Reviewed: July 26, 2005
Released: July 5, 2004
If nothing else, the Halo 2: Multiplayer Map Pack will go down in history as the first retail release of an expansion pack for an Xbox game. PC gamers see this kind of title all the time; a retail release that requires a previous purchase of the core game before you can play. And while it’s true you can just as easily download all of the playable content off this disc via Xbox Live for $12, the Multiplayer Map Pack bundles in a few extras that make spending the full $20 a smart purchase.
This Halo 2 expansion disc features:
Plus, those movies and interviews are pretty cool, at least the first time you watch them, and you might even be able to glean a bit of strategy from the designers who created those levels.
The Halo 2: Multiplayer Map Pack actually “installs” onto your Xbox hard drive. It copies the updated Halo 2 code and any of the levels you want onto the system then you can put the DVD on the shelf and probably never have to touch it ever again unless you need to reinstall on a new system.
First and foremost, this expansion is for multiplayer Halo gamers ONLY. You don’t have to have Xbox Live, but you’ll at least need to play split-screen or with a system link network to get any lasting enjoyment from this package.
Anyone who read my Halo 2 review knows I was less than impressed with the sequel, at least from a single-player perspective. Of course the multiplayer modes and existing maps kick ass, and easily put Halo 2 in the top five list of multiplayer games.
This expansion delivers nine expertly crafted maps ranging in size and complexity to suit a variety of game modes and varying number of combatants. Some maps are symmetrical and others are not. Watching the “making of” videos will introduce you to each of these new environments, and not only give you suggestions for what kind of games to play, but actual strategies for playing them.
The designers have taken a lot of time to create some unique battlefields that blend with the existing Halo maps; some are even remastered maps from the original Halo.
Relic puts you on an asymmetrical island with a giant spire that towers from the center, also the home of the single flag for CTF. Teleporters, Ghosts, and the Warthog make this an ideal environment for CTF and Assault, and the giant tower is a sniper’s delight.
Turf is easily one of the most intricately detailed and perhaps the best map in the pack. The devastated urban environment and restriction of Warthog only makes this a great level for close-quarters combat and perfect for King of the Hill, Oddball, Slayer, and Territories gameplay. With twisting streets and alleys, there are a lot of surprise encounters as you go around corners making the shotgun a most effective weapon.
Warlock is a symmetrical indoor environment based on the original Wizard level in Halo: Combat Evolved. It is perfect for Oddball, Slayer, and CTF. Steam lifts allow you to travel vertically through this level and the active camo power-up gives this level a bit of stealth flavor.
Elongation is another rework of an original level design complete with moving conveyor belts moving large crates along the length of the level that allow you quick access to the upper deck. The symmetrical design could get confusing so the designers set one end of this level on fire so you could get your bearings. Perfect for CTF, Oddball, Slayer, and King of the Hill, this “animated” level can get pretty intense.
Containment is a massive outdoor level set in the freezing snowcapped mountains. The sprawling tundra gives you ample opportunity to test drive the many vehicles included in this level including the Scorpion. Bungie has also put in the rocket launcher to balance the inclusion of the tank. You’ll want a large number of players when you tackle CTF or Slayer modes in this map.
Terminal is another outdoor level perfectly suited for the smaller vehicles and Assault and CTF game modes. A train tears through this level periodically making for some intense gameplay moments. This level features some of the best textures and lighting of any of the indoor levels, even the single-player game.
Backwash is a very cool outdoor level shrouded in a sickly green mist that offers reduced vision and some excellent ambush opportunities thanks to numerous natural hiding places. This is a fast and furious close-range combat level perfect for CTF and Slayer modes.
Sanctuary is another outdoor symmetrical level, too small for vehicles but perfect for team-based games like CTF and Assault, but it also works well for Slayer and Territories modes. The level offers a wide range of weapons and some unique sniper opportunities. Try to take the time to enjoy the majestic scenery and functional aqueduct system in this map.
Gemini is a wonderful level based on a map from Bungie’s pre-Halo game, Marathon. The designers have built on that map to create a unique open space that is perfect for snipers and mid-ranged combat. The indoor design is offset by the inclusion of a large tree in the center of the map. Gemini is perfect for King of the Hill, Oddball, and Slayer modes.
Halo 2 has always been a good-looking game that dazzles with numerous key moments and locations, but as a whole, is only slightly above average in graphics. The map pack offers nine new levels, many of which excel far beyond the textures and lighting of anything in the core product. You can really see the effort that went into the creation of each of these spaces.
The supplemental video interviews are excellent quality and the CG rendered movies are also very well done, although the 2000 E3 video is admittedly a bit dated by today’s standards.
Same old music, same old sound effects and they still sound just as great as always. Home theater owners will enjoy the Halo-themed surround sound test.
The Multiplayer Map Pack ups the level count to 21 maps so there is no reason you should have to stop playing Halo 2 anytime soon. There is something here for everyone no matter which game mode or size of game you prefer. The challenge is endless with Xbox Live.
As for actual purchase value, if you only want the five new maps, and could care less about the rest of the fluff on this disc, you would be better off just making an Xbox Live purchase where each map costs you just over $2 each. Then again, owning the retail copy gives you the comfort in knowing you can reinstall the maps at a later date or on another system.
The Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack just proves Bungie’s dedication to making Halo 2 an ongoing success. You can really see the love and attention to detail that went into the creation of each and every level, but the designers are also listening to the online community and giving us what we want as well.
There is certainly something in this collection of new levels to suit everyone’s taste whether you prefer a Warthog or a sniper rifle, CTF or Slayer, two-on-two or eight-on-eight. Dive in for a second helping of Halo 2 multiplayer. It’s a ride that should easily last until Halo 3 arrives.