During a chat earlier today with CB Games fearless Editor, we realized that in the process of writing these diaries I’ve gotten a little over excited. We decided that it was, is, and would be ill advised to continue writing these entries without giving the readers an adequate idea of what the playing fields were like. After all, what good does it do to go into lengthy verbose descriptions and accounts of a game if folks can’t actually picture it? None! So for that reason, today is going to be all about maps. No, I’m not talking about Magellan; I’m talking about boards, sets, fields, levels, whatever you call them it’s on the menu today.

High Ground The first map that we’ll discuss today is developing as the crowd favorite on Live these days. It’s called High Ground and it’s easily among the best maps to date in the Halo franchise. Following in the tradition of Halo 2’s Zanzibar, High Ground is a map created for Offense/Defense styled games (Assault/1Flag CTF/Territories). Similar to Zanzibar, the map is set up with a walled off base on one end, and a beach on the other – these serve as the starting points for each team. The base can be accessed by a number of means, but the most effective is a large gate in the middle of the wall that needs to be opened via a control panel inside the base. Once opened, the attacking team’s chance of victory goes up exponentially. It’s very surprising that the gameplay on this level functions so well, because of how very different the two opposing sides begin. The attackers will have first dibs on the Rocket Launcher, Sniper Rifle, Active Camoflage (Invisibility), and the Bubble Shield. The defensive side is given a turret, the Spartan Laser, and the Energy Depleter. On paper it isn’t really fair. However, never underestimate the advantage of gaining (*music plays: dum dum duhhh) the High Ground! The added ability of the defenders to both be able to see what the opposition is up to, and to shoot down on them perfectly offsets the more powerful weaponry of the aggressors.

Question: Why is that blue Spartan using his Battle Rifle in close quarters when he has a shotty on his back!?

Snowbound Poor, poor Snowbound. No map in the beta is more likely to get vetoed than Snowbound. It’s not a very beginner friendly map as it has a lot of nuances that take a good bit of experience to be able to exploit. Many will claim that snowbound is unlike anything in the previous Halo multiplayer map smorgasbord, but I’ve found that it’s not entirely unlike Battle Creek (or Beaver Creek.) Two symmetrical bases, that are fairly close together with an underground tunnel system that connects them. Due to the small size of this map it’s really only fun with three or four gametypes. I only find fun in Landgrab, Slayer, and Oddball. I shouldn’t even say Oddball either, because technically speaking the game is broken. There is a way to pretty much become invincible on that level. I won’t discuss it here, lest I be responsible for spreading the disease. Back to the level though. The most interesting part of the level is in the bases. All doors in and out of the base are protected by Energy Shields. This means that while anybody can walk right in; no bullets; grenades; or vehicles can pass through. This seemingly small change makes for some extremely fun exchanges. Just today in fact during a game of team slayer, I found myself 10 feet from a door staring straight into my own visage as it reflected off the helmet of an enemy Spartan on the other side. We both knew we couldn’t harm each other. So we sat, for 20 seconds at least (though it seemed like an eternity), waiting for the other to make a move. We tried fake outs to bait the other into crossing the threshold but nothing took. Meanwhile, people were dying above us as we stared into each others eyes, shivering in the cold, icy caverns. No movement. Rock solid in our devotion, we knew the time would come when we’d have to kill each other. Remember that scene from Star Wars Episode 1 where Obi Wan and Darth Maul are having a stare down through the energy dividers after Darth Maul kills whats-his-name? Exact same thing. That’s the end of the cool part of the story I guess. If you’re wondering how it ended, I pretended to give up and walked around the corner and hid. When he came chasing after me he passed right by me and I got him with a melee in the back of the noggin. Assassination!

Valhalla Valhalla is the finest of a dying breed of map in Halo: the gigantic symmetrical type. The trend that started with Blood Gulch way back in 2001 lives on with Valhalla. In fact Valhalla could well be considered a re-imagining of Blood Gulch. It’s graphically completely new, but if you take blood gulch and replace the road with a river…you’ve got Valhalla. So, obviously this a map that is ideal for CTF classic, right? Yeah, I guess so…but who plays that game anymore? It was great for it’s time, but we’ve got better things to do now. Namely, Territories. This is the map where Territories is usually played and it really is perfectly suited. At first glance you’ll simply notice that it’s big and spread out which makes it perfect. If you look closer though, you’ll find that all of the five points point on the map that need to be captured have both ample cover, and long sniping lines. This means that skilled players will have the ability to hide and take cover (protecting them from snipers but making them vulnerable to close range attacks,) and beginners will likely get comedically sniped from across the map. The lowest points on Valhalla are at the sides, with a gentle slope meeting in the center. This high point in the center of the map usually proves of crucial importance. There is a good amount of cover provided by large rocks, and sight lines to every spot on the map. Holding this position allows a team to get anywhere quickly and keep tabs on the enemy so as to better plan their next move.

Ok so now that you know a good bit more about the maps, we can press forward tomorrow with more pressing information about the goings on of the beta. I haven’t yet figured out what that information is, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I always do.

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