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More Halo 4 details revealed

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Master Chief Petty Officer John-117

We're more than a year away from Halo 4 hitting store shelves, but Microsoft is already giving fans a peek behind the curtain on one of the most anticipated upcoming games for the Xbox 360.

At last weekend's Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle, 343 Industries, which has taken over ownership of the franchise from longtime developer Bungie, dropped a few hints about what we can expect in the game — though the crew certainly left attendees with more questions than answers.

The game will begin a new storyline in the series, known as "The Reclaimer Trilogy. " It's a direct sequel to Halo 3 and picks up right where that game left off, with Master Chief in stasis after ending the Covenant war.

The game hopes to blend the classic feel of Halo with new gameplay styles to avoid feeling like the series hasn't evolved. Part of the way to achieve that, the studio says, is to dig deeper into Master Chief's character.

For the first three installments of Halo, the iconic lead was shrouded in mystery. We know his name is John, but details about his past were few and far between. 343 wants to explore more about who he is — and what his relationship is with Cortana, the holographic AI that assists him in combat missions.

Also, while Halo has always taken place on abandoned alien ships and structures, that may not be the case in Halo 4. Instead, Master Chief will apparently find himself on a populated world.

And if you were worried about the appearance of Master Chief in the E3 reveal teaser trailer, you can relax. 343 says the character in the game will be much more imposing.

"We know how important Chief is to fans," said art director Kenneth Scott. "When people play Halo 4, we want them to have that feeling that 'I'm a bioengineered super soldier wearing 800 pounds of tank and jet fighter'."

Oh, and the gameplay? Developers say it will "play like Halo." Thanks guys. That's real helpful.

Unfortunately, we won't get a chance to explore exactly how the game plays for a while. Despite some assumptions from the community, buying this year's Halo: Anniversary won't put you in line to play the game early.

"A lot of people have been asking about this, and we probably should have clarified sooner," said franchise creative director Frank O'Connor, "but there won't be a multiplayer beta in the Anniversary Edition."

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