Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack

July 26th, 2005 by Ciarán Leave a reply »

Bungie have recently released the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. This is a set of multiplayer maps for Halo 2 that are also available as premium downloads via XBox Live, but packaged up on an XBox disk along with some bonus material, some of which you cannot get anywhere else. While the maps will all be available for free download from XBox Live by the end of August, this disk is a cheaper way to get the maps if you have more than one XBox, or the only way to get them if you don’t have a XBox Live subscription.

The pack includes nine new maps – Warlock, Containment, Turf, Sanctuary, Elongation, Backwash, Relic, Terminal and Gemini. Warlock and Elongation are essentially remakes of Halo 1 maps Wizard and Longest, but the others are all new, and set in various locations from the Halo 2 campaign. There are various walkthroughs of the new maps available on-line, but I haven’t had time to check them out yet. Red vs. Blue have some good ones apparently. However, you do get a look at all the new levels through a bonus movie on the disk. In this, various Bungie team members talk about the levels that they worked on, and there are some fly-throughs of the levels. You also get an overview of each level in the manual that comes with the disk.

I didn’t get to play more than a couple of games on the new maps, and can only give my impressions of Warlock, Backwash and Relic. I liked Backwash, it was small enough that you could find the action quite quickly, while at the same time the low visibility meant that you could get close to the other players without them seeing you – if you were careful.

Warlock is fun, and I’ve played several games here – including one game of Oddball which was a blast! The dark areas around the edges of the central arena make it very hard to see anyone, and the bodies often pile up quickly there. As with all the maps, knowing where the weapons and power-ups are helps tremendously :)

Relic is big, and we ended up with only four players staying on the game. This led to a bit of wandering around, looking for opponents. I did get to play matador to someone trying to run me over with the warthog, and I was quite pleased with myself at my attempts to evade them. However, in my panic I forgot which button you use to board, so I missed the chance to try that feature in anger. Eventually my opponent gave up and drove off to find someone easier to squash!

I’m looking forward to trying out the other maps, and playing more Halo 2 on Live. I’m especially looking forward to checking out Terminal, where a train speeds through the middle of the map from time to time.

Apart from the maps, the MMP disk includes the autoupdate that changed the Halo 2 game engine to fix some of the balance issues, such as underpowered grenades. Most people with XBox Live will already have this. You can tell by looking at the bottom right of the main menu screen. If there’s a “1.1” there, then you have the update. However, users without XBox Live won’t have received this, so it’s a welcome inclusion.

The other bonus content on the disk includes the behind the scenes video I mentioned earlier, and a new cutscene created exclusively for the MMP. This features the ODSTs on the third Pelican that headed down into New Mombassa, and what happened to it after the Scarab opened fire when approaching the city. This is a great little piece of backstory, and is very well executed – though I did feel that some of the movements were a little slow at times. Bungie are not releasing this video online (at the moment), so the only way you’ll see this (legitimately) is if you buy the disk.

There are two other videos – the 5.1 audio test video featuring a Grunt and a Hunter that also was included on the limited edition version of the Halo 2 disk, and the original E3 2000 demo of Halo. I had never seen the latter, and it’s amazing to see where things came from. It’s essentially a (very long) cutscene. There’s some features that remained essentially unchanged – the design of the Pelican and the Energy Sword for example. However, other stuff never made it to the final version, such as the dinosaurs and the gold Elite’s shield. A nice piece of history to have.

Overall, I think Bungie have done a great job in putting this together. With the release of the MMP, there are now 21 multiplayer maps for Halo 2. From Major Nelson’s interview with Sketch on his most recent blogcast, it would appear that this is the end of the road for new content for Halo 2. The playlists will continue to be tweaked, but no more maps will appear. Also, a comment on the behind the scenes video states that these maps will help “wet the whistle for what’s to come”, a clear indication that Halo 3 is going to be developed – as if there was any doubt about that :)

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