Halo 2 Map Pack Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : 9.0
Overall : 8.8
Review by Alex D.
Last November, players saw the release of the extremely coveted and anticipated Halo 2. Gamers were dazzled with appealing graphics, excellent sound effects, a storyline with an ending that felt like a swift kick to the crotch, and of course, the multiplayer mode, which is the most popular aspect of the game and currently makes Halo 2 the highest played title on Xbox Live. Many of you might wonder how one could improve something that is already flawless. Well, take one critical update and nine new maps and toss in a few comical videos, a behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ documentary courtesy of Bungie Studios and a 30-page manual full of valuable information all for the low price of $20, and this is certainly an improvement or, at the very least, an extension of an already great title.

For many users of Xbox Live, paying for additional content on top of the monthly fee was an immediate turn-off. With time, the map packs released by Bungie were made free of charge to those who still had not purchased them. On August 30th, the same thing will occur with the Halo 2 “Maptacular” pack, which features the five new maps, but is it really worth the wait? What would compel Halo fans to purchase a disk of nine maps, when four are already free and the five others will be as well in a matter of weeks? Bungie asked themselves the same question, and to maximize the value of the Multiplayer Map Pack, they’ve tossed in a little extra content that truly makes it worthwhile.

Loading up the disk, players will be greeted to a menu offering three choices:

  • Multiplayer Expansion: Players will find the critical Halo 2 update and all three map packs to install onto the Xbox’s built-in hard drive.

  • Exclusive Videos: Here resides two movies:

    1. Another Day at the Beach chronicles the story of the Marine unit whose Pelican crashed in Old Mombasa in the Halo 2 single-player campaign.

    2. Halo 2 Killtacular is a behind-the-scenes look at the game’s new maps from members of Bungie’s staff.

  • Extras: Here players will find the original Halo 2 trailer, the Halo E3 announcement from 2000, and an Audio test that will allow them to test their surround sound setup.

  • Alongside the map packs in the Multiplayer Expansion submenu, players will find a critical update for Halo 2, which must be installed for the new maps to function. The patch addresses practically every known issue with the game such as the rampant cheating, tweaks to the weapon damage and grenades, and a variety of other bugs that players have reported.

    The maps are a wonder in themselves as well, since Bungie had a considerable amount of time to devote to designing these new maps without having to worry about a storyline for single player, which was the case when Halo 2 shipped. The new maps are much more impressive, both visually and architecturally. From an auditory standpoint, all the maps feature a 5.1 surround sound track for the highest quality aural experience. Many of the locations are heavily inspired from previous environments in the original Halo or from the Halo 2 solo campaign. For example, Warlock, a 4-way indoor, symmetrical map, is highly reminiscent of the map entitled Wizard from the first installment of Halo. Although some minor additions can be found throughout the mysterious locale, the geometry is very much the same even though the visuals have been spruced up to take full advantage of the new graphical engine; veterans will feel right at home.

    Killtacular Map Pack

    Featuring both the Turf and Sanctuary maps, this pack was originally released to coincide with the Bonus Map Pack, which was released free of charge while Killtacular sported a price tag of $5.99 for a certain period of time.

    Bonus Map Pack

    Thanks to the folks at Mountain Dew, this pack was released free of charge and sports two of the best maps in the game. Warlock, a claustrophobic and mysterious temple is host to some of the most brutal close quarter battles, but pales in comparison to the sheer size of Containment. Featuring the biggest multiplayer map in Halo 2, long distance sniping and vehicular combat take precedent and provide an exhilarating experience when playing on a 16-man server.

    Maptacular Map Pack

    Available on Xbox Live since July 5th for $11.99, these five maps will become free of charge on August 30th. The pack contains Gemini, Backwash, Relic, Elongation and Terminal, all of which provide a refreshing experience for multiplayer fans and are definitely worth the price tag for those who are still uncertain.

    Included with all of the maps are two interesting videos that Bungie saw fit to include in order to make players feel the worth of their purchase. The first is Another Day at the Beach, which I briefly mentioned above when describing the content of the disk. The pre-rendered video provides an interesting view at the events that occurred on Old Mombasa from the point-of-view of others aside from Master Chief. If you recall during the single-player campaign, players were tasked with linking up with a unit of Marines who crash-landed on the hostile planet after taking too much enemy fire. The brief movie chronicles their efforts to regroup and stay alive behind enemy lines.

    The second video, Halo 2 Killtacular, is a surprisingly lengthy film that provides a behind-the-scenes interview with those at Bungie Studios who are responsible for the disk. Each of the nine maps is analyzed in-depth by the staff, and viewers are shown the amount of effort these guys put into developing the maps and the rest of the content that can be found on the DVD. Everything that inspired the creation and design of the environments is explained, and this feature simply adds to the overall value that any hardcore fan will appreciate.

    If all of this isn’t enough, there are even a few extras thrown into a submenu for your viewing pleasure. With the help of a tiny Grunt and a ferocious Hunter, an audio test will help you to verify if your surround setup is properly configured. The first Halo 2 trailer ever released has also found its way onto the disk, along with the video used by Microsoft to demonstrate the original Halo at E3 in 2000.

    The bottom line is that the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack is the perfect add-on for multiplayer Halo 2 fans. The nine maps and the critical update provide a refreshing experience and complement the game’s online aspect perfectly. With the additional content thrown in, it almost feels like robbery not to purchase the DVD for its already low price, considering the five maps on Xbox Live cost $11.99, while this disk will cost $20 at most. The behind-the-scenes featurette also shows players how devoted Bungie is to making Halo 2 the ultimate experience possible, and by supporting them, it can only get better with time.