These days multiplayer is king, and retail battles are regularly won by gaming’s competitive masters. That particular list of companies is quite short, predominantly revolving around the studios that have worked on the Call of Duty and Halo franchises, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, those two series offer great and infinitely replayable multiplayer arenas, and their branded names are more iconic than anything else that the video game industry has to offer. It all makes sense in a day and age where replay value is of high importance as economies struggle and money is tight. Though online competitions aren’t for everyone, they’re here to stay, and will surely become more of a focus as the years go by.
This week’s onset brought with it the first downloadable add-on for Halo 4, Microsoft’s most expensive game thus far, and one of this fall’s two interactive juggernauts. Known as the Crimson Map Pack, the multiplayer expansion offers players three brand new maps for 800 Microsoft Points, the equivalent of ten American dollars. When you think of it, the price is a bit steep in comparison to the amount of content that is provided. However, it’s important to factor in quality and replay value, two areas where 343 Industries’ latest release excels.
Now that the basic introduction is out of the way, it’s time to take a sidebar to get some common knowledge out of the way. What I’m talking about is the fact that Halo fans are predominantly loyal, meaning that a sizeable amount of the game’s user base has surely purchased this particular add-on by now. This review is not for those folks. Instead, it’s been written for those who happen to be on the fence, in order to let them know exactly why this is a quality purchase. That is, for people who know they will be spending hours upon hours on colourful planets, shooting bullets and alien technology into the faces of other digital Spartans.
If you fall into the above-mentioned category, then read on for a description of what to expect from the Crimson Map Pack, and its building heavy locations.
Shatter: 343 Industries’ description states that this map is located on an alien moon. That may be so, but it looks more like a mining outpost than anything else. Heavily utilizing the colour green, and full of heavy-duty lighting rigs, it presents a great mixture of close combat quarters, side alley caves and rooftop sniper posts. The latter list item is made available by the large buildings and constructs that dot the landscape, allowing gamers to play the way they’d like to.
Harvest: This map is easy to describe, because it showcases a futuristic human colony, which happens to be feature quite a few large buildings. In fact, all of this map’s buildings, which account for a large portion of its real estate, are there to hold up a light rail system. It’s an interesting idea, which provides good reasoning for why the metallic, closed-in architectural designs exist. Trust me when I saw that you’ll be seeing a lot of them, unless you’re one of those guys who likes to remain outdoors. If so, there’s a rocky landscape to duck behind and emerge from.
Wreckage: Vast, quiet and full of debris, Wreckage mixes sand with metallic destruction. You see, instead of being a colonized location, it happens to be the site of at least one UNSC ship crash. As a result, you can expect to run, jump and shoot through space age bays and components that broke off during the initial impact, as well as the resulting slide. Needless to say, it’s a relatively unique and very interesting map. However, it’s not the best one, as that award goes to Shatter – at least, in my books.
The best thing about these maps is their quality. You won’t find a dud amongst the three, and should have a great time playing on each one. Every map offers something a bit different, despite a cumulative focus on building based confrontations. Plus, they all look great, with impressive details, as well as drool worthy backdrops.
Another plus is the fact that a mech occasionally becomes available during map pack play. The game’s developers call it the Mantis, but it’s much easier to describe using the word mech. Think of a gigantic metallic beast from your favourite Japanese robot brawler, give it long legs and then you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect. Simply put, however, the vehicle is a walking tank, which becomes a target when matches begin. Please note that it does not appear in all modes or on all maps. Shattered based matches happened to be where I saw the mechanical aid the most.
While the majority of this review has been positive, there is one major downside to this intergalactic trip. For some reason unbeknownst to me, 343 Industries decided to create randomized lobbies. What that means is that you won’t be able to pick your favourite game type, and will have to wait for it to show up. The design bothered me, because I predominantly play Slayer (deathmatch) modes. Even though it’s seemingly the series’ most popular competitive scenario, the option didn’t show up much. As a result, I had to play through a lot of Capture the Flag and King of the Hill matches. Thankfully, the former one is great. However, the latter game type is more frustrating than enjoyable.
Despite the fact that only three maps are included with this download, it’s well worth purchasing. Sure, this particular map pack includes a rather controversial design change that negatively affects it, but the issue’s presence doesn’t take away from the quality of the arenas. If you’re a devoted Halo 4 fan, you can’t go wrong by picking up its Crimson Map Pack.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that we were provided with.
Although 343 Industries erred when its members decided to randomize the Crimson Map Pack's game mode selection mechanic, the multiplayer add-on's quality makes the mistake easier to forgive.