The Digest: Certain Affinity and 343 Industries manage to not just reach the quality and polish of Bungie’s Noble Map Pack, but surpass it in terms of creativity, and in the fact that these are the most fun maps in Reach so far. It looks like the Halo franchises is indeed in good hands.
THE FACT SHEET
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2011
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios
DEVELOPER: Certain Affinity/343 Industries
ESRB RATING: “M” for Mature
PRODUCT OVERVIEW: The Halo: Reach Defiant Map Pack introduces three stunning new battlefields for the most critically acclaimed shooter of 2010, and includes all-new Achievements worth a total of 150 Gamerscore. With maps set on a giant orbital station high above the burning surface of the planet, hidden inside the forest of a military wilderness training facility, and dug into the remnants of a civilian mining site, the Defiant Map Pack brings awesome new environments for Firefight matches and all competitive multiplayer modes.
- Two new competitive multiplayer maps
- A new Firefight map
- Three new Achievements
Each Halo player has a multiplayer map which they’ll always remember. Whether it’s the classic Blood Gulch, the most publicized Halo 2 map known as Zanzibar, or Valhalla, the very first map to make usage of mancannons. In Reach, most of the “memorable” maps consist of Forge World maps that all look the same, like Hemorrhage, The Cage or Paradiso. Maps designed for Invasion (Spire and Boneyard) aren’t the best for just about any other gametype. The Defiant Map Pack perfectly fills in the gap in Reach with Condemned and Highlands, with Unearthed trailing along as a much needed addition to Firefight.
The smallest of the Defiant maps, Condemned takes place up above Orbital Station Gamma, orbiting Reach in it’s final moments. Condemned brings with it a strong Halo 2 vibe, with feelings of the classic map Elongation present throughout.
Now, just because it’s the smallest of the Defiant maps, doesn’t mean it’s that small. Condemned is one of, if not the largest close quarters maps in Reach. Navigating the hallways of Condemned may be pretty confusing for first time players, since, to be honest, they all look similar. While each of the four sections of the map are color coded, it still took me a few plays to start knowing where I was exactly.
The low gravity area in the middle of the map is a much better location for low gravity combat than the outside of Anchor 9. Anyone who’s played Anchor 9 knows how frustrating it can be when you barely miss a jump and gently fall off of the edge, knowing you just made a huge mistake and not being able to stop your demise. Condemned’s low gravity area is indoors, completely eliminating that aspect out, which is definitely for the better.
Comparable to maps such as Blood Gulch and Waterworks, Highlands is a huge map set in a abandoned Spartan training facility. Those who have read The Fall of Reach will be happy to find out that the facility in Highlands was actually described in the novel (Condemned was, too!).
Unlike the map Tempest, whose visuals remind you of Halo: Combat Evolved, Highlands feels as if the layout of the map was strongly inspired from Halo: Combat Evolved, as well. The massive canyon is friendly to both vehicles and people on-foot, something that Hemorrhage and Paradiso have a few issues with. The map itself has dedicated red and blue bases, which was also something that I personally miss dearly in Reach’s map selection. And no, Forge maps with red and blue lights don’t count. I’m talking about real maps that look like they were designed strictly for multiplayer, and not maps that were thrown into campaign, such as Powerhouse and Sword Base.
Because of the buildings and cave tunnels around the edges of the map, Highlands actually has cover for a team who’s being bombarded by a Banshee, unlike, well… almost every single other map in Reach. A welcome addition, if I do say so myself.
The very first downloadable Firefight map, Unearthed immediately solves an issue the rest of the Firefight maps have: not having any space for true vehicle usage. As an avid Firefight player, any new addition to Firefight is already a huge plus, but being a vehicle friendly Firefight map is even better when playing with friends who want to truly cooperate with each other rather than two Spartans standing in different locations and shooting wildly.
Unearthed takes place in an abandoned Titanium mine right in the civilian sector of Reach, just before the initial Covenant invasion. The Spartans start with a Rocket Hog, which is actually much more useful than the Rocket Hog on Beachhead. It’s just about the same size as Beachhead, there’s plenty of dirt roads for your Warthog (or Ghost, or Wraith) to circle around, surrounding the facility, as well.
As for the Achievements, they’re pretty, um… uninspired. Is taking two flags from the enemy base to your own base in Stockpile really worth 75 Gamescore? There’s also an Achievement for returning a flag in Capture the Flag, which is done in almost every single CTF match, and another Achievement to kill three people with the Oddball in a match. The latter one, admittedly, may take some cooperation with a friend to know where the opposition is coming from, but it’s not really exciting to do. Getting a Double Kill from the grave from the last map pack? That was fun. These Achievements aren’t.
Conclusion: When I heard that Bungie wouldn’t be making the Defiant Map Pack, I felt a bit worried. Were Certain Affinity and 343 Industries really able to keep up the impeccable quality and polish that Bungie is known for? Turns out, they have. The Defiant maps rank up among the best maps in the Halo franchise to date. You’ll be reminiscing about your time you got a Spartan Laser Killtacular on Highlands years from now.
Halo is definitely in good hands. 343 Industries just proved it.
|- Near perfect map design in Highlands
– New Firefight Map!
– Condemned is perfect for close quarters combat.
|- Uninspired Achievements
– Initial navigation of Condemned is a bit confusing.
Special thanks to Microsoft Game Studios for providing us with the content for review.
By: Christian Davis
Halo: Reach’s second map pack, the Defiant Map Pack, is going to be released very shortly. Lucky for us, we’ve got our hands on them early and had a nice run through of the two multiplayer maps, Condemned and Highlands, and the new Firefight map, Unearthed. With the new maps, Halo’s matchmaking will now have 18 maps and Firefight will have 9 maps. There is no reason to be bored while playing Halo: Reach.
The two multiplayer maps are completely different from one another. One is more of a close quarters area with winding corridors, while the other is more open and is peppered with lush foliage. Both are very fun to play on and gamers will love them.
Condemned takes place on an orbital space station that hovers above planet Reach. As soon as you load into the map, the high-tech locale lets you know that you’re under attack from the Covenant. In the background, ominous explosions from the constant space battles that happen outside of the playfield. It’s really easy to get distracted and watch Banshees and Space Ships engage in intense firefights.
That’s one thing both Condemned and Highlands have in common, the backdrops are exciting and are more than your typical mountain top view. Particularly on Condemned, you get a view of Reach and you can tell that the planet is already lost. Half of the surface is covered in fire and is an eye popping sight. The interior of Condemned is riddled with explosions, broken technology, and Covenant blood.
There are several areas of the map that will contain a lot of the combat. Generator rooms, repair bays and especially the maps “Center Core” which is a low gravity room with a rocket launcher in the center. The map is primarily close quarters but also has some long range elements such as hallways and elongated corridors that snipers will spend a lot of time around. Condemned is a great action packed map and will be a favorite to a lot of gamers.
The next map Highlands is located in a top secret military base on planet Reach. It’s calmer and more peaceful then Condemned, but Covenant ships are closing in on the map. The background activity again is something to be admired. Watching the ships grow closer to the preserve you’re fighting on while they obliterate everything in their path.
Highlands has a main red and blue base that’s indicated by the colored flags. Both bases are symmetrical but what’s to either side of each base is the difference. To the left of the blue base, you’ll run into a smaller, elevated, multileveled bunker that provides a great over look at the center of the map. There’s a gorgeous industrialized waterfall, flowing river and a passage that leads under the waterfall.
Take the path straight ahead of the blue base you’re provided with a couple different options. There’s a green lit tunnel that takes you above near the waterfall and the passage underneath the waterfall that you can see from the elevated bunker. They both lead to the same communications bunker but it provides some welcomed alternative paths. You could also run straight through the center of the map, which doesn’t seem like the brightest idea, but there is enough cover to shield yourself from sniper fire.
The bunker then leads to a cave which is directly connected to the red base. Highlands is the larger of the two maps and definitely will contain the most people. It’s got nice elevation, several places to take cover behind, and will also provide some nice pathways for a quick getaway on a mongoose. If you’re a fan of Big Team Battle, then you’ll love Highlands.
The final piece of the Defiant Map pack is the latest edition to Firefight, Unearthed. Players will have to fend off wave after wave of Covenant in this abandoned titanium mine. Unearthed is a combination of open desert and close quarter combat. If you stay within the confines of the mine, you can hold off forces fairly simply. Run out into the desert and you’re open to all sorts of pain.
To aide in the Covenant onslaught, you’re also provided a rocket mounted Warthog that you can drive through the map in a racetrack fashion. The Warthog can definitely help get you out of some tight spots through sheer power. The best part about this level, is how bright the level is. A majority of the Firefight maps are darker and take place in doors. This map takes place primarily outside and it’s a bright sunny day. A welcome change to the selection of levels and my personal favorite.
The Defiant Map pack will cost you 800 Microsoft Points and will be available March 15th.