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Halo 4 received three new maps this past Monday, courtesy of the second of three planned map pack expansions, titled “Majestic.” The three new maps are titled Landfall, Monolith, and Skyline. However, are these maps worth it at this point? I recently wrote an article discussing everything that's right and wrong with Halo 4, and the biggest problem is simple: there aren't enough people playing.
So imagine my surprise on Monday evening, when I sat down to load up and download the newest map pack, to discover that the numbers I previously reported have almost doubled. With the new map pack, two new playlists have appeared, a FFA (Free-For-All) and a Team DLC based on those new maps. FFA use to be my thing back in the Halo 3 days, but it really became more about team slayer for me in the more recent years. Regardless, I tried out both playlists to get a feel for these new maps.
Landfall was the map I spent the most time on, and rightfully so, because it is the best map out of the three new ones offered. It seems to be a spiritual successor that strikes a beautiful marriage between Halo 3 maps Longshore and The Pit. At least that's how I felt. This is the biggest map of the three offered, as the idea behind these maps is enclosed warfare. The map is big enough to support a few outdoor “open” battles, but also has some great inside areas as well. The aesthetic is totally calling back to The Pit, and I'm ok with that considering that was one of my favorite Halo 3 maps of all time.
Monolith is a curious map to me, only because it appears to be a map built on something that was offered in the Crimson map pack a few months back. For those that didn't check, 343 Industries snuck in a little added bonus with that pack, by adding a fourth forge only map to play around with, called Impact. This map is an outside space driven map. Space as in, literally, you are in space. It reminds me of the famous “Face” map from Unreal Tournament, only this was a building ground for something. Well it seems that 343 used this forge map to create Monolith, a map I would normally be a little peeved about simply because it is a Forge map, but the fact that it takes place in space has me forget that. It is a smaller map, very reminiscent of “Hang Em' High,” but set in space. This is a very mid-sized map, as there is no where to hide. This also felt like an ideal capture the flag map, and I found myself playing several matches of it here.
Skyline is the final new map, and the smallest. Aesthetically the most impressive of the three, I took time to load it up in forge just to appreciate the background, which is a busy futuristic city, including a pelican that moves around the background. This map's setting feels more in place with Mass Effect then it does in a Halo game, but I was okay with it for the most part. However, this is a small, very enclosed arena, almost perfect for nothing but 2 on 2 matches, but anything higher and things start to get crowded. The match of capture the flag I played here was extremely challenging, considering an enemy is always just around the corner.
And how about those numbers? I saw upwards of 100,000 people playing on Monday night, Majestic's release day, with over 10,000 of these players playing Team DLC. Since then? It's dropped off back down to the low 50,000 that I reported on a few weeks ago. It seems a new map pack sparked some players to come back, but where are they going? My guess is Call of Duty: Black Ops II, but that's only a guess. I also have to throw out there, for anyone who is a completionist, 343 Industries took down the Crimson Map Pack playlist, making it next to impossible to get the achievements associated with those maps at this point. I find this extremely frustrating, as I am a completionist and I have yet to get all of that done. I don't know if there are future plans to reinstate that playlist, but I don't see why it would have been taken down. Those maps have been filtered into normal rotation, so I can't really answer to what happened there.
I enjoyed the maps for what they are, more Halo 4. Sure, I could complain about things like ordinances and Call of Duty style loadouts, but I'm kind of over that at this point. I've accepted that we probably will never get a classic, Halo 3 style playlist, and that's fine. What I played this week felt more balanced then the game has been in some time. I just wish more people were sticking with Halo 4.
The bottom line is this: if you are a season pass holder, go ahead and download the new maps and give them a spin. You've already given 343 your money at this point, so why wouldn't you? But if you are the casual Halo fan, you may want to pass at this point. It's hard for me to recommend something multiplayer based when there aren't that many people playing.