Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack Review
The nine new maps are outstanding, making one of the best-ever multiplayer shooters even better.
- Nine high-quality maps greatly expand Halo 2's fantastic multiplayer offering
- Diverse content, from sprawling large-scale battles to in-your-face bloodbaths
- Convenient for LAN parties, if you can't get every Xbox updated on Xbox Live
- Nicely done video extras are good fan service.
- Questionable value for XBL subscribers, who can download these maps for free.
Considering Halo 2 was one of last year's most popular, most successful video games, it's strange to see a retail follow-up like the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack, which is only suitable for a very specific subset of Halo 2 fans. Diehards will love this content, but nearly half of it is already free for download on Xbox Live, and the rest will be on August 30. As such, the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack seems best suited to those looking to play Halo 2 in a network setting, since it lets you update the game with new content without having to log in to Xbox Live using each Xbox on the network. So if you were to split the cost of this disc with 15 other friends, it would actually be a pretty sweet deal. Besides, the DVD-style extras exclusively packaged with the disc are quite entertaining (though brief), and the 30-page manual is surprisingly insightful, too. The Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack isn't for everyone, but it's perfectly fine for what it is. Oh, and the nine new maps themselves are outstanding, making one of the best-ever multiplayer shooters even better.
Before we go any further, let's make sure everybody's on the same page: The greatest thing about Halo 2 is its multiplayer portion, which remains easily one of the best such experiences ever crafted. A virtually perfect balance of run-and-gun and tactical shooting action, multiplayer Halo 2 delivers near-constant edge-of-your-seat thrills and plenty of surprises thanks to its fantastically balanced weapons and its well-implemented moves and abilities, which let you rob opposing players of their vehicles, flatten them with fierce melee attacks, and more. Halo 2's brief single-player campaign left many series fans anxious for closure, but on the other hand, could you think of a better way to get everyone fired up and seeing red, ready to waste some fools online, than with that game's non-ending? Halo 2 shipped with a good number of maps and modes of play, not to mention an innovative player-matching system. More than half a year later, Microsoft and Bungie refrain from continuing the Halo storyline and instead release the Multiplayer Map Pack, which simply adds more content to the game's better half, nearly doubling the overall number of maps to a grand total of 21.
This is quality work. In general, the new maps are marginally more complex than the ones that shipped with Halo 2, and they run the gamut from sprawling battlefields suitable for 16 players and lots of vehicular traffic to rather claustrophobic arena-style settings great for pure on-foot free-for-alls. If you came into Halo 2 today for the first time, you'd be hard pressed to pick the new maps out of a lineup containing the old ones, which is a good thing. You can tell a lot of effort went into making the sum total of these maps feel like a cohesive addition to the Halo mythos, above and beyond the care that clearly went into making sure each of these maps was well balanced and flat-out fun for long-term competitive play.
As with Halo 2's prefab maps, these have a Swiss Army Knife design that makes them workable with any of Halo 2's different multiplayer modes. In some cases, different modes of play have a noticeable impact even on the layout and features of a map, so the nine new maps here are loaded with long-term potential. None of them necessarily fills any obvious voids, since Halo 2 offers a great mix of big and small maps out of the box. But they fill a need for even more variety, making marathon multiplayer sessions on Xbox Live that much less susceptible to too many repeats of the same map-and-game-type combination.
The Earth sequences of Halo 2's campaign were the best parts, and in turn, the similarly themed Turf is probably one of the best maps in this pack. Devastated city streets, complete with a steel door you can bash open and a broken-down Covenant scarab, make for a great mix of close-quarters skirmishing and medium-range sniping, along with plenty of pitched battles in capture-the-flag or territories matches. Terminal is another fun map, thanks partly to the oncoming trains that rush through the middle of the level every now and then. Add warthogs and ghosts to the mix, smash them all together, and have a blast. If you want something a little more strategic, you could try Containment, a huge ice-covered map that's great for large-scale capture the flag. As well, it features some explosive new surprises. The factorylike setting of Elongation offers a mix of corridor shooting and surprise attacks, and its conveyor belt system makes for an especially dynamic battlefield. Relic is a beachside fortress map, perfect for vehicular strikes and reminiscent of the Master Chief's first assault on Halo. Another memorable inclusion is Backwash, a mist-shrouded swamp map that looks like it ought to be teeming with the flood, but makes for some brutal shoot-outs just the same. The Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack initially may not seem like a very ambitious product. But these are some superstar shooter maps, deserving of the special attention and commercial distribution.