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‘Halo 4′ multiplayer details emerge

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Halo 4 (Microsoft)

Microsoft and 343 Industries aren't waiting for E3 to start spilling the beans about their biggest game of 2012.

Pre-orders for Halo 4 went on sale today, and to help pump up interest in the game, the publisher and developer have released a lot of details about the game's multiplayer, a live-action digital series and the obligatory special edition.

Knowing that multiplayer is key to the game's longevity, Microsoft and 343 Studios are looking to break new ground, a move they hope will give the game legs against multiplayer leader Call of Duty.

Along with the multiplayer modes players have come to know, Halo 4 will also introduce a new one called "Spartan Ops," an episodic continuation of the game's campaign. The idea is to blend the storytelling and cinematics of the single-player game with the thrill of playing against live opponents. The game will offer a weekly cinematic episode via Xbox LIVE, focusing on the UNSC Infinity spaceship, which will serve as the hub for all multiplayer modes.

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Looking at the ship's crew and a new team of Spartans (dubbed "Majestic Squad"), the cinematic segments provide the backdrop for weekly missions, which are playable in solo mode or cooperatively with up to three friends.

Competitive players will likely spend time in "War Games," which are set on the deck of the Infinity. Both modes are included free with the game, though it's not clear whether you'll need an Xbox Live Gold account to download Spartan Ops.

If you want more multiplayer bang for your buck, the $99 Limited Edition of the game will supply you with a voucher for three map packs (totaling nine maps) and early access to six armor specializations. The special edition also comes with a 90-minute "making of" DVD focusing on the live-action digital series.

That series — called "Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn" — will debut in October on YouTube and Halo Waypoint. Originally set at the start of the Human/Covenant war, it tells the story of a cadet's inspirational meeting with the Master Chief and moves forward to the events that lead to Halo 4's main story — about the only thing Microsoft hasn't talked about yet.

Halo 4 is set to hit store shelves on Nov. 6.

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