Review: Halo 4 'Majestic Map Pack' takes a conventional approach that rightly feels like Halo
When you think Halo, a thousand memories and musings may come to mind. It may be the epic conclusion to Halo 3 that climaxed with Master Chief’s Warthog jump, or may easily be the first contact with the Halo ring itself– a moment of realization that this was much more than a first-person shooter. But, I’d be willing to bet that for most you, your fondest memories of the Halo series are the competitive maps that arguably launched console multiplayer gaming to an entirely new level. “Blood Gulch” in Halo: Combat Evolved; “Lockout” in Halo 2; there’s no denying that the franchise has created some magnificent maps. So with a new face at the helm of the series, and Halo 4 on store shelves, 343 Industries is now faced with crafting all new, breathtaking multiplayer maps that fans can yet again fall in love with. Their second DLC installment, the “Majestic Map Pack,” is out now and features three action-packed maps that fans will likely adore, but is really worth the 800 MSP price tag?
After spending some time playing the Majestic Map Pack, it became exceedingly clear that these were homages to several of the series’ most notorious maps. That’s not to say that they’re remakes or emulations of past Halo maps, because that’s not the case. It’s only evident that 343 Industries wanted to create an experience that longtime fans could connect with and appreciate from a Halo level, and I believe they’ve done just that.
Landfall holds quite true to this form, as you can see minor resemblances to Halo 3’s “The Pit.” Set in a coastal facility during a massive battle, Landfall offers players a wide array of combat options. The map itself is conveniently split into two sections – outdoors and indoors – with easy access between the two. If you’re keen on close quarters confrontation, you can find heated battles within the facilities' confines, whereas players who wish to utilize ranged weapons can duke it out outside in the structure’s courtyard. Here you’ll find long vantage points from one spawn area to another, with power weapons strewn in the middle that entice players to funnel towards the middle. Landfall also does a brilliant job at connecting these two “sections,” so that you’re able to get the jump on foes. For instance, if you’re parked in the facility attempting to cut down enemies walking in through corridors, you’ll have to keep an eye on snipers and battle rifle-ers firing in through massive garage door openings.
Skyline, one the other hand, is a small, labyrinth styled map that’s keen on close-quarters gameplay. There are occasions where you might find yourself believing that Skyline’s similar to Halo: Reach’s “Zealot,” and while there’s certainly some comparisons, Skyline is likely one of, if not the, tightest Halo map to date. Skyline’s circular layout plays well into the hands of those wanting to sneak up and blindside opponents (it’ll happen often, trust me). It also offers a select number of “alleyway” vantage points where you can pick off opponents with ease. For success on Skyline, though, you’ll want to keep moving and anticipate where enemies may be coming from. That being said, you’ll die a lot. It’s frantic and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately fun.
Rounding out the Majestic Map Pack’s lineup is Monolith. At first glance, you’ll likely notice a similarity between Monolith and Halo: Reach’s “Asylum,” as their layout is nearly identical. Monolith is set on a Forerunner structure dug into an asteroid (property value must be high), and features, once again, a circular blueprint. Like Asylum, Monolith’s design offers a number of ridges and crests that can be used as cover to get the jump on foes. But, the most notable comparison between the two maps is the center construction that hosts a variety of battles. If you’re akin on ranged weapons, you’ll welcome Monolith with open arms, and if you’re into objective game modes, you’ll certainly want to get your hands on this specific map.
As I teased before, it’s apparent that 343 wished to create an experience that resembles the “Halo” formula. These maps are the epitome of what Halo is, and there’s no question that they work across the board no matter what game mode you’re playing on. They’re also some of the most captivating maps to look at in terms of graphics. Landfall, for instance, features vistas that are gorgeous in every sense the word, while Monolith’s appearance gives you a Forerunner vibe that’s difficult to do in a competitive multiplayer setting. That being said, these maps do not go above and beyond to create a new tone for the series. This isn’t necessarily bad, but for fans expecting something new and unseen, you just won’t get that. There’s also the question of price. At 800 MSP, three maps may be difficult to justify, especially with the aforementioned struggle to generate something unforeseen.
That being said, Halo 4’s Majestic Map Pack achieves what it sets out to do. The content itself isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a worthy counterpart to past Halo expansions, and you may even come across some nostalgia as you see resemblances to past games’ maps. If you’re a fan of Halo 4 looking to indulge in more action, Majestic has got you covered. The 800 MSP price point may scare some away, but come on, it’s five months since launch – you’re still playing for a reason.