Tag Archive: map pack


Originally Published: March 21, 2011, on Original-Gamer.com

It’s always a big deal whenever a new map pack is released into the Halo universe, but the new Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach carries an extra bit of weight to it. Defiant marks the passing of a torch, as 343 Industries takes over Halo from Bungie. This is 343’s first major playable content for the franchise, made with the help of developer Certain Affinity.

With the slogan “Defy the Covenant” at its heart, you can download three new maps, Unearthed, Highlands, and Condemned now for 800 Microsoft points ($10). But except for the Halo hardcore, are three new maps worth the steep price?

MAP MAYHEM

Superb Level Layout – The biggest strong point for the Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach is the terrific layout and variety of the new maps. If you are a fan of Firefight, then you will love the multi-tiered desert base and scattered vehicles that Unearthed provides for you and three friends. If you are looking for a wide-open Slayer level with plenty of hiding spots, then Highlands might be a dream come true. My personal favorite was easily Condemned, which is set aboard a damaged Orbital Space Station. A circular map with clear landmarks at the compass points, Condemned also features a damaged zero gravity cross point in the middle that usually features a top tier weapon for whoever can fight to the top of the generator first. This can make for a lot of great matches from Oddball to your traditional Slayer.

Crisp Graphics – Each map is absolutely beautiful looking and has unique features, but they all fit in perfectly within Reach. Unearthed takes place in an abandoned base that provides an interesting dichotomy against the golden desert sand as grunts pour in from all angles. Highlands is the largest map in this new pack and also the most diverse looking. It features waterfalls, lush vegetation, dark caves, and this is all book-ended by a pair of marine bases with Covenant ships blasting away just over the horizon providing a previously unseen color palette all at once on your screen. And Condemned is the icing on the cake; the massive wall sized windows of the Orbital Space Station allow you beautiful looks into deep space and the planet Reach itself.

Vehicular Manslaughter – Compared to the other maps, Unearthed and Highlands provide some of the best opportunities for vehicular combat of any map due to there being plenty of vehicles and weapons to counteract those vehicles. In Highlands, Mongooses, Ghosts, and Warthogs are bountiful on one end of the map and used to cross the lush expanse to reach the other side. On that other side are laser cannons and missile launchers for the opposing team to use to counteract any blitzkrieg that their foes may try to unleash and is especially effective in Capture the Flag style matches. The Unearthed map features Rocket Warthogs and Ghosts. With no true corners for the Covenant to back you into, you can run rampant in the desert blasting away deep into Firefight mode with your buddies.

DEFY THE DLC

Unearthing a Flaw – One of the most interesting and risky aspects of this map pack is that the Unearthed map pack is exclusive to the Firefight mode. For a game where the majority of its online action deals in the versus elements instead of the cooperative, this was a huge risk and might turn off a lot Slayer and Invasion mode fans since this makes it seem more like two maps for $10 instead of three.

Steep Price to Pay – One of the biggest problems with DLC in general and not just this pack, is the over-inflated price you pay compared to the amount of content you receive. With three maps, one exclusive to Firefight, and only three achievements for 150 points, the Defiant Map Pack does not make me feel like I am getting the full bang for my buck. Ten dollars is a bit too much and will probably only be worth it to hardcore Halo: Reach players. Otherwise, I recommend waiting to see if it goes on sale or gets bundled with the Noble Map Pack.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to how long your Halo: Reach disc has been in your Xbox 360. If you haven’t played it since two weeks after the launch date, then you may not have even realized a new map pack was released. If Halo: Reach is your go to online multiplayer shooter right now and you’ve racked up enough credits where you could buy and sell every noob out there, then you will be very satisfied with these new maps even with its steeper than necessary price.

-Ray Carsillo

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Originally Published: August 7, 2009, on Examiner.com and 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

Xbox 360 is in the middle of its second annual summer push of original downloadable content. Later in the month we’ll look at some of the new and revamped games being released on Xbox Live’s Arcade, but we can’t forget the great add-ons being released for some of the already established hits for the Xbox 360.

In that vein we look at the latest and greatest map pack for the 11-time platinum Gears of War 2. A total of seven new maps with 13 new achievements which would award 325 more Gamerscore points, the Dark Corners map pack also includes a very special addition to the story mode campaign.

Originally a part of Act IV the new scene, “Road to Ruin”, was a level that took Marcus and Dom along a Locust highway deep in the hive. Of course, this level never made it into the final cut of the game…until now. After a brief intro movie from Lead Game Designer Cliff Blezinski, the level starts off giving you the choice to go in guns blazing or to sneak around in Locust armor to avoid an enemy confrontation. This new level helps to expand on one of the most powerful scenes in video game history (Dom finding his wife a shell of her former self and putting her out of her misery) and adds to the lore of Gears of War by giving you the chance to meet up with an old friend from Gears 1 along the way and that alone is worth picking up the Dark Corners add-on.

One of the greatest aspects of Gears of War, though, is the multiplayer so I am sure that more people will be looking at what they can do with the seven brand new maps. After a week of non-stop multi-player mayhem, I feel I can now paint you an accurate picture as to how great these maps are.

The first map of note at is Allfathers Garden. A COG landmark that honors the long gone founders of the Coalition, this sacred ground is great for all kinds of matches, but provides fast, heart-thumping action best in Warzone, Execution, or Submission game modes because its small size provides for lots of quick confrontations. Add-in a plethora of heavy weapons and you have all the pieces in place for some explosive combat situations.

Next, we look at the Memorial map. Set in a landmark dedicated to the soldiers who have fallen in battle against the Locust, this map is another great Warzone or Execution map, but also does well in Guardian mode because it forces the leader to constantly be on the move due to the most secure areas are also re-spawn points. Nothing worse than settling into a corner of the map to have someone you just picked off appear behind you and cut you to ribbons. This, again, makes quick confrontations a constant, especially when everyone realizes the Boomshot (grenade launcher) in the center of the building is up for grabs…

Similar in tone to the first two maps, Sanctuary is set in a temple whose walls have long since been abandoned after being battered by Locust attacks, the stench of death its only inhabitant now (I would assume considering video games haven’t become THAT realistic yet). Tight, narrow hallways and mostly blind corners makes this an ideal Annex and King of the Hill battleground as you can regroup with your squad mates and easily flank different positions.

Stepping away from the monuments, we head indoors to an abandoned train station for War Machine. Blank terminals line the walls of the once bustling travel hub as sandbags line the rails now instead of train cars to provide extra cover during frequent firefights. Probably the smallest of all the new maps, it is one of the two easiest Horde maps due to being able to easily hunker down in one of the four corners and pick off the unsuspecting Locust as they wander in front of your crosshairs. It also has a plethora of powerful weapons scattered about that makes the scramble in Execution and Warzone modes a joy as you see the indecision as newbies don’t know if they should secure the high ground or pick up a Boomshot.

Keeping up with the travel theme, we head deep into Locust territory in Highway. A complex system of hallways and passages for moving enemy supplies, the screams of chained Brumaks echo in the background as you try to maneuver through this Locust maze. This is the other great map for Horde for the same reason as War Machine. This is a larger map that would make you a little more likely to wander out and search for you prey, but it has some great areas to hunker down with your teammates and pick off Locust. Another great Annex and King of the Hill map due to its maze-like tendencies providing many ways to sneak up on unsuspecting foes.

Even deeper in the Locust stronghold is the Way Station where captured Stranded and COG soldiers sit in limbo between “processing” and death for whatever nefarious purposes the Locust are using them. A great map for Guardian because, much like Memorial, the leader has to be on the move. It does have a couple of areas that a leader could settle into and make a valiant defense if necessary, but otherwise scrambling for the grenades and Torque Bows and taking the fight to your enemies is probably the best way to go here.

The last map is truly unique from any map in this or any other map pack. Nowhere was once considered an oasis, now long abandoned and reclaimed by the desert as you maneuver down the main street and work your way through boarded up stores and hotels. This is a great map for Execution and Warzone as you have plenty of options. You can either take up a defensive position inside the stores or try to go on the offensive and snipe your enemies with heavy weapons on the roof of the hotel. Either way, fast paced action makes this a great, quick way to build up experience if you can decide on a winning strategy.

It goes without mention that this is a must have download for Gearheads. If you haven’t been keeping up with all that is Gears of War though, there is also the All Fronts Collection that has been released along with Dark Corners that includes ALL previous map packs, which makes this a perfect time to get back into the chainsaw swing of things.

All Fronts is now available for 1600 Microsoft points (roughly $20 American dollars) and Dark Corners is available by itself for 1200 Microsoft points (roughly $15 American dollars).

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: April 27, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

We’re getting close to the summer push for video games when blockbuster after blockbuster will be dropping for the next two months. With the tough economy, not everyone is going to have the chance to drop all that money on the plethora of hits coming out in the next 60 days, though. So you’ll see people maybe get a game or two, but they’ll need more. Well, for those penny-pinchers out there I have been given a solution.

More maps from Gears of War 2!

Now, everyone knows I play a lot of games (I’ve beaten 70 over the past 8 months) over many different genres (fighting, first- or third-person shooters, RTS, RPG, adventure, racing, etc., etc.), but I keep coming back to Gears of War 2 because it is rare nowadays that a game will have the lasting power and deliver the multiplayer mayhem most of us crave like this game.

On top of this, the brilliant minds at Epic Games like to keep things fresh for all its die-hard and casual fans alike and at an affordable price. For only 800 Microsoft points (roughly eight to ten American dollars) you can purchase four brand new multiplayer maps that bring the pain like no others have so far.

Included with the download of the four new maps are nine brand new achievements you can unlock, worth 250 Gamerscore points, as well.

This map pack will have you washing off that Lancer Chainsaw Rifle with Locust blood in no time. I just don’t recommend you eat the red snow…

That reminds me of a critical detail. It’s called the Snowblind Map Pack. That’s right. Soon it may be warm enough to cook eggs on the city sidewalks outside, but inside it’ll be nice and frosty as the new map pack has a wintery theme to help keep you Gearheads cooled off.

The first map included in the new map pack is Fuel Depot. Gear veterans will know that Fuel Depot was an original map in Gears 1, but this time it is blanketed in freshly fallen snow to give the all-time classic a revamped look. Add in Gears 2‘s Guardian mode and heavy weapons and suddenly this familiar map gets an entirely new twist as you re-familiarize yourself with its open and unforgiving sections to the lovely sound of Gatling gun bullets whizzing by your frostbitten face.

The first brand new map we’ll look at is Courtyard. What once was a hustling and bustling metropolis’ civic center is now an arid kill zone with clear lines of sight for whatever team can maintain the elevated sniper’s nest. There is a boiler room though that you can take refuge in and regroup with some grenades/proximity mines should your team lose or fail to grab control of the nest in the onset of the battle. It’s a great map for every mode of play; I found Courtyard to be a particular favorite of mine for Annex or Submission matches.

The next new map is Grindyard. Once used to recycle scrap metal during the more industrial days of Sera’s history, Grindyard has a gutted main office that could act as a guard tower if your team can fortify it first. Some of my best Execution battles have been won and lost in the walkway leading to the top of the tower where there is usually a heavy weapon waiting for you to dole out punishment from high above. If you can’t get the tower, you can try to snipe off opposing team members from two corner offices that are well fortified from enemy fire, but watch your back! There are two ways in and out of the lower offices, unlike the tower office, making it much easier for a less organized team to be picked off from behind. This map is a spectacular arena for Guardian or Warzone game modes.

It’s hard to pick favorites, but this last map would probably be the one I choose out of the new map pack. Under Hill is a scene that many people who have to drive into New York City everyday would appreciate. Snowbound tunnels and tollbooths set the scene here as wrecked cars provide cover as you attempt to reach the top of the paved helix for some prime weaponry. Often higher ground gives you a tactical advantage, but that’s not always so here. The top of the helix is wide open and accessible from two lanes whereas you could always fortify yourself near the bottom inside a garage with an impenetrable steel door and wait to mow down enemies foolish enough to stumble through the narrow rear walkway. Also easily fortifiable are the two far corridors on either side of the garage that always have grenades/proximity mines ready to help you defend it from enemies. While wider than the garage and with much more cover, with the help of some well placed mines, the corridors could easily be a deathtrap for anyone brave enough to wander in by himself. Under Hill is a great map for King of the Hill and Annex matches.

This map pack is a must have download for any Gearhead. If you’re a more casual gamer and you’re looking for some fresh gameplay and are a little strapped for cash in the coming months, a new map pack might be just the thing you need to keep yourself satiated until that tax return check arrives. Gears of War 2’s Snowblind Map Pack is downloadable now on XBOX Live.

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: January 30, 2009, for 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

I had said last week that running over a platoon of Covenant troops with a squadron of Warthogs might threaten Gears of War 2‘s Lancer Chainsaw Rifle on the fun-level food chain. In response, the genii at Epic Games unleashed the new Combustible Map Pack for Gears of War 2. Three new maps to freshen up the multiplayer mayhem that Gears of War 2 brings to your XBOX360 to keep you up till 3 AM swearing at kids who can’t even spell the words you are using when you get forced into an Imulsion bath. Ummm…maybe that’s just me, but it still gives the multiplayer a nice new kick to the teeth to make sure the disc stays warm in your system.

First, we’ll look at the Gold Rush map. You are situated in an old, still running, Imulsion refinery with multiple tiers. Oh, and it just so happens to have a mortar launcher smack in the middle of it. A symmetrical level with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in, if you can grab the mortar positioned in the most open part of the level and make it back to a nook; you can easily control the battle. You can imagine the problems that arise with it being in the middle of an open platform, though. Talk about risking your neck. Not my favorite level personally because of a lack of level hazards, the level’s symmetry, and that any well-coordinated team could easily dominate, it is still a solid multiplayer level.

The second map became near and dear to my heart quickly because it revolves around pyrotechnics. Fuel Station is located around an abandoned fossil fuel station and several well placed re-fueling trucks. The station itself is the center of the map and anyone who controls the station can control the tide of battle very easily. With little cover around the station that does not explode, getting to the station from across the street can be difficult at best if your opponent camps out on the roof and starts setting off all your cover in a blaze of glory with the Mulcher Mini-gun, conveniently located in the station. Maybe all these explosions give you an idea why they call it the “Combustible” Map Pack. Word of advice; do not get discouraged if you aren’t spawned at the station to start the level. A well organized unit could still work their way to the rear of the station and the fight for the stairwell to the roof is always memorable.

The last map is my personal favorite. Flood is the smallest of the three new maps as you are stranded on an island consisting of freeway rubble and debris surrounded by a golden sea of poisonous Imulsion. And if you think it’s a small level to start, wait till the Imulsion level starts rising. The battle that ensues for the raised piece of crumbling freeway is always exciting as there are several paths leading onto that little slice of salvation and a couple of decayed cars that like to go off like the Fuel Station tankers. With little to no cover left, a winner will be forced to emerge from this hazardous situation every time.

These three new maps bring multiplayer mayhem to a whole new level and will keep everyone grinding their gears as these levels successfully keep the game fresh. With the maps themselves providing just as much danger as the opposing teams and, for the most part, preventing anyone from camping out and being a pesky sniper (and no pesky snipers makes me a happy Gearhead), these levels are well worth the download to your XBOX360.

The Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack is available now for download on XBOX Live for 800 Microsoft Points (roughly eight American dollars) and there is still nothing more fun in games than sneaking up behind someone and slicing them to ribbons with the Lancer Chainsaw Rifle.

-Ray Carsillo