Articles: Product Reviews: Multiplayer Map Pack
This is a product review of the new "map pack" (not just the maps!) that you can buy in stores. I have a seperate article on basic strategy for the maps coming soon in a seperate article. Keep in mind that you can use the DvD for MORE than one x-box, so if you are getting the maps for several x-boxes (like me), or you just want to split it with your friends (10 friends = $2 a friend for all maps), the DvD is a good idea.
I'm grading the maps and extras all on an A+ to F scale. The maps aren't being graded on their looks, and once you see them you'll know why. They are all BEAUTIFUL (except Backwash, which is ugly, but it is supposed to be), and all the artists did a superb job, especially the environmental artists. Design-wise... not all great.
First up is the animated short "Another Day at the Beach". You can't tell too much of a difference at first between the quality of this and all of the other cut scenes in halo 2, but this one actually has a lot more detail. It has a very "action flick" feel to it, with a dash of anime. It's not too hokey, but at the same time I kept having the urge to hit start so I could skip to gameplay. The graphics were good, the story (which was the other pelican that crash landed from the scarab attack) was solid enough, and it was great that they added it in, but it certainly isn't incentive.
Next is the "Halo 2: Killtacular" documentary. Like the animated short, you'll find this on the DvD only (until some jerk starts pirating). This was interesting to watch, but was very very short. I personally would have bought the DvD just for this (I collect articles, movies, and books on game design and have over 5,000 pages stored in various formats), but to the guy who just plays halo to play halo, this isn't a big deal. You learn a few changes to the maps they made, like how in Backwash, they used to have 343 Guilty Spark floating around, but he looked like too much like a plasma grenade from a distance. So they switched him for his red companion. You'll also learn that Nathan Walpole is Bungie's residential griefer (kills his teammates), and no one likes him. Other than that, not much. It is very short, and it would have been nice if this was longer.
The book that you get that comes with the DvD is packed with maps (and by maps, I mean something similar that you'd see in Ninja Gaiden) with a few "important" weapon and objective item spawn points slapped on there, and a little bit of knowledge (like whether or not there were powerups) and history about the map. The maps are pretty "eh" looking, but it DOES help you get a general idea of how the map works, which is all you really need.
As fasr as the information goes, it's all virtually useless except for the little box in the top left labeled "map specifications" and the one in the bottom right, "insider tips" which you will probably see on X-box Live in your waiting screen. Unfortunately for Bungie, most of those insider tips can be figured out in about 30 seconds, or are horribly retarded. One for Turf said, I kid you not, "Another technique that works in all objective game modes is the auto-bomb. Basically, a driver risks everything by barging through the warehouse doors and blowing up his 'Hog, hopefully taking out - or at least confusing - the defenders. There's a large problem with that. Everything. Anyone inside the warehouse is going to hear, see, and if they have a good enough TV, feel the warthog flying in there. They will jump out of the way. Either the warthog explodes when it hits the wall (killing the driver), or it doesn't and the driver is shot up anyway. The warthog's blast radius upon explosion is very small. It is not worth it. Ever.
Also unfortunate for Bungie, the "map specifications" wasn't looked at too closely. There are a few mistakes in the small bits of relevant information they give. No powerups on Gemini, says the book. Overshield, says Overswarm.
Now to the maps. I'll be doing these in the order that the book gives them, and will be going over all 9.
Long story short, Zanzibar 2. This map has a lot of neat gimmicks, and a few interesting devices (like the covenant sniper pod) thrown in that could actually be used to your advantage. This map is actually preferrable to Zanzibar, in my opinion, because they fixed a lot of the mistakes. There is no "hiding in the water", because MC can't swim and there is a hundred foot drop off right next to the water. They also made the map a lot more active by adding in a cool 2-way teleporter that the defending team can activate. That means that if the offense is sluggish, the defense could actually ATTACK them, and then come back to their base after doing some damage. Another neat thing about it, is that the moment the offense throws the flag from relic's edge, it WOULD be gameover, Unfortunately for the offense team, the defense can go through the 2-way warp for a "last stand" kind of battle.
I also really enjoy the actual trek TO the flag, once you get on the forerunner base. It reminds me (rather vividly) of a few levels in Halo 1, where you would have Elites and jackels hiding everywhere, and you have to kill them all to rush to the end of the long bridge. It really adds in a lot of individual skill there, as it isn't so much "I have the advantage and you don't", as it is the better shot wins.
The power weapons are also spread out, as to where defense starts with shotgun and sword, while offense starts with sniper rifle. There is a rocket launcher and a covenant sniper that can be reached in (almost) equal time by both teams, which should make for some interesting strategy.
There are SOME problems with the map though. The weapons are fairly spread out, and the weapons you spawn with on defense are laughable (magnums? Come on). If you start with BRs, this map will be fine. Not necessarily balanced fine, but "fun" fine. If you don't start off with BRs, the offense team will have to take a good 3 minutes for everyone to get a decent weapon, and then after their first death it's game over. It'll be another Coagulation.
But if you start out with BRs (or snipers for some neat gameplay), the map is overall good. Good job Bungie, you made a map that is both epic AND fun.
This most of you have played, and have formed your own opinions about. I was excited about an Urban level, as urban environments usually meant a lot of strategy, and those that played smarter usually won out. Unfortunately, Turf is just one big "camp until they come" for slayer of any type, and the only gametypes it works for is King of the Hill and Territories. Territories is only an "eh" mode for it.
The map is really fun to explore, and is an excellent KOTH map, but this map gives too much of an advantage to the defender in every situation for it to be even NEAR balanced. While it'd be nice if you could play this without dying before you see your enemy, and even nicer if you could play a good game of CTF on it, once you get to higher levels of skill you can't. At all. A neat idea, and I hope another urban comes about, but for now I'll have to pass on this one for anything other than a few causual slayer maps.
Feel free to bump my grade slightly up for this map, because I felt horribly betrayed when I played this, with Wizard being my favorite map. What made Wizard so great the first time was the balance it portrayed. The most you could do is get an advantage on top, and even then you could nade down powerups, and there was no possible way to get ALL of the powerups. With both sides having a pistol and equal opportunities, it always made for great gameplay.
Unfortunately, there is now only one powerup, camo. Now one guy has the advantage over everyone else, and no one ever really has a reason to move. If you play 1v1 in this stage, hide in a corner, and wait until you see your enemy. Don't worry about the camo, just wait for him to go get it, then nade and shoot. You never have to move from your corner for any reason. That's if you start with a BR. If you don't, then whoever gets the first kill wins every time, because you can't fight back.
Bungie did not really seem to think too clearly about the spawns and how they work for halo 2. Playing with 8 people is a spawn fest, and instead of spawning people in safe areas, they are spawned out in the open.
However, to give Bungie some credit, this is a great map for oddball, ctf, and KotH. I am a little bitter as I was hoping for this to be a good slayer map, and an even better 1v1 map, but I guess I can live with this.
Oddball has some neat aspects to it, as you can pass the ball up from the bottom floor to a teammate, and can warp through the portals to get away quickly. KotH has a unique flavor to it, since there is a glitch as to where you can contest a hill by being a level above it. Oddly enough, that glitch HELPS the gametype rather than hurt it. CTF is still fun, as it is a ultra fast rush from both sides, no play taking longer than a minute to put into action.
Must all old halo 1 maps be mutilated? This used to be a superb slayer map, and now, with the removal of ALL powerups, it is yet another objective only. The map is a lot slower now (oddly enough, since they said they wanted it to be faster), and you can't really do too much except CTF on this map.
If you start with a BR, expect for there to be a lot of combos and brute shot/BR. If you start with an SMG, you will end up either toting a shotgun, or the new power combo of this map, the plasma pistol/magnum.
The boxes they added in create a unique aspect to the map, as you can hide behind the boxes and still change your location. You can also walk from one side of the map to the other, hiding behind a box. The boxes are a little slow for my taste, and should have been sped up a bit (or even cooler would have been switches that could speed up or slow down the boxes) to add for faster gameplay, but they do serve one really interesting purpose. Now, instead of being trapped at the bottom constantly and being killed on the respawn (a problem from longest), you can jump up to the top from the boxes easily. That also removes another old problem, which was camping up top with a shotgun. Now you constantly have to watch your back, and don't have the luxury of just sitting there anymore.
With all of the powerups gone, and the simple layout of the map, slayer is a very dull process on this map. It's fun running laps with a plasma pistol / magnum combo for the first few times you play the map, but it gets old. With no powerups and no sniper rifles to be found, this map is nothing more than a track that you follow around and shoot what you see.
Just like with warlock, I'm a little bitter. This was another fun slayer map for me, and is now only objective. Although bungie says it is a good oddball map, really it isn't. There are several locations that you can have an almost loony-toons esque battles, popping in and out of doorways and chambers to where they can't actually kill you, and can't advance without you knowing far in advance.
KotH isn't too bad, and CTF is great on this map, which is a large blessing. Defending your flag once the enemy has taken it is a little difficult, seeing as how they can get it back to their base so quickly, but on the whole it's fun.
This is something I'd call "CTF only". I actually have had some fun 3 lives games with snipers only (the tank is a gift AND a curse), but that was just goofballing. CTF is the only thing you can really play on this map, and even then it is only with 12 or more people. This map is great to goof off in, and has a creepily beautiful landscape, but isn't much of anything else. If you like vehicles, this is definitely for you. Otherwise, it's not much of a map.
Something interesting about this map, or could have been interesting, is the fusion cores. They have ultra large explosions, and can take out even a tank. They used to bounce, before the map was released, and so they could fly across the stage, "bouncing testicles of death" as a particular member of Bungie called them. Sadly, they changed them and made them ultra static. No longer are they a danger or a threat, and no longer can they be used as traps. Getting killed by one of these is like accidently shooting a rocket launcher into the wall. The mines are now so useless that I could almost reccomend this as a training map for new halo players.
CTF can be fun, but with the long trek from your base to theirs, it's only enjoyable until your first death. Right about then it stops being fun, and the teleporters that take you to the halfway point don't help much.
New slang will arrive soon. "Dude, you just got TRAINED!"
Chris Carney and Jaime Griesemer did a great job designing this map. Personally, I think they should have gotten rid of the wraith all together and instead added in more ghosts or a few spectres, rather than add a rocket launcher as they did, but that's just me.
One-flag CTF is this stages big thing, but just about anything works on this map. KotH is fun, even when it is stationary, because of the huge friggin' train that will plow through you if you aren't careful. The train is done almost perfectly, and although I would have wanted to hear the screams from the passengers of the train that they removed, I agree it would have been irritating after a while.
A really fun gametype I have here is snipers games, even more fun than in collossus. With all the tunnels and ramps and obstacles, it can make for some interesting cat and mouse games. Regular slayer (with BRs mind you) is a lot of fun too. There's plenty of weapons around to pick up to dual wield in tight corners, and all the cover means that you are very rarely caught by surprise, rather you are just outplayed.
Although I said I wouldn't grade on the environment, art, or textures, I have to say that this map has a fantastic feel to it, an almost calm chaos that you'd find in a ghost town. A lot of little things can be found on this map, like busting up the TVs and finding all sorts of unique textures to signify different locations, and they make it all the more refreshing to play.
Three cheers for Rob Stokes! First Relic, and now Backwash. This is easily the best slayer map out of all of them. The map has a few things that bother me (like the camo taking about 3 minutes to respawn, which makes it virtually useless as far as strategy is concerned), but overall it is great.
The fog adds some unique aspects to the gameplay, and the map is blessed because of it. Energy weapons like the sword or plasma pistol, which usually end up tipping things in your favor, are now a huge beacon to every other player on the map. With the maps simple layout, you can "see" just about everyone the moment you spawn, but only when they are shooting. Even though no one is really stupid enough to carry the sword out nonstop in a free for all, you only need to show it for a moment and then everyone is instantly rushing towards you, and you will more than likely die.
Getting up on top, in this level, isn't really a "top". It's more of a short hop above your enemies, and while it does give you an awesome vantage points (grenades through the fog get you some lucky kills), it also makes you a really easy target, which tends to help balance it a bit. This map could actually be fun with SMG start, but I still prefer BR start for it.
Steve Cotton designed this map, and in turn made an excellent CTF, lives, team slayer, and team snipers map. What the map doesn't have in options and flexibility, it makes up for in it's very strategy-based gameplay.
There isn't too awful much to say about Sanctuary, except that it really has a good grip on CTF. It's a constant struggle back and forth from base to base, and the map is almost perfectly balanced. The rocks near each base add for some interesting skirmishes, and the one sword in the center is the perfect weapon to have just within reach of both teams.
I'm actually fairly upset that I don't have much to say, but this map is out plain in the open. Balanced, unique, and a great weapon layout.
Tyson Greene made good work of this old Marathon map. The map hosts some excellent design, and the tree floating up to the top of the map actually helps balance the map, making the high spots not nearly as effective for snipers. The layout of Gemini makes for a lot of interesting team slayer games, and especially free for all.
I really like the addition of the Brute Shot to this map. It easily adds to this map more than anything else, and free for alls can be especially hectic with two brute shots raining down frags from the plasma pistol spawns high above the tree.
While there will probably be some griefing about the doors added to this map, I personally think they are an excellent addition. You can really mess with people by using the doors. Opening them, but by the time it actually opens being long gone makes for a sneaky getaway. Throwing a frag at the base of the door the moment you see it start to open is a good way to get some easy kills too, and within the next few months, players of this map will be seperated mainly by their skill with the brute shot, sniper, and how they handle those doors. An excellent map, despite how open it is.