Today is Election Day here in the United States but that's not the only Red vs. Blue contest underway. Microsoft has released Halo 4 to stores throughout the U.S. and other countries.

Halo 4 kicks off a new trilogy for the series. It also marks a changing of the guard. This is the first Halo shooter not developed by Bungie. Instead, the task fell to 343 Industries, a new internal studio at Microsoft.

In the game's campaign, Master Chief and Cortana have discovered an artificial planet called Requiem. This world, they soon learn, was constructed by the ancient race known as the Forerunners. Unfortunately, the duo's trip to this planet isn't a leisurely expedition; the Covenant is there and so is a mysterious new enemy.

The campaign is accompanied by a suite of competitive and cooperative modes. Spartan Ops, playable by up to four players, is an episodic campaign starring the crew of the UNSC Infinity. War Games is the "traditional" Halo multiplayer, with player-versus-player game types like Capture the Flag, Slayer and Flood. In both Spartan Ops and War Games, player will control a Spartan soldier with custom equipment, armor and abilities.

Over 10,000 stores in more than 40 countries began selling Halo 4 at midnight. That figure includes 200 midnight openings in Australia and 700 in Europe. Special marquee events were held in cities like Seattle, Paris, Berlin and London. The exception to H4's global launch was Japan; that country will receive the game on November 8th.

Microsoft also prepared a limited edition Halo 4 version of the Xbox 360. The console and wireless controllers in the bundle both have a custom paint job. The package also includes a 320GB hard drive, wireless headset and copy of Halo 4.

Gaming Blend was fortunate enough to try out Halo 4 before its launch today. Check out our review to find out our thoughts on 343 Industries' first contribution to the series.

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