A few years off may have caused some gaming fans to forget the man, the myth, the legend, who made the Xbox what it is today. With the box artwork for Halo 4 released by Microsoft, it’s apparent that the Master Chief is back, and more than ready to fight for his life once again.

With Chief’s last appearance in Halo 3, most of the extended fiction and Forerunner mythology has begun to stray from John-117, but 343 Industries is looking to change all that. John will undoubtedly be the star of Halo 4 in terms of character development and gameplay, and the cover for the game makes that clear from the get-go.

It seems that Microsoft has sent out small segments of the rumored cover via email, with the component parts combined into one on the NeoGAF forums. The image depicts the Chief on that strange Forerunner shield world that will drive the events of the game, with what looks to be the remains of the ‘Forward Unto Dawn’ – the destroyed ship carrying the Spartan and AI Cortana in the closing moments of Halo 3.

That’s where the facts end, since the cover of a Halo game doesn’t have to explain what the game will explore. At the end of the day, it just has to let Master Chief shine. Have a look:

Halo 4 Cover Art

The timing for this apparent release couldn’t be better, coming in the wake of some new character details. The gamin community isn’t always against change of any form, but after details arrived on the new Cortana and armor designs and two brand new alien enemy types, some fans may have worried that the soul of the series could be in danger. It would be an exaggeration to say that this one image could belay those fears, but seeing the Chief as we all remember him goes a long way.

Obviously the final product will decide whether or not Halo 4 will be the best in the series, or a first step in a new direction. Either one could be good news, since the game isn’t just another sequel, but the launch of a brand new trilogy framing John-117 as ‘The Reclaimer.’ It’s still hard to tell exactly what that will mean, but this new image of the franchise’s hero once again proves that there’s no better candidate.

What do you think of this cover artwork? Does it fall too close to previous box art, or is a sense of familiarity something that the developers are likely aiming for? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

Halo 4 releases exclusively for the Xbox 360 on November 6, 2012.

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Source: NeoGAF (via Kotaku)