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Halo: Reach DLC Noble Map Pack Preview

by Brian Leahy, Nov 22, 2010 10:20am PST
Related Topics – Halo: Reach, xbox 360, Trailer, screenshots

Last week, I took a quick trip up to Bungie to get some hands-on playtime with all three of the new maps contained within November 30's Noble Map Pack DLC. They are Anchor 9, Tempest, and Breakpoint and they go from smallest to largest in that order.

Before we dive into each individual map, you should know that this trio of maps is not made from cutouts of campaign locations from Halo: Reach--unlike all of the maps, except Forge World, that shipped with the game. While they take place in locations familiar to Reach, they are new areas and look amazing. They will definitely add some much-needed variety to the map offering.

Anchor 9

This map is the smallest of the bunch and is optimized for four-versus-four gametypes, but will also support free-for-all. It is reminiscent of Halo 3's The Pit, though it is definitely not a remake. The map is set inside a human orbital station and part of the map takes place in space, though there is some gravity--similar to the top of Zealot.

Players can move from one base to the other out in space and the rockets spawn out there in the middle. Inside, the similarities to The Pit come from the fact that the map is divided into two bases, separated by two engineering bays with a divider in the middle. The map stretches a ways lengthwise, but the distance between the bases is quite short, leading to some mid-range battles along with close-quarters combat on the ground and in the bases.

There are a lot of pathways through the bases and rooms, offering some opportunities for stealthy play, but at some point, you'll have to cross some open ground to traverse the map. The safest pathway is probably out in space and you'll want to check it every few minutes for rocket control anyway. It takes a bit longer to get back into the action from out there, though, so you could be leaving teammates high and dry.

The map is well constructed and comes across as a functional repair and rearming dock for ships.There are a lot of "pro" jumps to be found and Bungie expects that this map, with its small size and symmetry, will be favored among serious players and MLG-types. I can definitely see it going that way, but the map is a lot of fun for players of all skill levels. It also fills the void for small, focused maps, which was previously only available in some of the Forge World variants.

Embedded below is a video of me playing free-for-all Slayer on Anchor 9, graciously captured by our friends at Halo Waypoint.

Tempest

Tempest is set on Halo and features two functionally symmetrical, beach-adjacent bases, and evokes memories of Valhalla and even Standoff from Halo 3. It's wider than it is long and two man-cannons at each base help players quickly get to the middle of the map without too much running. You can also load up a Warthog or use a Mongoose to speed around the beach. This medium sized map supports up to 16 players across pretty much every game type. The map brings some much needed size and symmetry to Big Team Battle (BTB), currently limited to Atom, Boardwalk, Boneyard, Countdown, Hemorrhage, Paradiso, and Spire.

This is easily my new favorite map in Halo: Reach. Since it supports almost all gametypes and player counts, it is extremely versatile and allows for some great vehicle play. There is plenty of cover for infantry, which makes traversing the map possible without being instantly gunned down--something sadly lacking from Hemorrhage. Objective-based games are particularly enjoyable on this map and the bases are deceptively far apart. Each base is flanked by a cave to its right side, which offers some covered ingress and egress.

Setting the map on Halo might remind you of a Forge World map, but Bungie decorated and built the map with pieces that you won't see in Forge. For example, on one side there is a downed Longsword bomber, which offers cover and a nice landmark (and reminds me of the downed Pelican on Valhalla). Sadly, the items available for your map-building are the same as those available in Forge World. That said, Tempest should offer a good-sized Forge space, but don't expect a blank slate.

Embedded below, please find me playing a game of Stockpile on Tempest:

Breakpoint

Bungie has learned some lessons from Invasion from the retail game and Breakpoint puts that new knowledge to use. Breakpoint becomes the best Invasion map in the game, but will also support some asymmetrical BTB action. The map is gorgeous and takes place in and around a research facility near a Forerunner artifact in a mountain. It's mostly covered in snow--sorry, frag grenades--and is basically a giant ring. There are pathways through the middle, which offers some shortcuts over the bridge and tunnel that circle the map.

In Invasion, Elites are on offense, attempting to capture a data core from the Spartans. The first phase is the same as Invasion on Spire and Boneyard: the attackers must hold one of two positions for a set amount of time to open up the next section. In phase 2, a bomb spawns and the Elites must carry it through the middle of the map to the other side in order to blow up blast doors which then grant access to the data core.

At this point, the Elites must take the core out to a waiting transport across the map's bridge. Phase 1 is fairly easy for the Elites, but phases 2 and 3 are quite difficult, at least in the few matches we played. Vehicles start becoming available as the game progresses and there is a lot of firepower being thrown around. Recovering the core is definitely more difficult than jumping out of the Spire and calling it a day.

Best of all, the map is designed in a way that minimizes the amount of running you'll be doing if you're forced to respawn at your base. A lot of the map remains viable throughout all phases, unlike Spire and Boneyard on which the fight linearly progresses from one end of the map to another as it goes. For non-Invasion gametypes, Breakpoint plays a bit like Halo 3's Rat Race, with most of the action occuring in the outer pathways and through the middle. It supports some nice vehicle play, but has enough cover to avoid being utterly dominated by them.

Below, see two videos of Invasion defense on Breakpoint, once again featuring myself playing. The second video is of Invasion offense, but is not my gameplay.

The Noble Map Pack will be released on November 30 for 800 MS Points ($10) and includes these three maps. Halo: Reach players should feel no qualms about spending the money on this pack as all three maps are enjoyable and easily the best in their respective buckets: small, medium, and large.

Beyond this, we can look forward to the MLG playlist going live in mid-December with Griffball on the horizon after that. As for more new maps, Bungie isn't talking about any other DLC at this time, but will continue to evaluate and include community-created Forge variants into matchmaking in some form.

Disclosure: A portion of the cost to attend this event was provided by Microsoft.





Comments

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  • The problem I have with Reach is that the playlists and I guess the maps have taken some of the most fun parts of Halo 3/ODST's MP and gotten rid of them. Gone are the vehicles in Team Death match. Gone are the wide variety of maps, as many of the maps look the same since they were made in Forge. Fixable with more maps, but three is not enough I think and its a bit late. The ranking is now based on who plays the most, rather then who wins the most. All of the armor unlocks look pretty much the same as the next. The voting system somehow means I must play Elite Slayer 20 times a night. I loved Halo and the community has really fallen apart with Reach, probably the lowest amount of players in years. I love the gameplay, love the new abilities, even like alot of the maps, but theres just not enough to keep me from getting bored.

    Thread Truncated. Click to see all 3 replies.

    • How is it a bit latte to release new maps... the game is only 2 month old! It sounds to me like you joined into Halo 3 multiplayer with the ODST "Mythic" disc.... you have to remember that the mythic disc included over 2 years of DLC maps..... 10 more than originally shipped with Halo 3.

      You also have the wrong idea about how Reach's ranking works. The player rank you see on your service record is a basic XP system, like any RPG. So yes, you get higher ranks by playing more, not by playing better. BUT, these ranks have no influence on the matchmaking system. Reach uses the same 1-50 "True skill" ranking system that Halo 3 used.... they just don't show it to you. Every playlist tracks your "true skill" rank based on your performance, and matches you with equally skilled players. They just keep your rank a secret so you don't worry about it anymore.

      You are also dead wrong on the number of players online. In Halo 3, the "Players Online" statistic in the matchmaking screen was based on how many people had played a game in the past 24 hours. In Reach, that number is based on how many people are online RIGHT NOW. If you do the math, Reach has more players per day than Halo 3 ever had.