Microsoft Game Studios and Certain Affinity have released two new multiplayer maps and a firefight map in the new Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach. Along with these new maps comes an opportunity to grab three new achievements for a total of 150 gamer score. But how does Certain Affinity’s map-making wizardry stack up to Bungie’s long time experience with delivering top notch content? Let’s find out.
For those of you who are deeply familiar with the lore of the Halo Universe beyond the games, you might find some familiarity within two of the three maps. Condemned takes place on Reach Station Gamma: an orbital platform where Spartans John-117, Linda-058, and James-005 embarked on a mission to destroy an ONI Prowler that had failed to erase its navigation data in the book, The Fall of Reach. Highlands takes place on the Military Wilderness Training Preserve, which was a setting of great significance in The Fall of Reach as well as First Strike. This was one of the training grounds for the Spartan-II program, and was also the site where one of the last Spartan-led battles occurred before Reach was glassed.
Condemned is an asymmetrical map designed for Slayer, Team Slayer, Team Objective, and Rumble Pit matchmaking. It contains five outer areas (Tram Station, Generator, Observation Deck, Communications, and Repair Bay) surrounding a Central Core. The Central Core is a low atmosphere and gravity region that connects to each of these outer lying areas at different levels, providing no real single vantage point from any particular location.
Condemned promises to keep you on your toes with fast-paced, close-quarter combat, as each room has multiple entry points at different levels. Campers will have a tough time with this map as there are no real nooks or crannies that you can exploit. The layout is somewhat reminiscent of another Halo: Reach map, Zealot. You’ll find that the most effective strategy will consist of small one- and two-player teams sweeping through the outer ring to cut down the opposition in a team setting. However, the only thing that you can count on for Slayer matches will be absolute chaos. Stay in the Central Core room long enough to grab the rocket launcher and get to whittling down your enemies with grenades, rockets, and anything else you can use to damage them as quickly as possible.
Highlands is a large scale open map much like Tempest that allows for vehicles, and can be used for Capture the Flag and Invasion game types. Long open stretches and exceptional vantage points can make this map a sniper’s heaven. However, don’t get too complacent; there are plenty of long range weapons available that can easily make your day go bad. Teleporters and vehicles are offered to those who wish to cover ground more quickly for the up close and personal encounters. Be sure to look up. There are plenty of high-ground areas that a jet-packed opponent can use to route behind your lines and cut you down quickly.
Finally, there is Unearthed. This enormous Firefight map consists of two large open areas on either side of a mining station. For this map, solid team skills are your best accessory. The central mining area has multiple entrances from all sides making it hard to defend, and the outer lying areas offer even less fortification. Enemies can quickly overwhelm a defending squad of Spartans and dispatch them post haste. A target locator can be found in one of the initial ammo drops, but use it sparingly; you only get three shots.
Certain Affinity has done a pretty decent job of these three maps overall. Although they don’t quite have the ebb and flow that the wizards at Bungie have graced us with in the map packs of yore, the maps are laid out in a way to give you a solid, action packed experience. Considering the price that DLC map packs are going for nowadays, 800 Microsoft Points doesn’t seem like a bad price to pay. However, it would have been nice if they added a couple of Forge World creations to sweeten the pot.