When it comes to gameplay, Halo: Reach was most assuredly built with multiplayer as the focus. The single-player campaign missions were there to introduce the environments, but it is online where the game truly shines. As a result, there shouldn't be any surprise that the first bit of DLC to be released for the game is a multiplayer map pack.
Featuring three new maps, a handful of new Achievements, and selling for 800 MSP ($10), the Noble Map Pack hit the virtual shelves of Xbox Live on Nov. 30. Although it doesn't introduce any new game modes, each of the three maps features a unique look and feel, encouraging different styles of play due to the environment.
The first map on the list is Anchor 9, part of the floating space station complex above Reach itself. The smallest of the three maps, Anchor 9 features two small base areas on either side of an open, multi-level central arena. Twisting corridors and claustrophobic level design make this map feel fast-paced, even when the overall player count is lower. No matter where you turn, there is usually an opponent right around the corner, so the pace never lets up.
Helping keep things interesting on Anchor 9 are the two opposing turrets as well as the outside area. A force field covers the open hangar door, preventing the atmosphere from escaping, but that doesn't mean players can't head out into space. Small platforms and a maintenance walkway offer up more tight quarters, though some nifty weapons can be found out here for those who take the risk. Smart players can also use the force fields as cheap cover because they'll stop any projectile in its tracks. This means that anything fired inside stays inside, and anything fired outside stays outside. Just make sure you don't get blasted off the edge of the platform — it's a long way down to the surface of Reach.
Next up on the list is Breakpoint, which feels like the largest map in the pack. Set at an ancient Forerunner excavation site, Breakpoint is somewhat asymmetrical yet still carefully balanced in terms of possible routes, vehicles and weapons. Because it's a large map, it also caters well to players who have mastered the jetpack. Do watch out for the Wraith that spawns on one side of the map, as whichever team can secure it usually has a nice advantage.
Where Breakpoint really shines, however, is in the sheer number of possible paths back and forth across the map. You can take the obvious routes through a large tunnel or out in the open, but there are also multiple routes through the center of the map. You can go underground or make your way up the center hill and back down the either side. Perhaps the only drawback is that there are a handful of places on Breakpoint that look as though they would make the perfect sniper points, yet are considered out of bounds by the map. Just because you can see it doesn't mean that the game will let you fly there with the jetpack.
Finally there is Tempest. A bit smaller than Breakpoint but still plenty large, Tempest is a symmetrical map that features two opposing bases with plenty of direct routes. Jump pads exist at the center of both bases, leading to two turrets that face off across the center of the map. A criss-cross path that cuts between the two makes a perfect shortcut for a Mongoose or Warthog rider; you just need to move quickly to avoid fire.
For those who prefer something other than a frontal attack, Tempest also includes paths along either side. They are more circuitous and take longer to traverse but allow for easy access to the base center. When playing defense, it is not uncommon to spend more time fighting off the flanking attacks than any forward force.
The Noble Map Pack really stands out as solid DLC content because all three maps are brand-new (they're not reworked campaign areas), and each of them plays quite a bit differently. Going at it with Slayer in Anchor 9 can be insanely intense, whereas playing the same mode in Breakpoint almost feels tactical. The larger size of the latter map encourages a slower pace of play, even with double the number of players. Playing Invasion on Breakpoint is a treat; Tempest shines whenever CTF or Assault pops into the rotation.
The only real downside to the Noble Map Pack is that none of the new maps are available for use in Firefight. This isn't a big deal for Anchor 9 and Tempest, but Breakpoint feels like it would be ideal for this mode. Here's hoping that the next map pack doesn't overlook this team-based game type.
By their very nature, map packs are going to have a limited audience, but for fans of Halo: Reach, the Noble Map Pack does just about everything right. Individual layouts are well designed, each of the three selections favors a different style of play and to top it off, the maps look great. These aren't some quick hacks featuring reused art assets. Also worth noting is the already wide distribution. Playing during the week of release, we averaged about two minutes or less to find a game on the new maps.
Casual or competitive, if you play online with Halo: Reach, the Noble Map Pack should be part of your rotation.
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