halo 4 art team has redesigned his MJOLNIR armor from the ground up. The first look into the redefined armor, which differs considerably from the suit seen in Halo 3, was seen in the announcement trailer, generating a considerable amount of confusion and speculation among fans. 343 Industries later stated that the design seen in the trailer was not the final version. The final iteration was later seen alongside the first Halo 4 gameplay reveal following Microsoft Spring Showcase 2012. The changes in the design are mostly cosmetic and were made with the intent of giving the suit a more functional look in order to suit the new art direction of the game. In a fictional context, the difference in the suit's appearance is explained by an extensive overhaul performed by Cortana while John was in cryo-sleep.
Motion capture, first implemented in the series on Halo: Reach, was used during the production of Halo 4. Recording began prior to the release of the Making Halo 4: First Look video in Los Angeles, California, with material for the character Cortana and a man playing an unidentified character filmed; recordings have been done as recently as the week of April 29th, 2012. Bruce Thomas and MacKenzie Mason would later be confirmed as the "cinematic performance capture actors" for John-117 and Cortana, respectively.
At a London press event for Halo 4, it was announced that development of the game was completed on September 25th, 2012 after three years in development. The finished product has since been sent to "various certification processes" before mass production of the game begins. Coincidentally, the September 25th completion date of Halo 4 also marks the fifth anniversary of the North American release of its predecessor, Halo 3.
AudioSotaro Tojima, best known for his work on Konami's Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, serves as Halo 4's audio director. The team has performed many live audio recording sessions, several of which occurred in Tasmania, Australia. Some of these recording sessions have taken place in generally inhospitable environments, such as underwater, in fire, and in ice, through the use of specially designed microphones; other recording sessions have utilized "home made" explosives. Tojima intends for the game's audio to be clearly grounded in the Halo universe, though to also have a more realistic quality than in past titles. A video was released on February 23rd depicting 343i recording weapon and explosion audio alongside the U.S. Army Special Forces. Weapons such as the M4 carbine, Mk 17 battle rifle, M240 general purpose machine gun, M107 sniper rifle, M2 heavy machine gun, and M72 rocket launcher were used in the recording.
Five voice actors have so far been announced for the game. Jen Taylor, voicing the AI Cortana, and Jeff Steitzer, the multiplayer and firefight Announcer, have confirmed on Facebook that they will again be reprising their roles for Halo 4. Steve Downes, the iconic voice of John-117, was confirmed to voice the game's protagonist in the June 9th Halo Bulletin. On the April 17th, 2012 episode of the TBS late night comedy show Conan, hosts Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter announced that they'll be voicing Navy deckhands lifting crates aboard the advanced warship Infinity towards the end of the story. Frank O'Connor, replying to a fan's question at the Rooster Teeth Expo, stated that the cast for the upcoming episodic cooperative series Spartan Ops will have the "biggest injection" of new voice talent for Halo 4.
On April 11, 2012, the composer for Halo 4 was announced to be Neil Davidge, best known as the co-writer and producer for the British electronica duo Massive Attack. Davidge first started in his role as the future composer in late 2010, eventually having his first meeting with 343i laying out his ideas for the music of the game. After the meeting, Davidge began writing 20 to 30 pieces that would be the base of the Halo 4 score, which he officially began working on in August of 2011. Davidge has since stated that over four hours and an estimated 300 pieces had been written as of May 8, 2012. Composing Halo 4 is noted as being split into four distinct "tiers," each consisting of central themes for a handful of missions. Many of the key compositions were recorded and completed in January 2012 ahead of 343i's completion deadline. Though still grounded in the Halo universe, the score for Halo 4 will be taking a new direction from Martin O'Donnell's composition in previous Halo titles. Orchestral and composition for the score was done at the famed Abbey Road Studios in Westminster, London, England, mostly notably known for their work with The Beatles during the 1960's.
MultiplayerThe competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes of Halo 4 are grouped together into a mode known as Infinity, which is tied to the Halo series fiction and runs parallel to the campaign story. In Infinity, players take control of SPARTAN-IV supersoldiers serving aboard the advanced warship, UNSC Infinity. Prior to the beginning of development on Halo 4, 343i General Manager Bonnie Ross and Frank O'Connor set the framework of the new studio's mission which entailed that all pieces of existing and future fiction from the games, novels, comics, etc. would be interwoven and share content from each other. Among this would be the multiplayer component for Halo 4, which would later include the introduction of Spartan Ops; " Wrapping the whole thing together allowed us to make sure that all the fiction in all of those pieces actually mattered – in this case, it connects directly to your career as well as the narrative experience."
An Overshield power-up drop.
War GamesCompetitive multiplayer, known as "War Games," pits players against one another in adversarial combat training in simulated environments in the advanced combat deck of the Infinity. However, due to the emphasis on the SPARTAN-IV commandos, players will not have the option to use Sangheili soldiers for their multiplayer character.
343 Industries is aiming to provide a "brand new experience" in Halo 4 multiplayer. This includes a reworking of the series' traditional balance system. For example, the player progression system will be more extensive, allowing players to choose between various modifications which have an effect on gameplay, in addition to aesthetic armor permutations similar to the prior games. Players will also be able to customize their loadouts, being able to choose between various armor abilities as well as new customizable features, known as Support Upgrades and Tactical Packages. Tactical Packages offer a small performance boost to a chosen gameplay feature, such as the player's shield or weapon carrying capacity. Support Upgrades function similarly, and feature such improvements as motion tracker upgrade and an increase in the player's maximum ammunition. Halo 4 also introduces a new gameplay enhancement feature referred to as "Specializations". Specializations unlock different armor sets, emblems, visor colors, weapon and armor skins, and armor mods, which work similar to tactical packages and support upgrades.
It has also been stated that multiplayer gameplay will be "much more fast-paced, more intense and visceral" than in the prior games. Weapon pickups on maps will be marked on the player's heads-up display, and players will be able to call in ordnance drops, containing power-ups or weapons, during War Games or Spartan Ops matches. Some multiplayer gametypes include Slayer, Infinity Slayer, and Regicide. Power-ups available in Infinity Slayer include Overshield, Damage Boost, and Speed Boost.