Microsoft’s dedicated Halo studio, 343 Industries, has said over and over that the “ball won’t be fumbled” with them at the helm, and that statement is sure looking to hold true for the moment based on what little we know about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Halo 4.

In an interview with OXM during E3, Microsoft Studios’ Phil Spencer says Halo 4 will “bring new customers into the fiction”, while at the same time catering to the long-time fans with deep knowledge of the universe.

The key question for me in managing the studio and the creatives is ‘what is Halo?’, making sure Halo lives up to what I think gamers fell in love with [playing Combat Evolved]. What does that mean? Playing Master Chief,” he said. “We kind of lost our way a little bit, I’ll say. And that’s why I wanted to make sure that at the unveiling of Halo 4, you knew you were playing Master Chief, that John was back. Because Master Chief is the John Wayne character of that universe, and that’s who you want to play.

Halo has this interesting mix of open world, more varied gameplay. Some other of those franchises that I love have very setpieces which really kind of draw certain dramatic elements out of it. Halo has the vehicles, the weapon types, the deep fiction – the fiction around Halo is incredibly deep.”

We really spent time thinking about the story arc that we want to tell, in the world, to get back to Master Chief,” Spencer added. “Make it simple – it’s not Halo-anything, it’s Halo 4. You’re not going to be confused about what it is. Halo 4, playing as Master Chief, beginning of a new trilogy.”

That’s the role I want Halo to play, to be what Halo [already] is. It’s not about re-enacting previous wars, it’s not the kind of comic-booky pulp that Gears of War is, which obviously I love. Halo is a very story-driven, immersive experience, centred around Master Chief.

Spencer then went on to address how Halo 4 will come across to existing fans of the series, as well those potentially unfamiliar, or a bit lost in the shuffle thanks to the recent spin-offs. The forthcoming remake of Halo: CE is even being retrofitted with brand new story bits, in the form of motion comics accessed via hidden Terminals, that will lay some groundwork for 2012’s trilogy starter.

“As a direct continuation of Halo 3, Halo 4 will be more accessible to those who skipped the [original] Xbox titles than either the acclaimed Halo: Reach, a prequel to Combat Evolved, or standalone expansion Halo 3: ODST.”

If you were a Halo fan for Halo 1, 2 and 3, Reach made sense to you, but fundamentally there are a ton of players on our box right now that didn’t start with Halo 1. What we said was: ‘let’s get back to what Halo is about’. ... Reach is one of the best stories in the Halo universe. But it made more sense to you if you were a Halo fan.

“If you were new to Xbox 360, 360’s where you started playing on Xbox, you understood what Halo 3 was. ODST and Reach, maybe you weren’t as centred. The game has a history now, and it’s about bringing new customers into the fiction.

No details on Halo 4 are yet available, but we’re expecting information later this summer. If the stars align, there’s a good chance we might even get a look at the game before the year is out.

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