There's only so much hype you can take for a Halo game these days. Microsoft wants us to believe it's going to be the biggest game of the year, but it's fooling nobody: that's either going to go to Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty. It is, however, going to be a landmark moment. It's Bungie's alleged last hurrah for the series, for a start, and it also raises a very important question: can a multiplayer shooter released in 2010 possibly survive without a persistent perk and levelling system?
But oh, you might say, Halo: Reach does have persistence. You get doused in beautiful sprays of experience every time you finish a game, for instance. But all this does, unless Bungie is keeping something very secret, is go towards adorning your character in swanky bits of cosmetic armour. It's like Call of Duty 4 (which came out a couple of months later than Halo 3) never happened, and it's surprising how a multiplayer game without weapon unlocks now feels like unexplored territory.
What it does, though, is clearly prove that Bungie believes it doesn't have to play catch-up with anybody else: it's a confident team, and that self-belief is both exciting and promising. And if you spend months and months playing the game you can unlock Master Chief's voice for use in Firefight mode or, if you've got even more XP banked, emanate electricity from your character.
Or, if that's not your cup of tea, there's always single-player. And you still get XP for that, too. Bungie community manager Brian Jarrard demonstrated to me a slice of the game's fourth mission - Tip of the Spear - at gamescom 2010.
First things first, the difficulty has been tweaked since Halo 3 and ODST: it's now harder, for a start. And enemies scale in co-op, meaning a group on Legendary should have a significantly more challenging time of things if they want to clear the campaign. I dread the thought.
Anyway, the context. Kat and Noble Six have been tasked with taking out some Covenant anti-air encampments so a UNSC bombing force can obliterate a hefty chunk of the alien masses invading planet Reach. They're mostly on their own, because some rather nasty explosions have unfortunately murderised the rest of the regular marines padding out your squad.