Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Just another reason to play Halo 2 (as if you needed another reason)"

Calling Halo 2 a success is an understatement. Halo 2 was a game that got millions of fans standing outside their local game stores just to buy a copy and see Master Chief again. Instantly, Halo 2 shattered records and became one of the most successful games in history. Millions of people hit Xbox Live to play their favorite multiplayer matches online. Bungie released some exclusive maps over Xbox Live, and these once-exclusive maps were then paired up with some bonus features for offline gamers in the form of the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack.

Along with the new maps, players can check out old E3 trailers of both Halo games. In addition to some movies, weapon damage has been slightly tweaked, adding some balance to some of the weapons. Outside of the maps, the real draw of the retail version is the ability to permanently save the maps to the Xbox hard-drive, a definite importance to Halo fans.

The real star of this show is the new maps, which fulfill their duty as being even more fun than many of the original maps. Each map is amazingly diverse and it seems that many are specialized for specific gametypes. These nine new maps feature some of the best map-design around.

Backwash is a swampy, enclosed area. There's hardly any room for vehicles, but it isn't made for it. The dark and dank areas are perfect for an alternative to Lockout for Swords. If you're feeling a little daring, Phantom matches, especially with snipers are fantastic to play here. The closed area and dark atmosphere are suspenseful and good-looking, although the occasional audio interruption can ruin the spirit.

Relic is an expansive island with floating outposts and plenty of vehicle room. Just driving a Warthog over the hills is fun enough. The outposts combined with the giant structure in the center offer plenty of flexibility in rounds. Simple Slayer or Team Slayer works well here, and so does Capture-The-Flag, but Juggernaut is surprisingly strong here, with plenty of cover spots and different areas to traverse through. Relic is one of the most versatile levels on the Map pack, making it a highlight map.

Containment is the Map pack's huge map. Tremendous and covered in snow, Containment can be a place where you can easily get lost. It's mostly focused for Team matches; preferably with vehicle combat, Containment is great for a huge game of CTF or Slayer. This map is preferably used with a lot of combatants, because simply wandering around looking for someone can seriously tire a player out.

Turf is a pretty simplistic map, but it's divided and focused for small Team battles. Team Slayer is a highlight, where the wide open road combined with the back alleys offered plenty of weapon versatility. Close-quarters combat is balanced with long-range encounters, making Turf a solid team map. It's very easy to navigate, but there's enough variety and cover to keep gameplay fresh.

Gemini is an extremely basic map, similar to the structure of Midship. If you're looking for some serious close-quarters combat, then Gemini delivers. Everything else, however, is rather so-so. Gemini mixes some things up with some scenery, but seems to only be useful in simple close-quarters combat. It's probably one of the most disappointing maps, but is still good.

Warlock is set for King of the Hill; plain and simple. With a focused center platform and plenty of corridors, Warlock is a fun and mad map. There's always somewhere to surprise attack and encountering opponents midway through a tunnel is shocking. However, Warlock offers a decent sized area to explore; it's versatile and full of ways to ambush.

Terminal is a rush. The divided area is huge, strung together by a train that will constantly remind you of how the Guardians are watching. Small Team Slayer matches with vehicle combat shine here, but exploring on foot is well done thanks to long paths. The train tracks hide some strong weapons, but the train is active, constantly keeping daredevils on edge. It's one of the most creative levels and offers plenty of ways to play, thanks to vehicles, weapons, and multiple paths.

Elongation is focused for in-your-face combat. Two alternating conveyor belts are connected by small overhead corridors. Swords thrives here, where close-quarters combat is always active. Surprises lie behind the tall boxes and a sneak attack is certain. It's a good level, but is rather confining and doesn't offer a lot of diversity in combat. Play for a simple Swords game with a few friends.

Sanctuary is my personal favorite. One of the best looking levels from either the Map pack or Halo 2, Sanctuary takes place in an open ruin area, where nearly everything under the sun is open for use. Vehicles, turrets, weapons, it's very easy to find something worth using. Divided by tall stone walls and a central chamber, Sanctuary is prime for Team Slayer or in some cases Team CTF. As a versatile and diverse map, Sanctuary is amazing. It looks great too.

+ More maps, some better than the original Halo 2
+ Cheap price
+ Just icing on the cake that is Halo 2

- If you have Xbox Live, there's no point in buying this
- Well, you need the original, but really, is that a con?

Halo 2 was simply amazing, and the multiplayer map pack is just another reason to pick Halo 2 up. Many of the different maps in the map pack are so incredibly-designed, you'll wonder why they weren't included in the original. Bungie created each map in such a way that they're specialized for certain game types, and playing the same map over and over (although not recommended) doesn't get old. From the sheer diversity in the levels to the fine-tuning and situational nature of the game types, this map pack is just as good as Halo 2 was, although some of the maps do disappoint. As a standalone, this is nothing, but it's simply an add-on for one of the most fun multiplayer games around. Simply.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/12/06

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