The Biggest Issue With The Master Chief Collection No One Is Talking About

Halo Master Chief CollectionMuch has been made about the issues that Halo: The Master Chief Collection has been facing since it’s launch on November 11. All across the web, outlets have been talking about the matchmaking issues – seemingly every week, as the patches just don’t seem to be doing enough. Hell, I’ve spent time talking about the issues and the patches on this very blog. I’m not going to discount those issues – matchmaking across the four games is probably the biggest selling point for long time fans. That said though, I have come across an issue that is just as big a problem, that isn’t getting nearly the same press.

I found it to be an issue as I was messing around in Forge over the Holiday weekend. I’m far from a Forge expert, but I was able to craft a map on Warlord that I was proud of – with a game type to go along with it. After I set it to be in my shared files, I figured out that the real issue. Those files being in my file share, basically limit it to only my friends grabbing it. There is no online file share, like there used to be one Bungie.net, for players to go to, search for maps/games, and download them to their Xboxs right there. It’s partially tied to the shift in focus away from Custom games more towards matchmaking. The sad part is that the Custom games community is the major reason that Halo 2 and Halo 3 were able to enjoy such long lifespans online. It’s been semi-rekindled over this last month with the issues for online with MCC, thanks to sites like halolobby.com. The issue is that because of the lack of a viable way to search for files, neither in-game or online, it limits how strong that community will be.

Halo 3

It goes beyond not having a search function – the current maximum for each filetype is 50. 50 is miniscule in the grand scheme of things – with Halo 3 Bungie realized their initial number was way to low, so they cranked it way up. Understandably, 343 hasn’t really said anything about dealing with this number quite yet, but I think ultimately they will need to. As more tournaments start to take place, each with various rules, and as Customs start spreading – mainly due to classic games from the previous Halo games – I think they’ll see players demand more room in their file share. With Forge as robust as it is now, the potential for Forge art is higher than ever before. For as much I have been down on the state of MCC, 343 did a great job with the new Forge available in Halo 2: Anniversary – the sky box maps are awesome, and the potential things that better map makers will be able to do are pretty crazy. Which just makes the lack of a search function even more mindblowing to me.

Halo 2 Anniversary Beaver Creek Forge

The final issue that I’ve found in Forge is a bit more specific a complaint, but still a major oversight. Within the Halo 3 Forge, there currently is no way to change the game type away from basic editing. At first glance that might not be the biggest issue – until you realize that means you can’t place any objective markers on maps. That means no new CTF variants, no Territories maps, and perhaps the biggest issue – no Grifball – in the game that started it! I don’t know how easy a fix this particular issue would be, but based around what we’ve seen so far I don’t see it being high on 343’s list quite yet. Ultimately, I would love to see them get matchmaking fixed and working the way it’s supposed to; but at the same time, they really do need to look at the file share issue. Not having one will limit the lifespan of the game, which is already in jeopardy due to the launch issues. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck in the same pattern – watching and waiting to see which issues 343 is tackling with each new patch.

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Halo Week 2014 – Halo 3

Halo 3Continuing through the four games in the Master Chief Collection, today we’ll look at 2007’s Halo 3. Halo 3 was, at the time, the biggest launch of all time – perhaps partially due to being the first game in the series on the Xbox 360; but also because it was the conclusion to the Covenant war. Story-wise, none of the Bungie Halo games have ever disappointed me, Halo 3 was no different. But Halo 3 also was a pretty big shake-up on the Multiplayer front. Halo 2 was really the game that validated Xbox Live for online play, but it was still in its infancy; by 2007 it was more stable, and that meant that Halo 3 could do a little more. The biggest change up was really thanks to Forge – the in game map editor; along with custom game variants. Bungie saw that people were playing certain game variants in LAN settings that weren’t part of the hoppers online, but with Forge and the better flexibility of the game and Live, were able to start putting custom maps and gametypes online. As we’ve done all week, I want to look at a couple of the skills that Halo 3 requires; then look at some of my favorite maps.

Halo 3 really shook it up a little with the multiplayer – especially from Halo 2. Sweep sniping is all but gone, thanks to the aim assist being much less noticeable. Dual-wielding is still around, but the options are a bit different. The Assault Rifle is back as a default, no longer the SMG. The Needler is no longer a dual-wieldable weapon. There are also new deployable items scattered around the maps; these include the flare, bubble shield, trip mine and power drain. While it’s not quite as important to control these as the power weapons, it’s still good to try to. A power drain can help clear out a room being held; and a trip mine can take out a vehicle that’s been dominating you. The Battle Rifle at this point is a four shot kill, assuming that last burst hits the head – so your skills with that weapon will transfer over from Halo 2 or if you’re a newer player, Halo: Reach and Halo 4. One other weapon that has become a standard over the last 7 years is the Spartan Laser. It made its debut in Halo 3, giving players a solid second option against vehicles instead of the Rockets.

Halo 3 Guardian

Map-wise, Halo 3 had some really strong maps that dominated gameplay – both small and medium sized maps this time around. Halo had great mid-size maps; Halo 2 had much better small maps – Halo 3 has a few good ones at each size. We’ll start with the smaller ones first. Probably the best all around small map, in my mind, is Guardian. It’s very similar in layout to Lockout, with a little bit more visual flair. It’s not an exact remake, but the general flow is very similar – sightlines that are about the same, and pretty much the same general shape. While there are a few good spots for snipers, there are also enough flanking routes that us close range guys can easily get around behind them. It’s also a really good map to mess around with in Forge – I can remember making some real fun Infection layouts on it. It’s also probably the best map for playing Swords on, I think.

The Pit

A more mid-size map that really stood out has to be The Pit. It’s a symmetrical map, that is perfect for team games – especially CTF; but really, anything plays well on it. It’s possible to place vehicles on the map in Forge, but they don’t spawn by default, and even then the vehicles are only the smaller ones. The sightlines are really clean, snipers and BRs really dominate, but at the same time, each of the major landmarks is small enough for a sword or shotgun to clear them out. Oddball is a lot of fun, Assault is always tense – CTF almost always comes down to the very last minutes. It’s definitely got one of the more action packed openings to any map, with most matches starting with a rush towards the Rockets. Learn how to get away from the grenades, or find a way to flank around the side.

Another mid-size map, albeit a bit on the larger side of things, that I always liked was Narrows. Another symmetrical map, it’s a phenomenal sniper map, with really clear, long sightlines. That said, unless you’re actually playing Snipers, the under-bridge route along with the man cannon makes it possible to get around their view. The man cannons open up a few unique options using the new deployable gear – tossing a Power Drain through the man cannon can help ensure you have a safe landing. It’s a great map for CTF – again, the man cannons open up a pretty cool capture path. Oddball can be fun, but it is possible to get out of the map, which kind of breaks that gametype. I never played around too much with Forge on it, but I can definitely see some good maps coming out from it.

Halo 3 Narrows

One last map to look at, Halo 3‘s answer to Blood Gulch, which doesn’t appear in this game, is Valhalla. It’s got the same design principle – symmetrical bases, with a wide open canyon between them. Before it got muddied up with Mantises in later games, Valhalla was a really strong option for vehicle combat. Banshees, Warthogs, Mongooses, and Wraiths all spawn in the default variant. This makes controlling the Laser, Rocket Launcher and Missile Pod very important. You only other option really is a good sniper, or solid grenade skills or boarding skills. Long range firefights tend to dominate the matches, but there are definitely some real close spots that a Shotgun or Mauler can do well at; in particular inside the bases for objective games.

One final point to consider – some of my very favorite maps that I used to play back in 2007 or so were player created variants. Almost every LAN party we had we played a couple Infection variants on Last Resort custom maps, or Sand Trap maps. Storm the Beach was probably the first map I downloaded – I think just about anyone that was around with the launch remembers this map. Don’t be afraid to look through file shares to find custom maps and games.

Mapping Out December – Part Three: Earn Your Halo

December is flying by, we’re already to part three of my series on some of the best maps in multiplayer shooters. First we looked at a few older games, last week we took a trip to the Battlefield series of games. Today, it’s a series that is near and dear to my heart – the Halo franchise. It’s almost hard to believe that the series is over 10 years old, it really does seem really fresh in my memory all the times playing the first game at LAN parties back in high school. Hell, the first Halo game is the whole reason I bought my Original Xbox, so this should be a fun little look back on the series.

Halo 3

As always, let’s go back to the beginning – Halo: Combat Evolved. Right away, there’s the big map – Blood Gulch. Probably the most popular map across the whole series, for a couple reasons. First off, it’s perfect for CTF games – well balanced, with a good mix of ranges and styles of combat. Secondly, it has existed in just about every game in the series, so new and old fans get to play it. Thirdly, we can’t over look the impact of Red Vs. Blue on the map, never mind the level of connection that Rooster Teeth has with the Halo franchise in general. We’ll head from Blood Gulch, to the other big CTF map I remember playing a ton – Sidewinder. Again, balanced layout, good mix of vehicles and heavy weapons and intense games that can come down to whoever gets one capture. Great objective map for sure. I want to hit on two more maps, Chill Out and Hang ‘Em High. Both are good for either CTF or Slayer, but focus more of infantry combat – no vehicles needed. Hang ‘Em High is great for pistols, or rockets CTF games, while Chill Out is still the best Shotgun CTF map I think I’ve ever played. Looking back on the whole map list, there really are only a couple stinkers in the batch – Chiron TL-34 and Boarding Action. The rest of the maps are all really solid.

Blood Gulch

Let’s jump ahead to the sequel now – Halo 2. Admittedly, I think this is probably the black sheep of the series. The tweaks to the multiplayer “leveled” the playing field by putting in a generous aim assist, which turned every person on Live into a “pro no-scoper,” while also turning other weapons into paper weights. That said, there were actually a few stand out maps that still play well. First, easily the best example, Lockout. Great for SWAT games, good for CTF, great for slayer or one flag games as well, it also has some really unique ways to move around the map using the exterior of the geometry. Next, Ascension is a great small map for CTF, or even snipers/SWAT games. The design is also pretty unique, with lots of little touches that make it a great map. Lastly I want to touch on two more real quick – Zanzibar and Ivory Tower. I know a lot of people would mention Midship, but I always preferred Ivory Tower. It’s a great map with lots of different levels, good flanking routes, and it’s a great one flag map. Zanzibar, on the other hand, is one of the better mixed action maps in the game. Vehicles can do some real damage, but there are plenty of good other options to move around the map, and CTF games are reminiscent of Sidewinder games – intense matches that can end in a 1-0 score.

The Pit

Now on to Halo 3 – the first on the Xbox 360, and the first to feature the best feature in the series for multiplayer – Forge. Let’s start however, with The Pit. Probably the most balanced infantry only map (because let’s be honest, no one used the mongoose on that map) for CTF, SWAT, Slayer, King of the Hill… the list goes on. It’s a really well balanced map, with good weapons that keep the action flowing and really doesn’t allow for camping. We’ll go big with the next map, and talk Valhalla. It’s a spiritual successor to Blood Gulch, and features the same basic premise – simple design and map flow makes for really fun CTF matches. Weapon control and vehicle usage makes the difference, and can turn the tide of a game. Another winning CTF map would have to be Narrows. It’s a throwback to simple maps from the early days of shooters – it’s a bridge, with really only four ways to cross it. You’re always playing defense, while at the same time, trying to send a few guys to poke and prod and grab the flag. It’s another map that can either end up 1-0; or can end with a flurry of caps. Great map design, for sure. One last one from Halo 3, Guardian – similar to Lockout, it’s a great SWAT map, or even CTF. Small, cramped quarters, with lots of close combat makes for a fast paced game that always comes down to the last few minutes and is always close.

Let’s look real quick at Halo: Reach and Halo 4. In Reach I want to touch on Countdown, Boardwalk and Sword Base. All are smaller maps, without vehicles, but feature a great mix of combat – snipers can do well, especially on Boardwalk, shotgunners can dominate a hallway or room on any map, and a good DMR can lock down a path. Each plays a little different, but all demand precision and good teamwork for sure. When we talk Halo 4, I think we need to look at Haven, Exile and Solace. Haven is a great arena style map, it really works for any slayer variant, King of the Hill and Ricochet; and games can come down to the last few seconds. Exile is one of the better big maps, featuring all of what makes Halo unique – different weapons, vehicle combat and chaotic action for the duration of the game. As for Solace, it’s a unique set-up for CTF – seemingly symmetrical, but each base plays a little differently for the defenses. Great for objective games as well as King of the Hill.

I purposely left out two big parts of multiplayer games these days – DLC maps and Player-created maps. Forge changed the way Halo plays – player-created gametypes and maps that get vetted by the community, show off the things that the community really feels are the strengths of the game. Infected is a huge example, as is Grifball – another direct tie to Rooster Teeth and RvB. As for DLC, I left it out because I do think there are people who still don’t buy additional content for multiplayer, and honestly, that’s totally fine. I don’t recommend it, but hey, that’s cool.

Next week, we’ll wrap (ha!) up the best maps feature with Call of Duty, and then that last week of December, I think we’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum and talk crappy maps. See you then.