For ten years Halo has been my favourite console game. I played the first one at university with my friends, as I imagine a lot of you did. After university I moved into my mum's new flat in Streatham, South London and bullied her, really, into not only getting the internet, but letting me run a ten-metre-long ethernet cable from my Xbox, along my bedroom floor, down the stairs and into the router by the kitchen, just so I could sign up to Xbox Live and play Halo 2 online.
For as long as most folk remember, games have launched on Fridays in the UK and on Tuesday in the US. That's the way of things. Sometimes they converge for a glitzy worldwide launch but mostly they don't - they stick to the norm, and Europeans wait.
What makes a blockbuster game series tick? Sifting through the jaw-dropping vistas of Halo 4, its glorious skyboxes peppered with ceaseless plasma fire, you might think that it's money, and an awful lot of it. The Master Chief's always fancied himself as the centrepiece of a spectacle that's the self-styled 21st century pop-culture alternative to Star Wars. It's only now, though, that the series properly evokes that true blockbuster sensation of subconsciously counting the thousands of pennies thrown at each explosion.
Ever wondered what would happen if Microsoft spent an absolute fortune in setting up its own elite internal studio and then made the best game it possibly could - where money is literally no object? Imagine if the Xbox platform holder set-up its own equivalent to Sony Santa Monica or Naughty Dog, an elite team with an unparalleled level of knowledge about the host console platform and the talent to get the most out of it. And what if this super-team was tasked with creating a new trilogy of games based on the most successful Xbox franchise of all-time?
It's Halo. I don't know why I was so surprised by that, but Halo 4 feels very much like another Halo game. There's the spongy movement, that wonderful combat loop and a sense of pomp and scale so grand you can't help but be carried away in its ridiculous sweep. There are shrill aliens, both squat and tall, and gunfire that sends multi-coloured traces across strange landscapes.
After a few years of offering only the smallest hints at what it's been working on, 343 Industries finally came clean at this year's E3. No more CG trailers, no more offline rendered "in-engine" cinematics - instead, actual Halo 4 gameplay was revealed, and with it our first chance to get a look at the new tech operating in real-time on standard Xbox 360 hardware.
That's Microsoft and Sony out of the way, then, and in immediate hindsight it's tempting to say that they opted for the same approach overall. Both conferences were relatively conservative affairs compared to the pageantry and showboating of previous years (apparently you don't know what you've got with a space poncho until it's gone), as both companies presumably played the strongest hand they could muster while keeping a lot in reserve for the inevitable unveiling of next-generation consoles in 2013. However, upon closer inspection there were a number of stark contrasts.
Hello! Someone's smacked the industry with a stick and a bevvy of games have come flooding forth. There's a third game in a series that's actually the fifth, a fourth that's really the sixth and one that pretends that it's not a sequel at all (it's in fact the fifth). Games!
It's Halo. Which says a lot and yet says very little at the same time. There are the same springy jumps, the same man-cannons and the maps with the same perfectly crafted symmetry. There are Spartans, there's a battle rifle and there's a grand, extra-terrestrial backdrop, the architecture as ever seemingly a result of Frank Lloyd Wright being kidnapped by some alien race and forced to design the flat steel that twists beneath beautiful skyboxes.
It's Halo, and the fourth mainline game is in essence the same we've all been playing since Combat Evolved in 2001. And that suggests, in one regard, that 343 hasn't dropped the ball for its first serious attempt at the series since Bungie departed.
A Halo without Bungie at one time seemed as inconceivable as a Mario without Nintendo - but 343's definition of the Halo experience, it turns out, isn't so very different from Bungie's after all. "Jamie Griesemer of Bungie once defined it as this golden triangle," franchise director Frank O'Connor tells us. "And while I'm not a game designer, I have my own personal definition of it.
It's a big year for Bungie. Not only does it celebrate its 20th birthday but, with the impending release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it's also formally signing off custodianship of Master Chief to 343 Industries.
In which, as you'll know if you read yesterday's roundup, Eurogamer's UK team picks their favourite E3 trailers of the last 24 hours. So who are today's winners and losers?
(NB: Anyone sitting at home watching Starhawk videos instead of standing in an L.A. bar having cocktails three feet away from Reggie Fils-Aime already knows the answer to this question.)
Top of the Pops
It's only day two of E3 and already the internet is awash with trailers. In fact, you'd have a job to watch the whole lot of them before Gamescom kicks off.
So to save you a bit of time, Eurogamer's top analysts (i.e. anyone too pregnant or knowledgeable about how the website actually works to go to E3) have picked the best trailers released in the last 24 hours. And the worst, just for good measure. So what do you reckon to our choices?
Top of the Pops