By now, odds are you've heard of the Heroic Map Pack for Halo 3 that Bungie is planning to bring out in less than a week's time. If not, here's the deal: Starved Halo 3 junkies will soon get the opportunity to play around with three brand-new maps. I went to Bungie last week for the sole purpose of bringing back the lowdown on these new battlegrounds. In a room full of with game journalists and Bungie designers (all manning 16 terminals), I ended up getting my butt kicked quite a bit, but I still came back with the info you crave.
Let's get to it, shall we? Here's a taste of things to come.
Map #1: Standoff
This is a good map for 4v4 (and up) play. Two fortified bunkers (with nearly symmetrical layouts) fight for dominance in the middle of a desert. Large satellites and an even larger skyline adorn their view, and the highest ground affords the player a machine gun turret with minimal protection, as well as a clear view of the rest of the map. In CTF matches, the flags are right through each base's front door, and each base has multiple pathways inside that must be guarded at all costs.
The map's default setting does not provide players with sniper rifles — this is a fight that must be won up close and personal. Along with the machine gun turret, this map provides players with several automatic weapons, including the assault rifle (players start with this), the battle rifle and a gunner-equipped Warthog. Good players will find a way to get to the rocket launcher in the middle of the map, where most of the chaos happens.
Three words describe this map: tug of war. This is an extremely balanced area, with conflicts erupting along its center line, either directly between the bases or on the track along the outside of the map. Warthogs are essential for flag caps and Warthog gunner base-runs for maximum carnage in Team Slayer matches. Players who want to invade bases on foot can best do so via circling the outer areas. This is also a good tactic for dealing with pesky players (like me) who like to abuse the base-topping turrets.
Map #2: Foundry
Upon loading this map, Bungie told us right off the bat that it was made for the Forge. They're right. Foundry, stripped down to its bare essentials, is a large box. Its default layout is that of large metal crates that give players an upper and lower level with which to shoot each other, and where trouble can happen around every corner. It's good for about six players — any more than that, and people start dying very quickly. Here, Slayer and Territories matches are where it's at.
Of course, odds are whenever you see this map loaded up online, all of what I just said will end up going out the window.
This sucker really was made for Forge. The default layout, while providing some solid matches, was proven to be utterly boring once the tools were brought out. In a matter of minutes, the area looked nothing like the default, as walls were torn down, weapons and vehicles were spawned, and EGM's Dan Hsu and I spent about 15 minutes shooting/ramming things into each other with Monitor-telekinesis.
(He won most of the conflicts, but I'll have my revenge, I swear.)
Oh, and we had a game of soccer as well. That's right, Forge will sport a few new additions once the downloadable content hits, an oversized soccer ball being one of the most interesting. No, really. A couple of gates on either side, a bunch of gravity hammers, and a Monitor as referee, and we were each the Pelé of the 25th century. Only … well, not. The hype about this being the ultimate Forge map really is true.
If you're trying to play on the default map, however, do yourself a favor and stick to the high ground as much as you can. It'll allow you to pick and choose your conflicts, and for the most part, stay away from the ground traffic, which will be scurrying around like rabid fire ants.
Map #3: Rat's Nest
Bungie expressed their desire with Rat's Nest to create a bona fide "indoor vehicles" map. I think they've succeeded. Rat's Nest contains a bevy of Mongooses, Warthogs and Ghosts with which eager players can zoom around the premises. It's a shame they didn't habit to marriage and stick a couple of tanks in there. Curse you, demons of game balance!
It should be noted that this map is of comparable size to Standoff, if not larger. It's a map where you can take a leisurely drive in a Warthog. Bring your big parties. We had a full house of 16 at the Bungie session, and the map still seemed quite spacious. Player requirements aside, it's a great map for just about any game type. CTF and Territories matches are especially hectic, due to the map's size.
This wasn't my best map (that honor goes to Standoff), but it is my favorite. If you like mowing down people with a Warthog (and its mounted machine gun, too!) like I do, then this map will also be your favorite. There's nothing quite like patrolling the circumference of the map looking for hapless foot travelers to kill. The fun only doubles if an opposing Warthog party (or two or three) is out for blood as well!
Capture the Flag matches are utter madness here. There are so many ways to infiltrate each flag base; you've got entrances both in front of and behind that flag, with one obscured by a wall, and then you've even got a way in above ground. Territories-type matches are even crazier, since all of said territories are spread out. You have to take mass transit just to get to each one and defend it properly.
Well, that about does it. The Heroic Map Pack will set players back 800 Microsoft Points ($10), and if there was one thing I learned at the session, it's that these maps are completely worth the money. Let's face it: You've already spent who-knows-how-many points on expansion songs for games that involve fake musical instruments, so 800 points is peanuts when it means you're getting good multiplayer map designs in return. Still, those with shallow pockets will become free in the spring … when the next round of priced maps will touch down.
Happy gaming, folks.
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