Outside of a holiday 2012 release date and a brief E3 trailer last year, news on the Halo 4 front has been scarce. At Microsoft’s Spring Showcase event in San Francisco last week, many attendees were hoping for substantial information regarding Master Chief’s next adventure (and first to be developed by 343 Industries). We did receive some new information about the game, but the bulk of Halo 4 is still a mystery.

The 20-minute briefing began with a video that featured executive producer Kiki Wolfkill and 343’s Frank O’Connor talking up the importance of Halo 4 (you can watch the video below this article). They stressed that character development would be a key focus of the next entry in the series, and that fans will learn much more about Master Chief. Halo’s protagonist will be facing a new threat “unlike anything he’s seen before,” and O’Connor told me that this threat will make a significant impact on both the narrative and the gameplay. As anyone who played the first game knows, the appearance of a new enemy (the Flood) can drastically change the experience.

Spartan IVs will be introduced in this sequel, and they’re (as expected) bigger, faster, and stronger than the Spartans we’ve seen in Halo’s past. Cortana is also set to play a pivotal role in the game, but Wolfkill and O’Connor didn’t elaborate on her status.

O’Connor spoke about how the campaign and multiplayer felt like they existed in separate worlds in previous games, and the team wants to change that. They want both modes to feel like they’re part of the same universe, and there will even be an explanation in the story that illustrates why red Spartans fight blue Spartans in multiplayer. Here’s hoping it makes sense in the narrative, as it could certainly seem forced otherwise.

I wasn't shown any footage from the campaign, but they did show two very brief walkthroughs of multiplayer maps. Warhouse is an abandoned military manufacturing facility that features plenty of verticality as well as a large Cyclops II mech in the center. Previous features like grav lifts and man cannons were displayed in this map. The second area was Wraparound, a Forerunner facility that serves to create an artificial sun. As such, the sky is extremely bright, reflecting off the sleek floors and walls of the environment.

Halo: Reach allowed players to customize what their Spartan looked like on the battlefield, but Halo 4 promises to have custom armor pieces that serve more than an aesthetic purpose. O'Connor and Wolfkill wouldn't elaborate on the functionality of this system, but they did say it would be deeper than the loadouts of Reach.

It's nice to get any info at all about the upcoming FPS blockbuster, but the Spring Showcase didn't bring us any significant answers regarding storyline, multiplayer direction, or release date. We may not know much as of now, but O'Connor ended the presentation by teasing the announcement of a "big ticket item" later this year. We'll be sure to report back once we hear more about Halo 4.