When Halo 4 was released the gaming community rejoiced knowing that 343 Industries had done a great job taking over the Halo franchise, those big shoes didn’t seem so ominous after all. Since then the multiplayer has gone on to dominate Xbox consoles all around the world, and with good reason, delivering the intense and awesome action we’ve all come to expect.
Multiplayer DLC for Halo 4 has been a strong showing (perhaps with a shaky start) with the Crimson and Majestic map packs delivering something for every player. Crimson delivered some great medium range maps such as Wreckage while Majestic offered tight, close-quarters carnage fests such as Skyline. This run of DLC however is sadly now reaching its end, and 343 have teamed up with Certain Affinity (a band of veteran devs from Bungie and beyond, who have worked on great multiplayer content for both Halo and the Call of Duty series) in a bid to go out strong by delivering the Castle map pack.
Daybreak is the first on our list, taking place on the highlands of the planet Oban, amongst a cluster of research facilities. A beautiful setting for such ugly destruction, it’s reminisent of maps from the original Halo outings, with muted but still lush green grass and blue skies, topped off with a hulking great big ship flying around in the distance. Set with two main facilities located opposite one another, a large ridge separates each team so as not to make spying from building to building that simple. A nicely placed launcher is on hand to shoot you straight into the action, or you’re free to take the scenic route through tunnels and smaller open areas around the side of the canyon, allowing for some nice flanking maneuvers. Daybreak is liberally sprinkled with vehicles such as Ghosts, Warthog’s and Mongooses which can be used to traverse the terrain. The ridge, this map’s set piece, provides a great firing location on either base. In most cases, it quickly becomes the hot spot for heavy fights over control. Daybreak is balanced well, offering a mixture of medium to close combat with a blend of fairly open areas and tight tunnel spaces and some vehicles thrown in for good measure. You definitely don’t want the other side getting their hands on a banshee.
Outcast pops up next which takes place on a remote planet, roaming in and around facilities belonging to rebelling ex-marines. The level is simply stunning, a rather dense sand filled canyon which treats you to a large transport undocking itself and flying off into the great unknown. The largest of the pack, you’ll find all the hulking vehicles you could ask for such as the Wraith, Mantis and Scorpion as well as a few Ghosts and Warthogs if you’re into smaller models. Continuing the theme of both open play mixed with tight spaces, you’ll find lots of narrow tunnels making each match an intense flip-flop between large-scale battles and mini bouts of fisticuffs. The Wraith and Mantis are powerful assets if used right, but you’ll need to work on your defence as you can quickly fall from groups of enemies pouring out from the dense tunnels ready to get a decent sticky landed squarely on your armour (that’s if they’re not dropping from ledges to rip you from that comfy cockpit). Each base also plays host to some big toys, with Spartan Lasers, Gatling Turrets and Rocket Launchers, this all plays superbly into the great design of the map. It’s all very well executed, focusing on balance so the gameplay between infantry, vehicle and power weapons doesn’t focus on “the first to the biggest gun wins” ethic and instead encourage skilled warriors to prevail.
Lastly we arrive at Perdition. Resurrected from a scrapped idea laying about since Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Certain Affinity have built a slick-looking industrial city, filled with panic and at the cusp of destruction. All of this is set off against a melting reactor (yep, there’s even a cooling system for it) and a monorail frantically whizzing its way around the city while you deal death and destruction below. There aren’t any bases this time around, instead each team will start next to their Warthog, keeping the balance nicely. Planted smack, bang in the middle of the map you’ll see what will quickly become the grail, a rocket Warthog which means each match will start like a race to gather supplies and some decent ground. Full on vehicle dominance is possible, with a main road layered around the perimeter of the map but with buildings densely populating the centre, there is still plenty of room for some decent close combat. The reactor core is one of the best examples of hectic close combat at all times, but with so much going on in your surroundings, you’ll be forgiven for staring at the scenery only to receive a sticky grenade in the ribs.
So that’s the Castle map pack, a great display of what makes Halo’s multiplayer so intense and addictive. Blending all kinds of gameplay into a handful of beautiful maps filled with living scenery, there truly is something for everyone. This, in my opinion, is the best so far. I know it’s meant to be the last pack, but I’m only hoping 343 and Certain Affinity will make the call and assemble once more!