A recent survey shows that Halo 4 is gamers' most anticipated title, ahead of Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and Assassin's Creed 3. Granted Halo 4 is only ahead by a mere 0.25% but even so that's a significant achievement for a game that isn't being developed by the studio that created the series and would seem to indicate a buck in the usual trend of suspicion directed at games which are developed in a similar situation.
But can 343 Industries match these lofty expectations? It seems likely that they can.
A new ship, the Infinity, home to 17,000 (you can bet there will be a campaign level and there is a multiplayer level as well) and a whole new Forerunner world with an ancient foe. Halo 4 has scale, and that's something 343 has always said it wanted to bring back to Halo, these huge vistas that make you go 'wow'. Combat Evolved had them and these huge expanses were one of the reasons the game is so fondly remembered.
Few shooters have a sense of a massive world these days, confined as they largely are to darkened hallways and narrow alleyways. If 343 can bring that sense of wonder back they'll be off to a good start. Part of Combat Evolved's legendary status is likely down to nostalgia, at least in this regard (Anniversary highlighted the extent to which the gameplay had aged) but 343 appear to have truly harnessed every drop of power from the 360. That scale will be well serviced by a graphics engine that can do justice to the vision the team are trying to implement.
But of course gameplay is more important than the size of the areas on offer. We know the Covenant are back, we know Didact returns. So to some degree we know what to expect but you can expect new enemies too - as highlighted in the E3 gameplay trailer below:
Indeed it appears there will be Spartans infected by the Flood for you to fight off and while they appear to be multiplayer antagonists it wouldn't be terribly surprising if they make an appearance in single-player at some point.
This variety of enemies coupled with the broad scale and emotional climax to Cortana's story (as a program she has already exceeded the usual life-span of an artificial intelligence or AI) could take Halo back to the top of the FPS pile. Many complain about the over-saturation of the shooter market and excessive sequels but 343 may just be sitting on one of the most exciting games in years and possibly a game with the most lasting influence since... well Combat Evolved.