Top 10 Week – The Top 10 Halo Multiplayer Maps

Halo Master Chief CollectionI’ve been in a countdown frame of mind, thanks to watching a bunch of videos on YouTube, so with that in mind, I thought this week I would come up with a few countdowns of my own. Since I’ve been playing Halo a lot still with my friends, I thought I would go through my picks for the ten best multiplayer maps in the series.

10. BATTLE CREEK/BEAVER CREEK
Starting things off with an old map, Battle Creek goes all the way back to Halo: Combat Evolved. It was such a popular map, that it was brought back as Beaver Creek in Halo 2. the only real changes between the two versions really is the removal of the ladders and additions of ramps that lead up to the sniper perches. At its core, the map is a symmetrical, small box canyon with two identical bases. Each base has three points of entry, not counting a fourth on the roof that is only accessible through some jumping. It’s a map that functions really well with CTF and Oddball, and Slayer of course always works. It’s a fast paced map, thanks to the placement of the warps behind the bases, and multiple routes that players can take.

9. HEADLONG
Halo 2 brings us a perfect example of a huge asymmetrical map that works for pretty much any kind of game – multiflag, one-flag, oddball (with a high score count), assault, snipers, SWAT – plus the addition of vehicles really helps keep it fresh. Since it’s a really big map, there are plenty of different ways to get around, including warps, grav lifts and plenty of multiple level structures. The sightlines are awesome, with plenty of long range fights, that a good sneaky player can get behind the enemy to disrupt.

Halo 3 Guardian

8. GUARDIAN
The first entry from Halo 3 is one of the smaller maps in the series, with close range fights being typical. That said, there are still some longer sightlines, including some that criss-cross the open central arena. It works best for games of oddball, multi-team games, and infection or swords variants. And with Halo 3 having Forge, there’s plenty of options to turn the map into whatever you want. It’s a map that makes flankers shine, with two main levels that you need to keep eyes on, and thanks to the presence of active camo, close range weapons can swing a match.

7. MIDSHIP/HERETIC
One of the more popular maps in Halo 2 for arena matches, I’m actually in the minority with this one. I get why Midship is so popular, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. To me, the spawns have never been kind. But regardless, it’s a really great small team map – multiflag is fast-paced, oddball is hectic, and slayer is always close. Heretic, the updated version from Halo 3, plays pretty similar, but with the new mechanics some weapons play different. For example, sword clashes are more common, the shotgun’s smaller clip means you have to show a bit more control with it.

6. LONGEST/ELONGATION
A bit of an under the radar choice, Longest has always been one of my favorite maps from Halo: CE. The basic form of the map is essentially a giant figure 8 – just a bit boxier. The two long hallways are great for the original pistol and shotgun in Halo, and in the Halo 2 remake, Elongation, it plays phenomenally with the battle rifle. Oddball is great, CTF is fun, and Infection can be pretty tense. Even with long sightlines, which in the remake are broken up with the boxes on conveyer belts, close range weapons excel. All around a really fun map.

5. CHILL OUT/COLD STORAGE
My personal favorite map from the first game, Chill Out is one of those asymmetrical maps that still plays perfect in CTF games. Custom variants using the shotgun as the primary are fast paced, insane and totally fun. Taking the shield off makes it even quicker. The Halo 3 remake is pretty similar in pacing, but with changes to the shotgun, there are other game modes that are better to play. King of the Hill, with a focus on close ranged weapons is fun, and Infection is also a pretty good fit.

The Pit

4. THE PIT/PITFALL
Perhaps the best map in Halo 3, it’s a symmetrical map that works for almost any game mode. CTF, oddball, King of the Hill, VIP and Infection all work – as do Slayer variants. And of course, thanks to Forge, it’s possible to tweak the map around in all sorts of ways – closing off sections to redirect flow totally changes the matches. The updated Halo 4 version includes a couple changes that help make the sword spawn harder to lock down and camp, which is actually a good thing, just play with classic settings and no ordinance drops.

3. HANG ‘EM HIGH/TOMBSTONE/HIGH NOON
Another standout that has become a series main-stay, Hang ‘Em High features a semi-asymmetrical layout, with the two bases identical to each other, and a large open expanse between them. All sorts of games work – CTF, with lots of weapon variants are fun, straight pistols is a classic, and snipers is also a really tense one. The updated versions, from Halo 2 and Halo: CE – Anniversary, make use of the newer mechanics. In Tombstone, they added in grav lifts to open up new ways around the map, and the BR totally adds a whole new way of playing the matches.

2. BLOOD GULCH/COAGULATION/HEMORRHAGE/BLOODLINE
There’s a reason this map has been remade so many times, and also served as inspiration for Halo 3‘s Valhalla. It’s giant, so bigger parties work well, and vehicles add another dimension. Since it’s symmetrical, CTF games are great – any variant really work well, and even games like oddball work. Even with the long range, it’s important to keep an eye on weapons like rockets and the shotgun to help keep the base safe. With the update in Coagulation, they added a whole new dimension by adding the Banshee. Just adding one level of the base and one vehicle made the map have even more depth.

Halo 2 Lockout

1. LOCKOUT/BLACKOUT/LOCKDOWN
My pick for the best map in the series is Lockout from Halo 2. Hands down, it plays the best in the series and has the smoothest flow of any map. Even with the changes they made to the map with Blackout in Halo 3, it still plays solidly. But overall, the Halo 2 version plays better. The sightlines are clearer, the weapon balance is a bit better, and the jumps are a bit easier to manage. CTF works, oddball is fun, infection is fast paced, king of the hill is hectic and the slayer variants that play well are numerous. The Halo 2: Anniversary version adds in destructible icicles that hang over three major points, which can help prevent camping.

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Halo Week 2014 – Halo 2

Halo 2No post yesterday – I was running around and waiting for the Master Chief Collection to install, which took forever. But what it did allow me was the ability to look back at Halo 2 a bit more. I’ll admit, Halo 2 is probably the one game in the series that my memory is most fuzzy with. I played a ton online, but because I was freshman in high school the year it came out, there was a lot more LAN parties going on, and my group preferred Halo: Combat Evolved way more. So leading up to the Master Chief Collection I was happy to look back at some of the Halo 2 maps and mechanics. Like I did with Halo, let’s look at some of the better maps in the game, along with a couple tactics you should be aware of for Halo 2 matchmaking.

Tactics between Halo and Halo 2 didn’t change a whole lot, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. First off, the Magnum has been rendered almost useless – it was the best weapon in the original, in Halo 2 it’s got a very limited use. That use however, ties into perhaps the biggest change in the sequel – dual wielding weapons. Smaller weapons can now be dual wielded, allowing for some pretty funky combos. In doing so though, Bungie back in the day had nerfed a few weapons – in particular the Magnum and Needler. Both are really only effective now while dual wielding. Beyond dual wielding, you also need to really familiarize yourself with the (at the time) new Battle Rifle. Just like in Halo you need to get good at hitting you head shots with the precision weapons – the BR is just the Halo 2 version. Finally, one of the biggest things that I really remembered from Halo 2 is the sweep sniping. Essentially, it amounts to utilizing the auto-aim with the Sniper Rifle to get easy headshots. It’s hard to explain, but mess around in some custom matches with a friend and you’ll quickly get the hang of it – where to pull the trigger in your sweep is the hardest part.

Halo 2 Lockout

As for some standout Halo 2 maps, the best examples are the smaller, arena style maps I think. There are a couple really huge maps in Halo 2 – Headlong, Waterworks, Backwash, and Terminal all are really great Big Team maps, but for 4V4 or even 6V6 they’re a little too big. When we look at the arena size maps though, that’s where the best ones are. Let’s start with arguably the best map in the series – Lockout. There’s something just so perfect about the map layout and flow that makes this map such a popular one for competitive play. Balanced, but not symmetrical; clear sightlines, but still with close quarters; full of multiple routes to take, including different vertical levels – it’s really just a clinic on how to design a great arena map. It works on pretty much any game mode – but the classic for me has always been SWAT. Playing that game mode on Lockout is a huge part of what made me good with the BR.

Another standout map to play is Midship. It’s another smaller, arena map, that works with just about any mode. It’s more symmetrical than Lockout is, so callouts and map flow are a little different. There are still clear sightlines, so precision weapons skills still play an important role. It’s also one of the maps to feature the Energy Sword, which as a power weapon, can really flip a match around. Keep your eyes on the weapons’ spawns, make a team push for the power weapons, and you’ll have no trouble.

Halo 2 Turf

One of the maps that I think doesn’t get the same press as the others – for example, both Lockout and Midship have both been remade for later games – is Turf. Whether that’s because it was a DLC map, coming with the Killtacular pack, or just because it’s not quite as well suited for pro games I’m not sure; but I still think it’s one of the better Halo 2 maps. It’s fantastic for one-sided objective games – assault and one-flag are both lots of fun; and it’s actually one of the better infections maps too. There are tons of alternate routes to take for flanking, and since it’s an asymmetric map, there really isn’t a “base” to hold down. It’s also one of the few small maps that features a vehicle – and actually works. There’s a Warthog that spawns – while it’s not a foolproof tactic, it is good for a couple kills for sure.

There are plenty of other classic maps – Ascension, Sanctuary, Foundation, Zanzibar – I could go on all day. The best part of the Master Chief Collection is that they’re all right there at your fingertips, unlocked at the start, and you can play them however you want. Hop in custom games, learn or relearn the maps and relive just how awesome Halo 2 was. Then realize there is so much more in the Collection to keep you busy forever.

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.