Being arguably the biggest shooter in the world (well, apart from Call of Duty) has its advantages. For one thing, you can pretty much charge whatever you want for DLC… which explains how Microsoft and 343 Industries can charge 800 MS Points for a paltry three new Halo 4 maps. Our poor online change purses ache.
Alright, so that’s an exaggeration. Master Chief’s Crimson DLC also adds a new mode called Extraction, which is essentially King of the Hill, but replaces flags with computers. But bundling a similar game type with three fairly generic maps is hardly a fiscally friendly proposition. Enough whining though. Let’s lay out Halo 4′s new arenas on a cutting slab and dissect what each brings to the DMR-firing, plasma grenade-flinging, Ghost-riding soiree.
First up is Shatter. A reasonably spaced out outdoor environment with rocky outcroppings and plenty of curving footpaths to accentuate the game’s vertical combat, it’s ultimately the most satisfying of the three.
The map’s collection of compact buildings can make for some tense, teasing games of capture the flag as players weave in and out of your sights. In contradictory fashion, though, Shatter also feels like the most cynical. If you find yourself stuck with a nagging sense of déjà vu while playing, don’t wrinkle up that brow. What you’re feeling is natural, seeing as the map is a convincing doppelgänger of Halo 4′s existing Complex. 343 going all Single White Spartan on a previous arena is disappointing, though some snazzy superficial window dressing (namely a massive mountain that spits luminous green goo in the distance) at least provides an arresting backdrop.
- 343 can make beautiful environments, but they lack the esoteric charm that defined Bungie’s best arenas
Maps two and three aren’t as well balanced, but still have their charms. Wreckage is a dramatic sprawl with defence systems designed to fight those pesky Flood forces. Mostly flat, its strengths are emphasised in long range sniping battles. Conversely, Harvest is a more crowded, hectic affair where mid-range weapons or a stealthy shotgun ambush are most effective.
What all three maps sadly share in common is that slightly generic feeling that lingers over most of Halo 4′s online death playgrounds. 343 can make beautiful environments, but they lack the esoteric charm that defined Bungie’s best arenas. Compare and contrast to the ingenious symmetrical slaughter of Halo 3′s Blackout or the breathless aerial assaults often found on the Spire in Reach and 343′s level layout falls short.
New DLC-specific achievements admittedly add a little more longevity – like ‘Pump Yer Brakes’, which rewards you for taking out a Mantis. Turns out, a charged plasma pistol and a couple of sticky grenades beats 15 foot walking death bot any day. Sadly, the quality and, crucially, quantity on show for the steep asking price makes this potential red hot addition feel like vanilla-smothered meh.