It’s a safe bet that for almost any game developer, the chance to work on a franchise as beloved and revolutionary as Halo would be too good to pass up. But for 343 Industries, the developer who has taken the reins of the series from Bungie, the amount of pressure that kind of responsibility brings is all to familiar. At PAX Prime 2011 this week, the studio released a short video to open their Halo Fest festivities, explaining how they’re dealing with the chance to take the Halo series to places they have yet to explore. The developers don’t seem intent on sticking to the established formula with Halo 4, but are using the next three games to tell a story much larger and grander than anything fans may have expected.

Halo 4 sits in a unique place in terms of video game story, a fact apparent to any fan familiar with the extended world fiction in both comics and novels. But while there is no shortage of story concerning the Forerunners, the Covenant, and the Office of Naval Intelligence, the previous games in the series have made it clear that they were focused solely on the Human-Covenant war.

But as Halo 3 left the war ended in a shaky truce, and the Master Chief floating through space, the series was suddenly without a plot. Halo 4‘s announcement trailer revealed that the game would be picking up right where we left off, with Master Chief awakening to find that his adventure was far from over.

Now that the new trilogy has gotten some concept art and a name, it’s abundantly clear that the Chief will take center stage as The Reclaimer, but what kinds of mystery and drama he’ll encounter is anyone’s guess. The newly-released video from 343 sheds some light on the situation, explaining the team’s desire and commitment to evolving the character of John-117 beyond the faceless soldier we’ve come to know.

Take a look now:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysA9LsAbyJ4

With the constant stream of sequels being released these days, it’s refreshing to see that 343 is planning to take the Halo series into completely unexplored territory. Of course, they also realize that despite how much new mythology and story they would like to dig through, Master Chief is always the star. But not necessarily the same Chief that we have known.

After all, we knew the soldier tasked with a clear and important mission. Now we must step into the shoes (and suit) of John, floating through space with no clear goal or greater mission. For the first time ever, developers have the breathing room to delve deeper into the psyche of the facelss Spartan, and show just how unique their version of him is.

Now whether that means John will be fully fleshed out alongside Cortana, or if the vast and rich fiction of the Forerunner legacy will own the spotlight remains to be seen. But with a development team that seems to be as invested both financially and emotionally in the series, Halo 4 shouldn’t disappoint.

We’ll get our first taste of what a 343 Industries game looks like when Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is released on November 15, 2011. It may be more than 2 months away, but according to the folks at Mega64, real fans know that it’s never too early to go Halo-crazy:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACoOWBNeV2M

What do you Halo fans think? Would you prefer games that resemble the original trilogy, or do you respect 343 for taking the series to new heights, risky as that may prove to be? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

Halo 4 will likely be released in the fall of 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

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