Halo 4: Castle Map Pack Impressions

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The time has come for the final map pack of the War Games Map Pass to be released for Halo 4. After the first two map packs hopefully we all know how it works, but just in case there are those that don’t here’s the run down. Those that got the Halo 4 Limited Edition got the War Games Map Pass included, so they can go download them now, as well as those that purchased the War Games Map Pass separately with the Standard Edition. Alternatively, those without the War Games Map Pass can download the Castle Map Pack for 800 MS Points ($10). But, those are just the formalities what is this map pack all about? The theme this time is medium-large maps for bigger teams, each with an approximate base for red and blue, but none of them perfectly symmetrical. Plus vehicles; more than anyone’s fair share of vehicles. Let’s take a deeper look at the maps.

This dusty canyon, which is chalk full of tunnels, bare metal structures, and rocky pillars, was once part of the strongholds used by insurrectionists during the rebellion Spartan-II’s like Master Chief were made to combat. Now a testing ground for big team battles, this map feels the biggest of the Castle Map Pack with the inclusion of a Wraith on one side and a Mantis on the other, both between the red and blue bases. They aren’t the only vehicles however, as plenty of Warthogs, Mongeese, and Ghosts are present as well. Visually, the map looks well and while there have been other rocky maps, this one tends to feel more Human. The paths are wide and the rocky pillars provide good cover and ambush points, especially as many of the paths are big enough for the Warthogs and smaller vehicles. The map also sports an initial Spartan Laser spawn at each base to help combat too many vehicles going at it at once, but there is more to be said about those later. The map also seems better suited for objective games than slayer, with clearly defined structures well tailored for gametypes like King of the Hill, Dominion, and Extraction.

Ah, the classic two bases in almost box canyon. Not the one we’ve all come to love, but one alright in its own way. Closer to symmetrical than Outcast, but still largely noticeable when first playing on it. The major differences between sides is the approach from inside the base to the middle. While both bases have one man cannon, the blue base uses its to put players on the roof where they must hike on a ridge to the middle, where as red base players must hike up a ramp to the roof then take a man cannon to the middle. Still big enough to support vehicles, each base is equipped with some Warthogs and Mongeese, with a Ghost and Banshee on either side in the middle, though thankfully the bases planned ahead enough to include turrets to give a little bit of aid in fighting either. Closer in aesthetics to Ragnarok (or Valhalla for those reminiscent) but on a smaller scale, although again with a much more Human feeling to the map overall. The map works great for slayer, but is even better for capture the flag.

Set at a Human (I’m noticing a theme outside just medium-large scale maps) thermal reactor, which has had the unfortunate luck of suffering a breach and requiring evacuation, this map has the most vehicles than any other map. If only most of them weren’t inoperable civilian ones, or a train just out of the play space. Predominantly flat, there plenty of divisions throughout the area with plenty of labels to indicate location to help a bit, though the biggest landmark would be the reactor rods that appear completely exposed at the one end of the map. Many more interiors than the other two maps in the pack makes it suited well for both objective and slayer, but there are still plenty of paths to drive on for the vehicles present on the map, although nothing bigger than a Warthog but at least the rocket variant is available. With all the different divisions and interiors the map should also function well with the new multi-team playlist without to much worry about bad spawns.

While the Crimson Map Pack had many achievements that required a decent amount of luck or camping vehicle spawns and the Majestic Map Pack required more utilizing a players own loadouts, the Castle Map Pack achievements are some what of a mix. Fairly easy ones come with regular play by just playing on each other new maps once, which isn’t asking too much of players. Others are more focused on things players must do in a single game and could easily achieve with a tiny bit of extra effort or the right game, like getting 5 melee kills or spattering 5 enemies. Others are less fun and bring back pained memories of the Crimson achievement for Mantis stomps. The main two problem achievements for this map pack entail getting two kills with a Spartan Laser and assassinating a player using the Hardlight Shield.

In theory, the Spartan Laser achievement shouldn’t be a big problem, but in practice, when only one map has them with an initial spawn it creates traffic jams of players all going for the same weapon. Even that though can come with time and playing enough games, while the assassinating someone that is using Hardlight Shield is atrocious in terms of the luck required. Majastic’s killing jetpackers achievement was fine because jetpacks are a regularly used ability, while Hardlight Shields are greatly underused ability. Asking players to heal teammates with a Regeneration Field promotes players to utilize the ability, asking them to kill those using a Hardlight Shield promotes players to avoid it lest they paint an X on their own back. Outside those two problems, these achievements are fun to go for and get, so I guess 7 out of 9 isn’t bad.

Medium-large scale maps weren’t exactly the kind Halo 4 was hurting for, but more vehicular based maps are definitely fun because who doesn’t want to see a Wraith vs Mantis fight? While all the maps are more based around Human structures, the maps don’t lack anything for not utilizing the alien side of Halo’s universe. Players that got their fix of smaller team or free for all action should enjoy the change of pace brought on by these new maps. Anyone trying to put the finishing touches on their gamerscore for Halo 4 should have some fun with most of the achievements, but might end up counting the matches to get that last one. Those with the War Games Map Pass or Limited Edition can download them right now from Halo 4’s main menu or players looking to buy the Castle Map Pack for 800 MS Points can find it HERE.

Bachelor of Science in Game and Simulation Programming

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