On the surface, the task being set before 343 Industries seems too monumental to accomplish: develop a worthy successor to Halo 3 that features as much new content as it does nostalgia. Rather than shrinking from the challenge, the studio has stepped up – and out of Bungie’s shadow – even more than might have been expected. It may be blasphemous to presume, but all signs point to Halo 4 being the largest, most comprehensive, and story-driven release in the series so far.

With the chance to go anywhere, feature any enemy, and reinvent as much of the core combat as they wished, it seems that the team hasn’t skimped. The last behind-the-scenes video explored the new chapter in the Master Chief’s journey, and the newest Halo 4 ViDoc, ‘The Return of the Forerunners,’ finally pulls back the curtain on the Promethean enemies, the new selection of weapons, and more. Whether a die-hard fan or just a lover of innovative shooters, you won’t want to miss this.

Anyone who has spent even a passing fling with Halo knows just how important the mythology is to the basic gameplay. One of the challenges with a story that large and sprawling is keeping it from taking over the entire game, and Halo 2 and 3 managed the balance quite well, delivering pulse-pounding missions alongside well-written and polished cut scenes. But now it’s 343’s turn, and the new trustees of the Halo legacy have shown how committed they are to bringing more story than ever before. How successful they’ll be with even heavier material will require some time to judge, since that will certainly be kept quiet until the game’s release.

What is immediately apparent from the ViDoc is how the new Promethean enemies have been designed to give off the sense that they were created and shaped by a race as immeasurably advanced and intelligent as the Forerunners. The most dangerous creatures in the Halo universe so far (Brutes, Hunters) weren’t known for their wisdom or discipline, and fell much closer to the type of ‘monsters’ that 343 is trying to avoid. From what we’ve seen of the Promethean Knights and Watchers, and how they’ll be divided into distinct categories, the logic behind each creation certainly shows.

Halo 4 Return of Forerunners ViDoc

Anyone who has been following the design and marketing of Halo 4 has by now noticed the special position held by the Promethean Knight. Standing at over twelve feet tall and ranging in armor size and weaponry depending on rank, the Knights look to offer a far greater challenge than any players are used to. And with their disciplined aggression and ability to command other troops on the battelfield, we’d be more than terrified without even catching a glimpse of their glowing skull faces.

Beyond the large scale design philosophies that will be shaping the combat and weaponry, the most promising aspects of the video have to do with the small, unnecessary flourishes that 343 has come up with. Whether it’s the Forerunner weaponry forming out of component parts in mid-air (which will apparently be the norm for all Forerunner weapons) or the fact that Knights disintegrate from the point on their body the Chief delivered the killing shot, love is clearly being put into even the smallest of details.

Fans didn’t need any more reasons to get excited for the release of Halo 4, but with every new shred of evidence or insight into 343’s design process, that ten year plan they’ve got for the series is seeming more and more likely to find success.

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

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