Halo 4 is less than a week away, and already the reviews are starting to flood the Internet tubes. While the majority of us still have to wait until Tuesday to get our hands on the game, there are still a lot of gamers on the fence about purchasing the latest entry after so many disappointing sequels. For those of you who are still looking for a reason to pick it up, here is a quick rundown of the way 343 Industries has evolved the series.

Old Friends, New Stories

It has been a full five years since we’ve had the pleasure of playing as Master Chief, but he’s finally been brought out of cryo-sleep. The iconic Spartan is back, but this time, he has been thrust into a much more personal situation. Halo 4 may have you in control of Master Chief, but the story is focused on Cortana, as she attempts to uncover the truth about her origins and keep from becoming an out-of-control AI. 343 Industries has brought in a much more human element to these character, and there is a huge focus on the relationship between the long-time partners as they keep each other sane throughout their long journey.

Combat Evolved, Again

The original Halo was praised for its exceptional first-person shooter mechanics, proving that consoles really could handle the FPS genre. However, the gameplay never really changed, and it became pretty stale after it moved to a new generation of consoles. 343 Industries was well aware of the problem, and have reworked every ounce of gameplay. The combat has become exciting again, with weapons that have a unique and powerful feel, and just the right tweaks to make the controls fluid and responsive. With a perfected system, the series is finally able to contend with the best of the best.

A Shiny New Coat of Paint

Okay, so there is a lot more than just a “new coat of paint.” Many gamers will admit that Halo hasn’t even come close to being the best looking series of this generation, but that’s all about to change. The graphics engine has been completely revamped as 343 Industries has made huge improvements to the look and feel of both character models and the environments. Textures are more crisp, and Master Chief’s armor feature much more detail than before. Face animations are now done with motion capture, much in the same way as Rockstar’s LA Noire, allowing for much greater expression and emotion during cutscenes. While many classic weapons are making their return, the highly detailed models and visual effects give a sense of realism that the series has been lacking.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?

Halo‘s multiplayer has always been the major draw for many gamers, and 343 Industries was wise to keep things the same. There are a few new additions, of course, including a Call of Duty-style perk system, but multiplayer has remained relatively untouched. Players also have a lot more customization options this time around, both in terms of play style and the look of the characters. One of the most unique features, however, is the inclusion of 10 weeks of free DLC in the form of co-op challenges, allowing players to team up with up to three friends and take on new side-missions. There is plenty to keep you coming back for more.

Halo 4 launches on November 6, which is only a few days away. Reviews have so far been nothing short of astounding, with critics praising all aspects of the title. Many have even gone as far to say that it is the best Halo game to date. So, fellow gamers, are you ready to don the Spartan armor once again?