Standing atop the video game mountain with nary a competitor, the juggernaut that is Halo 4 is regularly one of the most played video games in existence. Given the series’ incredible popularity since its debut, not to mention its addictive multiplayer, it doesn’t seem like that fact will change for a long time. That assumption has been made even more likely thanks to developer 343 Industries’ commitment to updating its triple-A behemoth with new content.
Available through digital means, the game’s aptly-titled War Games Map Pass has offered gamers savings on three separate map packs since launch. Although it’s still available for purchase by those looking for a deal, all three of those downloadable additions have already launched onto Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE Marketplace. First came the Crimson Map Pack, which was then followed by the Majestic Map Pack. Now, the oddly named Castle Map Pack has become available for download.
Offering another set of three detailed combat locations, the Castle Map Pack is the cream of its crop. Mixing great design elements with extraordinary balance and thoroughly impressive pathways, its new maps offer excellent bang for one’s buck. That is, if said person is one of those folks who can’t get enough Halo. It goes without saying that people get what they put in when it comes to map packs, meaning that casual players won’t benefit from this purchase nearly as much as the hardcore will.
The other great thing about this newly-released content is its applicable diversity. Not only are the maps beautiful to look at, with lots of background visual effort on showcase, but they’re very dynamic. As a result, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing Infinity Slayer, Oddball, King of the Hill or Capture the Flag – all of the available game types work extremely well with these new locations. Capture the Flag ended up being an absolute standout, winning me over and becoming my mode of choice for the first time in a long time.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the three new locations found within the Halo 4 Castle Map Pack:
Daybreak: On an earth-like planet with rolling hills, trees and rocky mountains, UNSC research facilities are positioned for secretive training and experiments. Containing concrete bases, great flow and a very structured layout, this map is arguably the best of the bunch. That’s because it’s not only open and expansive, but also strategical, offering different routes for unique play styles.
Outcast: Dusty and dirty, this desert cliff locale is home to caverns and alleyways, wherein players must watch their six if they hope to survive. Yet another strategical map, Outcast is beautiful to look at and plays very well. If you like claustrophobic firefights, or enjoy hiding in rocky caves, this one is definitely for you. It also helps that, much like the other two, this map offers interesting and varied vantage points.
Perdition: Metallic, industrial and man-made, this failing reactor is home to the third and final map in this package. Offering multi-level gameplay, loads of cover and multiple alleyways to move throughout, it’s one that demands players’ full attention. Then again, that’s definitely not a bad thing. Sure, it may not be the best-looking or most memorable one of the three, but it’s definitely not a slouch.
Despite their varied environments and starkly different visual styles, each of the three Castle maps allows for high-intensity vehicular combat. In fact, the machines fit right in, and even the closed-in caverns of Outcast are wide enough for UNSC and Covenant vehicles to maneuver within. Even mechs appear on occasion.
In the end, it’s tough to complain about what is a great Halo 4 multiplayer expansion. Yes, these maps happen to only be available in their own playlist for the time being, but that’s to be expected and is the only real complaint that I can levy upon them. Other than that, they’re nearly flawless and should quickly become fan favourites.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 game, which we were provided with.