Just because you work at Bungie doesn't mean you play Halo every day. It doesn't mean you're necessarily even very good at it.
With that said, I come to you live, having had my ass kicked so hard that it hurt my feelings, to tell you about the Mythic map pack for Halo 3, which will be released as part of the Halo Wars Limited Collector's Edition, and become available for all Halo players on Xbox Live Market place later this spring.
The pack contains three new multiplayer maps for Halo 3, which still maintains a remarkably healthy online population 14 months or so after its release. I spent a few hours playing various matches against a mixed crowd of Bungie employees and other games writers at Bungie's new office in Kirkland, Washington, and as such, got a pretty good feel for what each map was like.
Orbital is set in a space station surrounding the Kito Space Tether, a space elevator much like Cairo Station, the facility that hosted the first few levels of Halo 2. It's not bad for Slayer, but it's really made for team-based modes of play like Territories or Capture the Flag; each team gets to start on either the high or the low ground, which gives a defending team plenty of opportunities and positions with which to snipe at or lock down the enemy. Every corridor is littered with plenty of crates, providing hard cover for firefights or unfortunate bottlenecks for a team on offense.
On the other hand, if you're really self-confident, you can break a standoff by taking a flying leap across a wide elevator shaft, moving straight across the center of the map and going straight behind the enemy's lines … or falling to your hilarious death. It could go either way, really.
Assembly is an arena-style map, set in a Covenant facility that assembles the massive Scarab battle tanks. If you look overhead, you can occasionally see a new Scarab emerge from the production facility. Of course, then somebody blows your head off.
There are two levels to Assembly: the top, open area where you can scramble around on a series of exposed platforms, leaving yourself vulnerable but also allowing you to fire at people below you, and the bottom, a mazelike warren of corridors. There are plenty of difficult-to-find nooks and crannies, including a barely hidden area containing a gravity hammer and a cloaking device. For 30 seconds, you get to turn into the Predator, massacring people from out of nowhere. If you enjoy sneaking up on people, Assembly is a good map for you.
Finally, Sandbox lives up to its name. The actual map itself isn't much to look at, truthfully; it's two pyramids facing one another on a roughly symmetrical map, with several vehicles to choose from and a lot of hard cover. A series of flashing buoys mark off a limit to the battlefield; if you stray too far out into the desert beyond them, ancient Forerunner technology will vaporize you and your vehicle.
Sandbox really comes alive when you open it up in Forge mode. There, you'll find a one-way teleporter that takes you to a huge, flat plane far above the map. This allows you an amazing amount of freedom to create whatever sort of map you want, with another quirk: Falling off the map, and through the grid that forms the plane's "floor," will instantly kill you. You can make some enormous custom maps here.
(Bungie has also thoughtfully included a giant golf ball, a "tin cup" complete with a flag, and a reskinned gravity hammer that looks like a nine iron. If you want, you can use Sandbox to construct the most dangerous golf course ever.)
If you're a curious sort, there's a short pyramid-lookin' structure in the dead center of the standard Sandbox map. If you pull it apart in Forge mode and remove the central floor tile, you'll find a long vertical tunnel that lands in a perfectly flat, square room. In short, it's a perfect arena for the player-created "extreme sport" of Grifball, or for Forge users to construct an incredibly claustrophobic deathmatch map.
After getting routinely blasted all over the landscape by several dozen different people for four hours, I feel as though I've gotten a good feel for the Halo 3 Mythic map pack. Assembly and Orbital are interesting, but Sandbox is more or less a gift to the Halo homebrew community. The Mythic map pack is coming out at the same time Halo Wars does, as part of the Limited Collector's Edition package, which ought to breathe some new life into the Halo franchise in more ways than one.
More articles about Halo 3