Saturday, March 28, 2015
Top 5 Multiplayer Maps in Halo 3
I have never been quite as big a fan of the multiplayer in Halo 3 as I have of the multiplayer in Bungie’s other three major Halo creations. The equipment was clunky and unbalanced, an awkward first step on the road to Reach’s more carefully-designed loadouts. Certain weapons, like the Mauler and Incendiary Grenades did not see much in the way of practical application in the company of their more well-established brethren, while the Assault Rifle’s return was largely moot in the presence of the obviously superior Battle Rifle. Halo 3 also played host to Snowbound, one of my least favorite Halo multiplayer maps to date. Yet, I still found online matches with friends to be quite enjoyable, and the playlist offerings only seemed to get better as time passed, with the official adoption of Grifball and Infection, as well as thirteen new maps offered as DLC. While my memories of Halo 3 may not be quite as fond as those I made while playing Halo 2 or Halo: Reach, the game still offered some solid map designs, and the five below stand out to me as being among the best Halo 3 had to offer.
#5 – High Ground: One of the earliest Halo 3 maps to see the light of day, High Ground first debuted as part of the game’s multiplayer beta. While the base set at the top of the hill does make a good defensive post for Capture the Flag and Assault, the damaged sections of the wall offer multiple openings for invaders to navigate on foot and open the main gate, giving their teammates a more direct route into the small fortress. When the gate is closed, matches, these objective-based matches often turn into battles of attrition, if not careful (or even simply lucky) timing for making a push inward. Once the gate is opened, however, the pacing of the matches speed up dramatically, increasing the tension and often forcing the defending team to carefully ration their heavy weaponry and grenades.
#4 – Foundry: Halo 3’s handling of the Forge customization mode may not have been as fully-realized nor as user-friendly as its counterpart in Halo: Reach, but it did allow players to make all sorts of wacky alterations to pre-existing maps, swapping out weapons and vehicles, and adding in blockades, turrets, and new equipment in places these had previously not been. However, Halo 3’s Forge mode did not properly come into its own until the release of Foundry. Set within a large warehouse, players were effectively given a blank canvas with which to build whatever structures they so desired with the allotted shipping containers, bridge pieces, staircases, and energy barriers. Players could also seal off the hallway that ran along the back end of the map between the bases in order to force more strategic team play, or leave them open to encourage unexpected rushes from either side during free-for-all matches. Foundry offered an unprecedented degree of freedom to fans, and a number of community creations were later adopted into official matchmaking playlists. That said, the default configuration was a great starting point for all of this, as its multiple areas of cover worked into a maze-like series of containers and platforms made for plenty of enjoyable matches.
#3 – Blackout: While its predecessor Lockout was one of the most popular Halo 2 maps, I’ve long since preferred the slightly wider ramps and platforms of Blackout, as well as this Halo 3 remake’s darker aesthetic. Having Lockout set along a the side of a cliff in a frozen tundra was certainly a cool design choice (no pun intended), but reimagining it as a lone weather station standing high above an arctic ocean gave it a greater sense of isolation and dread. The nighttime setting and lack of any other landmarks save for a distant glacial wall further emphasizes this notion. While small team-based Slayer, Swat, and Sniper matches fit the close-quarters map well, free-for-all Rumble Pit matches proved particularly great, as there is really no safe place to hide, given the open design of all the interconnecting areas of the structure. Just because you are crouched in a corner with the shotgun doesn’t mean that another player couldn’t easily lob a plasma grenade your way and stick it to your helmet, and just because you’ve nabbed the sniper rifle doesn’t mean someone else wasn’t tailing you as you made your way up the winding ramp just to beat you down as soon as you feel confident in its ability to earn you one-hit kill headshots.
#2 – Ghost Town: Something of a successor to Halo 2’s Turf, Ghost Town’s series of small buildings filled with small areas of cover and plenty of nooks and crannies to navigate made for some great small-scale skirmishes. Making a blind run across the outer bridges during a SWAT match was ill-advised, while backing into a corner with your shotgun at the ready during an Infection match was a strategy that would only last until either your ammo was depleted or the infected team overwhelmed your position in the central building. Players were most frequently mobile during Rumble Pit matches, as each of the dilapidated jungle structures offered unique vantage points over other areas of the map, and their multiple entrances meant that, while quick escapes were not out of the question, neither was the chance that an opponent could sneak up behind them and either beat them down or earn an easy kill with the stick of a plasma grenade.
#1 – Orbital: Set high above the Earth along one of the space tethers, Orbital is a brightly-lit, yet eerily abandoned UNSC dock. Players must exercise caution when peering around its tight corners or leaving the cover of crates to push forward down its two longest hallways set on separate floors of the structure, each offering a direct route to the respective team bases that also leaves incoming opponents very exposed. Stairwells and incredibly narrow server access tunnels to the sides offer alternate routes to those more patient in their approach strategies, while those who prefer a higher risk-reward play style can attempt to rush the opposing team’s base with a Mongoose, though the latter often results in spectacular explosions before these vehicles can get too far. The high ground certainly provides a straight line of fire upon those rounding the lower corners, but the low ceilings of Orbital’s tunnels make it difficult to fire too far down the approach path from above. The limited view to either side also makes it difficult to get a read on opponents from this vantage, and it is best to utilize it for quick tosses of grenades or two shots from the rocket launcher before abandoning the post for better defenses.