With the auditorium hosting Microsoft’s 2012 press briefing filled to capacity and bathed in ethereal green light E3 2012 kicked off as Microsoft went in, Master Chief’s guns blazing, to get their press briefing off to the best possible start.

The assembled press were plunged into deep space as the lights blacked out to reveal a stage of twinkling stars, as once more the Halo franchise took centre stage. After a live action introduction the Chief was once more revealed, descending into a world of luscious vegetation as Halo 4, effortlessly switched from jaw-dropping opening to gameplay in one smooth transition.

What’s new with Halo? Well, aside from the well documented shift of developers, with 343 Industries taking over, the biggest news is the unveiling of a new enemy, the Prometheans, AIs of ‘Forerunner’ construction, the same beings who built the eponymous Halos in the first place.

Introduced via a beam of red light which swept the audience the Prometheans unleashed themselves on to Halo’s pantheon of bad guys world, symbolically cutting through a section of the Covenant’s forces to announce themselves as the Chief’s latest concern. Big, tough and assuredly cool looking, it’s reassuring to know there’s a new enemy in town worthy of the Spartan’s attentions.

Perhaps most impressive was the impression of a heightened sense of brutality to proceedings, with Master Chief’s weaponry punishing his opponents in more visceral way that previously and the AI themselves sporting whole new weapons to get to grips with (once the Chief has eviscerated them of course).

They’re no normal cannon fodder either, our hands-on with a chapter of Spartan Ops multiplayer – episodic content due to be released weekly – showing them to have intelligence the equal of the Covenant and enough intelligence to pin down our whole squad of spartans – though, naturally, we did emerage the victors.