Bungie would like you to believe that their armor clad hero, Master Chief is the star of the Halo universe, yet their fans know better. While the original Halo was a guaranteed success, it wouldn't have had anywhere near the staying power or clutch over gamers souls around the world without it's brilliantly designed multiplayer landscapes. Spawning a plethora of imitators, ports to PC shooters by envious map creators and even a hit internet cartoon, the battlefields Bungie has constructed have become timeless.
The same holds true for its massively successful sequel, Halo 2. Launched in November of last year, Halo 2 is just as popular today as it was the day of its release thanks entirely to its brilliantly executed online component. That said, it's of no surprise that I am now faced with the recently released Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack.
A collection of 9 new maps and a few extra videos for added fan boy giddiness, the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack acts as the official expansion pack for Xbox Live's most popular title. While it's true that these updates will be available for free via content download, not everyone has the service. For that audience, this is the only way for them to (legally) acquire this massive update which not only includes the new maps, but also the recent gameplay patch which made massive changes in terms of weapon balancing. Considering how well received the patch was, it's great to see a large section of the community that wouldn't normally be able to receive these updates get in on the action.
Encompassing the Halo universe as a whole, the 9 new maps feature famous settings and locations from both the original Halo and Halo 2, as well as an old favorite from the legendary Marathon. It's obvious that a lot of time and care went into designing these latest creations as many of them are tailored for a specific set of gameplay styles and strategies.
"Relic" for example is obviously suited for a 1-Flag CTF game, requiring a hard hitting, vehicle oriented assault to clash with a holed up defensive team atop a Forerunner structure, complete with sniping posts and many nooks to hide in. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the urban maze that is New Mombassa's "Turf". Playing host to the perfect location for the seldom used Territories gametype, it's winding alleys and makeshift bases, made of the wreckage of both Human and Covenenant technology create a hectic and claustrophobic game every time.