Review by Gruel
"Just when you think you were through with Halo 2 multiplayer, this expansion adds another year of life to it"
Ever since its release last November, Halo 2 has still been rocking Xbox Live and is one of its most popular played games after being out for nearly a year. Bungie provided an excellent matchmaking service and a plethora of game types and modes to play in to come up with dozens of match types. However not everything stays fresh, glitches were starting to get well known and exploited by many users that caused lots of bans and suspensions on Xbox Live. Plus users were complaining they were getting tired of playing on the same maps all the time.
Microsoft has your answer with the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. It has nine new multiplayer maps and the latest auto-update that fixes those abused glitches and adds some minor changes to the damage that is dealt from some of the weaponry. Word to the wise, you can get nearly everything the disc offers online for free now as the maps are now no longer premium content. Also noteworthy is that by forking out the few extra dollars for the retail version, the maps will always be there on the disc as a safe backup in case something happens to your current Xbox and you no longer have access to Xbox Live. I also found the disc handy in LAN parties to install the maps on my friends Xbox consoles who didn't have the maps yet.
As another little perk for getting the retail version there are a couple of extra videos. There are the 2000 and 2002 E3 trailers for Halo and Halo 2, respectively. There is also a funky little covenant audio test some of you might get a kick out of. Next is an interesting five minute animated short that features a squad of shock troopers fending off a squad of Covenant forces. The short links together a couple of minor empty spots in the middle of the plot in Halo 2. Last up is a useful documentary with interviews with the map designers that have lots of insight and gameplay tips to share on all the new maps.
Here is a rundown of what to expect out of the nine new maps that this expansion disc delivers:
Containment - This enormous snow covered map will bring back memories of the original Halo's Sidewinder. This is now the largest of all the multiplayer maps in Halo 2 and it is perfect for huge bouts of team CTF and Slayer. Expect all the extras here like turrets, and default vehicle support for Warthogs, Scorpion, and the Human & Covenant versions of the Warthog. I wouldn't recommend this for any less than eight players as it can get awfully hard to find your opponents in this huge terrain.
Backwash - This map reminisces with the classic swamp level in the single player campaign of the first Halo. The foggy marshes that players can traverse makes it difficult for long ranged attacks and is one of the few maps to have the Sentinel Beam available by default in matchmaking. One huge base is in the middle of this symmetrical map which I found perfect for neutral games of team Bomb and CTF. Good old slayer also works well in here too, and this gets my vote of being of my favorite maps out of this expansion.
Terminal - Terminal will forever be remembered by the blazingly fast train that swooshes by the tracks every several moments, and it will always result in an instant kill no matter how you cross its path. In the middle of the train tracks is the prized Energy Sword so if you can guesstimate the intervals of the train than it might be worth the risk to nab it. Terminal is an asymmetrical map that has a huge wide open floor that works well for vehicle battles. The Ghost, Warthog, and Wraith will be there by default, so expect some crazy battles going on in matchmaking.
Elongation - This is a remake of The Longest' multiplayer stage in the original Halo. This level has two conveyor belts moving in opposite directions. The constantly produced crates that populate the belts provide excellent cover and yields some intense close-range firefights. The conveyor belts are also key in CTF rounds where a player can grab the flag and just stay on the belt the whole time on the way back to their base and still remain invisible on radar. Besides being optimized for CTF, I loved doing a few quick rounds of free for all Slayer and Oddball.
Relic - This is a fairly decent size island with a huge base in the middle that is ideal for 4 on 4 team games. The one obstacle to lookout for is when traversing near the coast if you go just a few feet into the water then beware for an instant kill dropoff. This caught me off guard a few too many times and I found it to be more of a nuisance than an obstacle. I mildly enjoyed the occasional round of Slayer in here, but downright loathed Assault on this map. It is my least liked map in this expansion.
Gemini - This is a closed arena map that has a lot of corridors and even though the map first seems designed for close combat, there are plenty of little areas that I spotted snipers picking off countless victims. I enjoyed bouts of Slayer in here a bit too. This map reminded me a lot of the Midship map in Halo 2, which Gemini is almost but not quite as good as.
Warlock - If you loved Halo 2's Foundation than you are going to love Warlock. It is a smaller to medium size four-way symmetrical map that is actually designed after the original Halo's Wizard multiplayer stage. This works great for custom game types that can have up to four teams with Oddball, CTF, and Slayer being the game types of choice, as with the aforementioned Foundation level. Warlock is another one of my top picks out of the maps featured on this disc.
Sanctuary - This symmetrical map will surprise you with its beautiful temple-themed artwork. It is one of the few maps that I just took a moment to endure all the gorgeous scenery. Lots of boulders dominate the gaps of land on the base floor and provide excellent cover. This level is a perfect fit for team bouts of CTF, Territories, and Slayer.
Turf - Turf is one of the smaller maps featured on this pack. It is asymmetrical and is designed primarily for the Territories game type, but also works well with King of the Hill and Oddball. This stage has a little bit of everything with open streets that are ideal for large firefights, large building for all the snipers to camp out in and tiny corridors to sneak the flag back in. It is an easy to learn map that I quickly became fond of.
That wraps up all the maps that this map pack has to offer. Elongation, Warlock, and Backwash get my top picks of approval on this map pack. Gemini and Containment are pretty good too, and the others will probably be hit and miss with most fans. Except Relic which is the only one I had a strong disagreement with on this map pack. If you're a big fan of multiplayer Halo 2 whether it be split screen, System Link LAN, or Xbox Live, you owe it to yourself to pick up the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. It does everything you want to expand the life out of Halo 2, and it is not asking a lot either to have a safe back-up for just $20.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/26/05
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