By now, any Halophile is sticking their plasma grenades all over the faces of other players in the new Defiant map pack released last Tuesday. The traditional 3 new maps are added but differs in that it’s created by Certain Affinity and 343 Industries and not primary developer Bungie, and only two maps, Highlands and Condemned, are competitive multiplayer maps with the final, Unearthed, a Firefight-only map. Downloading the trio of maps is worth the 800 MS points, or $10, especially for hardcore Halo fans, but only containing two multiplayer maps is a bit weak.
The first impression laid upon the eyes in each multiplayer map are the amazing backgrounds, with Covenant craft battling the frigates of the UNSC in Condemned, while Highlands’ background landscape is brightened by Covenant glassing lasers and fires with smothering plumes of dark smoke rising rapidly into the sky. They’re truly impressive visuals but backgrounds are hard to view when dodging bullets. It is one of the best features of each map, but not necessarily a positive for gameplay. It is disappointing environmental effects like the runaway train in the “Halo 2” map Terminal haven’t been explored yet in the recent iterations of the Halo series. Imagine a Covenant ship randomly glassing the planet, killing everyone including you as you were only 1 kill away from reaching the “Perfect” medal. How fun that would be.
Condemned feels like the sibling to Noble map pack’s Anchor 9, with a similar décor and setting in the orbit above Reach. The map is small like Anchor 9 as well, built in a circular rotation with the highlight being the low gravity section in the middle, where everyone congregates with its four entry points and raised platform with energy sword. With un-protective shielding acting as the divider between high- and low-gravity, the center area is also an equalizer since players are slow-moving and jump higher but being caught in the open allows for easy pickings by players looking in from outside or from the small walled areas inside the center. Outside of the center, the level uses two tiers thanks to numerous stairways, and enclosed hallways so any non-fans of DMRs or other precision weapons at least have some maneuvering room. Air ducts provide opportunity to quickly engage enemies or use for ambush, like one that positions the player on top of a docked Sabre. It’s a fun map, although feels a bit too similar Anchor 9, especially because of the low-gravity section’s similarity to the space section in Anchor 9.
The big team option is Highlands, with its large expanse of land. Although it screams sniper-friendly it’s easy to avoid those lovable camping snipers thanks to several structures strewn across a mountainous landscape filled with trees with an especially impressive structure jutting out of the mountain. There are numerous ways to traverse the terrain, from typical vehicles like ghosts and warthogs, to teleporters, which quickly send you halfway across the map and faster into battle unlike other bigger maps like Tempest or Breakpoint where it feels like ages before finding the enemy team. Back entrances like the mossy green-illuminated cave ensure you’re never safe standing still. Weapons are a highlight with a lot of choices including the rarely seen Spartan laser. Each starting base is equipped with a shotgun, rocket launcher, and sniper rifle and respawn quickly so every player can get an opportunity to be killed after picking up an awesome weapon. While expert players will undoubtedly rule the map, it feels like newer players stand a chance with decent weapon spawns and a lot of landscape to maneuver.
What’s been my own issue with the map packs, both Defiant and Noble, is the rotation. There are separate options to play each map pack exclusively, but constantly playing a small set number of maps, particularly in Defiant’s case with only two maps, starts to get tiring. Regular game modes like slayer and objective-based modes can be played with new maps however only if every other person you’re playing with has them as well, limiting their exposure in rotation. Out of the previous map pack, Noble, I’ve only seen Anchor 9 on occasion and the lesser popular Tempest even fewer times.
I didn’t play Unearthed in Firefight a lot, but I did find it unimpressive. Set in a mining facility, it’s fairly large with several structures, including a crane and fuel area, which most allow hunkering down into but the higher buildings disappointingly don’t allow jetpacking to the top. One of the main inclusions is the powerful, but inefficient rocket hog. Unearthed ultimately looks like Holdout with the feel of Outpost, and it’s not bad, just unoriginal.
With the new map pack means your perfect achievement score is broken up and three new ones are added once again. They would be mind-bendingly annoying, particularly capturing two stockpile flags from the enemy base, but due to a current glitch, if you play a custom game with the official Bungie multiplayer gameplay mode (it shows Bungie as the author of the gameplay mode), it registers it like a matchmade game. Also remember the return two flags achievement doesn’t mean capture two flags but returning two of your team’s flags which were stolen.
It’s a must buy if you’re a competitive multiplayer fan in “Halo: Reach” and has the added bonus of a new Firefight map, but if you’re only a casual fan who would need a significant change in multiplayer to revisit Reach, it may not be worth it simply because there’s only two new multiplayer maps, which are fun, but nothing you haven’t seen before in previous maps.