Picking up several years after the events of 2007's Halo 3, we find Master Chief in cryogenic sleep, drifting through space aboard the damaged military freighter Forward Unto Dawn toward an unknown world. You'll do battle with a Covenant horde once again and contend with a challenging new enemy in the Prometheans.
The plot is somewhat complex, incorporating a few elements from the larger Halo universe of novels and comics, and it has plenty of surprises, so we won't spoil too much of the roughly 12-hour campaign. But you will see Master Chief and Cortana in a whole new way through several scenarios that humanize them more than ever.
The pacing of the action is the game's greatest strength. Just when you've blazed your way through a first-person onslaught and feel the need for a change, there's a Scorpion tank waiting for you. After a trek through battlegrounds that may leave you desperate for ammunition, you get to pilot a Pelican drop-ship and wreak havoc from above.
The gunplay is some of the best the series has ever seen. Among the available arsenal are human and alien weapons, each with its own unique feel and plenty of options to fit your play style. You can charge in with heavy weaponry or hang back and snipe away. The wealth of weapons and vehicles you'll flip when you see the Mammoth is staggering.
PLOT First-person shooter
Xbox 360, $60
BOTTOM LINE Stellar!