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: Combat Evolved

Halo Master Chief CollectionWith the Master Chief Collection launching tomorrow for the Xbox One, I thought I would go over the four individual games included in the game. I’m going to be focusing primarily on the multiplayer side of things, mainly because there’s a lot to talk about. Story-wise, the greatness of the games is well documented – the successes of the franchise largely is responsible, at least I think, for keeping the Xbox afloat early on. The multiplayer side of the games kept them in disc trays for a lot longer. That said, let’s start diving into the game that got it started, Halo: Combat Evolved.

Way back in 2001, there were still some questions if a First Person Shooter could really excel on home consoles. GoldenEye 007 showed it on a much smaller scale – it was really Halo that proved you can have a real solid, competitive experience on consoles – there’s a reason that MLG ran with Halo for years. Over the years, the franchise has become a generational game – it’s been going strong for 13 years after all. Because of that, there’s a strong chance that there are players out there who never got the chance to play the original with their friends, system linking their Xboxes and playing multiplayer for hours. So I thought I’d run through a couple of the better maps from the game, as well as some of the tactics that used to be commonplace in Halo that have kind of phased out of the game a bit.

Halo CE

First up, let’s talk tactics – a big part of recent Halo multiplayer has been using armor abilities and jumping in combat. Well, way back in the day, there were no such things as armor abilities, so toss them out. The other big change is with jumping – in the original Halo jumping was a great way to lose a firefight. Your jump height is higher in that game than later ones, meaning you were hanging up there, unable to adjust direction quickly longer. What you’re really going to need to learn is how to strafe, and toss in some crouches. Strafing is easily the most important skill you’ll need in Halo multiplayer – and really it extends across the whole franchise. The other thing that long-time fans will know about is the differences in the weapons from the original to now. The bigger ones being the Shotgun and Pistol, along with the Plasma weapons. The Shotgun in Halo has changed over the course, becoming a more close range destroyer – it’s fantastic at holding a hallway down. In the original Halo, the Shotgun was so much more than that. The range on the original Shotgun is much longer than you might expect – making it a much more versatile weapon. It’s a power weapon that needs to be controlled, just like the sniper and rockets – learn it, and use.it. The Plasma weapons, which really I’m talking more about the Plasma Rifle and the Ghost’s Plasma cannons, in the original Halo game had an added slowdown effect with them. It really shows up while you’re trying to rotate around – basically dropping your sensitivity a bunch. Finally, the Pistol in Halo is probably the best all around weapon in the game. It’s a three shot kill, assuming you get head shots. It’s got a scope for precision aiming, it’s got a good fire rate, and the recoil is totally manageable. Switch out the Assault Rifle for a different gun, keep the Pistol and you’ll dominate.

Blood Gulch

Next up, let’s talk about a few of the maps that I think you’ll really see a lot of online from the first game’s selection. First, the map that’s probably become the most recognizable map in the whole series, Blood Gulch. It’s a box canyon, that’s symmetrical – perfect for bigger games of CTF. You’ll see Warthogs, Scorpions and Ghosts flying all about the map – especially since Halo didn’t have destructible vehicles. A good sniper can really hold down an offensive attack, and having a good driver can flip the tide of the battle. Learn the sight lines from the caves, where you head is visible from and where it isn’t; know when to use the teleporters, and what to expect when you pop out from one. Also, be prepared for sore players if you manage to pick up the power weapons they want – this is a notorious map for poor sportmanship, especially with the Sniper at the start.

Another map I fully expect to see lots of is Chill Out. It’s a total different style map from Blood Gulch; instead of a large open map, you have a smaller, more close range focused map. Shotguns and Pistols are dominant, along with good grenade work. Learn the flow of the map – knowing when to hit the warps to make a big move can really help out if the game is slipping away. Also make sure you keep an eye on the Rockets and Overshield – letting an opponent get those can really make for a bad day. Chill Out is a really great map for CTF – we used to play 10 caps, Shotguns only, with no shields and unlimited grenades – and it was always coming down to 9-9. Tense games are always fun games – playing it online is going to be a blast.

Another big map that will probably show up plenty, especially in the big team objective hoppers, is Sidewinder. Another map we always used to play at LAN parties, Sidewinder is one of the biggest maps in the series. You’ll need good drivers and gunners to mount a successful offensive, or a really good stealth guy. Using the Active Camo in the mountain tunnel was always my preferred option for infiltrating the enemy base – and using the divider to hop in a waiting Warthog with the Flag. It’s a map that is perfect for one sided objective games, with tons of different options to get around the map. Sniping is really important, but again – keep an eye on the Rockets, since a good Rocket can clear out the sniper nest, as well as the bottom floor. Keep an eye on players that might stick their Warthog into their base – the sightlines aren’t great with it, but as it’s indestructible, it can really muck up an attack.

One last map to talk about is probably my favorite in the game – Hang ‘Em High. Despite being an interior map, it’s actually really large. It’s a symmetrical, square map, with lots of vertical sightlines and flanking routes. It plays really well with larger party sizes, and it’s got a good balance of combat options. Shotguns can kick some ass, snipers can lock down a spawn, a good flanker can get around behind (especially using the Active Camo) and there’s also Rockets that can really cause some havoc. One of my favorite games to play is Rockets CTF, we usually played to 5 – the flag physics in the first game really made for some crazy moments. A Rocket kill from across the map can not only save the score, but thanks to the explosion, the flag could really end up just about anywhere. It’s a hectic game mode, but far from the best on Hang ‘Em High – that would be Pistols only. It’ll get your skills with the gun up quick, and you’ll almost always have a close match.

One last point I want to make – if you’re picking up the Master Chief Collection and you haven’t played the first game, you really need to spend some time with it. The story is phenomenal, with one of the best final levels I’ve played. There’s really only one weak multiplayer map, with tons of potential game variants to come up with awesome games to play.

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.