Microsoft claims that no console exclusive game is bigger than Halo 4, and in this case the hubris may just be warranted. It’s been five long years since gamers (ostensibly) finished the fight in Halo 3, and though there have been other Halo games in the interim, what fans have really been waiting for is the return of the series’ iconic hero, Master Chief.

In advance of what is sure to be a major Halo 4 presence at E3 2012, more and more details on the game are being carefully parceled out by new Halo caretakers 343 Industries. We’ve already gotten a good look at the new Cortana design. Now, Halo Franchise Development Director Frank O’Connor offers a glimpse at the new game’s story, which picks up right where Halo 3 left off.

What little we know about Halo 4’s story revolves around Cortana’s seven-year life span and the imminent threat of her descent into rampancy. We’ve also learned that The Covenant will be involved in the events of the new game, though exactly how remains a mystery.

In an interview with Game Informer, O’Connor discusses how the end of Halo 3 sets everything in motion, including the question at the core of Halo 4.

“When you go back to the…ending of Halo 3 you see the Forward Unto Dawn in orbit around this mysterious world. There is definitely a lot of stuff happening, even in just that scene: the Chief’s in cryo-sleep, Cortana’s lifespan is being stretched,  and the Forward Unto Dawn is full of cool stuff that you can use to blow-up bad guys, right? It’s got tanks, and Warthogs, and guns in it.”

“And there’s a lot of story in that, but I think the number one piece of story in that frame is, what’s on that world? And, what is that world? That was the big piece of the question that we had to answer.”

“We knew that Master Chief is going to be a hero, we knew that Cortana has a 7 year lifespan and is eventually going to descend into rampancy, we think. We knew all this stuff, but what we didn’t know is what’s on that world and what’s under that world and what’s inside that world, and so that’s what we’re going to be answering in Halo 4…”

Curious that  O’Connor uses the words “we think”  when describing Cortana’s descent into rampancy. What do you suppose that says about her fate in Halo 4? The specificity of wanting to explore what is “under” and “inside” the unnamed world that Chief and Cortana discover may offer clues, as well.

Whatever waits on that planet will shape Master Chief’s journey for years, as the events of Halo 4 kick off a new series of games dubbed The Reclaimer Trilogy. What do you think it could be? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Halo 4 is due in 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.

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Source: Game Informer