Do you want to know the problem with a good multiplayer first-person shooter game? You can never have enough maps! It doesn’t matter how many maps are included in the release of a game, players are always going to want more. Thankfully, with today’s age of technology and the ability to digitally deliver content to players, more maps (and other content) can be added post-launch (as long as companies don’t take advantage of players, if you know what I mean). This also provides developers with a unique opportunity to liven up their games long after their launch.
It only took developer 343 a month after the release of Halo 4 to crank out the first set of additional maps for the game. The Crimson Map Pack was released back on December 10 and brings three new maps to the game: Harvest, Shatter, and Wreckage. The pack will set you back 800 Microsoft Points, that is unless you have already obtained the season pass (known as the War Games map pass). All three maps are drastically different in design and purpose (intended game type), so depending on your preferences for multiplayer, you may find yourself liking one more than the others.
Let’s take a look at each map individually:
This map takes players to the re-colonized world of Harvest in the Halo lore. If you are familiar with the Halo novels, you should recognize Harvest as being an agricultural settlement and it was also the first human planet discovered and destroyed by the Covenant. Judging from the environment(s) depicted in this new map, the colony is currently undergoing a bit of rebuilding following the Convent attack.
Players will battle it out in what resembles a construction site. This is a very symmetrical map, making it prime for objective game types such as capture the flag (CTF). Each team has a distinct base on each side of the medium-sized map that consists of multiple levels that provides close-quarters combat. Player counts on this map are comfortable in the 4v4 or 6v6 range, but things get a little crowded with full 8-on-8 battles. The two bases feature a wide variety of paths which open up travel options for flag carriers and those on the run for various objectives.
The outside edge of the map, outside of the bases, is something of a vehicular playground. There are tons of jumps for the map’s default Warthogs, Mongooses and Ghosts. This is also a good place for those who crave more distance-based gun battles. There are quite a few long, site lines outside on the edges but they aren’t without their coverage and hiding spots. Most of these come in the form of random rock formations and “nooks” in and around the sides of the bases.
Harvest is a great addition in terms of maps that provide up close and personal as well as intense-action maps. There is room for strategy and stealth, but the overall close proximity of the surroundings keeps the battles in high gear almost all of the time. I have thoroughly enjoyed custom games of SWAT as well as King of the Hill on this map due to its design; the lack of “openness” keeps things at a personal level constantly, which is the type of game I like to play. This has quickly become one of my favorite maps for team-based objective games.
Another map with a heavy focus on objective game types, Shatter is a wide open, symmetrical map set on a desolate, alien planet used for mining resources. Whereas Harvest was predominantly in doors and close range, Shatter opens things up a bit and sets two small, distinct bases for the red and blue teams but puts most of the action outside. The open spaces make this map a little more dangerous both in terms of players’ ability to implement long-range weapons like the sniper rifle and heavy use of the scope on the battle rifle.
The symmetrical design, as I mentioned, makes this a good map for games such as Oddball and CTF, although there are enough nooks and crannies throughout the layout to house decent Slayer matches as well. This is a decent sized map, although much of that feeling comes from the open design. Although there are bases for each team, they don’t become the focal point of matches as they do on other symmetrical maps; the majority of the action on Shatter will be found on the desolate surroundings housing those bases.
The biggest draw of this map is the default inclusion of the Mantis; there are too few maps in this game that include the hulking mech by default, which helps make Shatter a little more desirable. Matches ultimately become a race to your team’s Mantis and to destroy your opponents, regardless of game type, which will undoubtedly give your crew the upper hand. The only game type that I found truly perfect for this map is King of the Hill, and that is because of the various obscure locations that the hill can spawn; other game types really just came across as average on Shatter. This is easily the weakest link of this pack, in my opinion, but not a bad map in terms of overall quality.
Arguably my personal favorite of the new maps, Wreckage puts players in the midst of a proverbial graveyard of UNSC and Covenant ships. The unique design of this map, which consists of scattered, enclosed spaces connected by open pathways and open areas, offers a varied gameplay experience regardless of the game type of choice. This is the most well-rounded map of the pack.
Whether you are chasing down those who enter the open land in a warthog or ghost, sniping it out from one enclosed base to another, or having a shotgun battle inside one of the many crashed ships, the battle experience will change drastically from one second to the next. The various ships and debris scattered around the playing field provide unique opportunities for cover and often evolve into their own, individual battlegrounds. Since these bases and buildings are constructed from crashed ships, there isn’t a single way to enter or exit a structure. This means that enemies can pop up on you (or disappear for that matter) in the blink of an eye.
Wreckage is also more welcoming to the game’s entire cast of vehicles than the other maps. Although they aren’t all included by default, you can add Wraiths, Scorpions, and even Banshees without them feeling out of place. I find hunting-style game types to work better on this map, such as Infection and Regicide; the multiple bases enhance the experience by giving teams the ability to corner and pin down opponents, resulting in intense firefights and battles.
The main problem that I have with the Crimson Map Pack is that all three maps lack a true feeling of verticality, meaning that the jetpacks are practically useless on them all. There is some room for implementation in Harvest, mainly in entering the bases from the higher level, but aside from that they seem useless on the whole. Perhaps I have just become spoiled by the inclusion of the jetpack, but I would have really preferred to see it be more useful in these maps in the long run.
Vehicles, however, particularly ground ones, prove to be a great asset on each and every one. Each map seems to cater to a different class of vehicle and type of gameplay, which provides a nice variation in the overall experience. As promised by the developers, all of the maps in this pack can be edited to your desire in the Forge mode and shared with friends. Adding custom tweaks to these levels can really make a huge difference.
If you are a dedicated Halo 4 player, the addition of three more maps to the rotation is a no brainer. All three of the maps in this pack are unique and provide original experiences to the game compared to the base collection of maps. Casual fans, however, won’t find anything here that will make them play more than usual.