Nearly 3 months after its release, 343i has released the second wave of DLC for Halo 4, the Majestic Map Pack. The main focus of the Majestic Map Pack is arena style gameplay on condensed maps which is a stark contrast from the big team focused Crimson Map Pack. Along with the arrival of new DLC, Title Update 2 was released which primarily serves as a Boltshot nerf and fixes several glitches. Was the Boltshot nerf enough? Does the Majestic Map Pack provide more hours of fun than the Crimson Map Pack? More importantly, is it worth your hard earned money? Read on (or watch the video review) to find out.
Landfall is a completely asymmetrical map that can be played in Team Slayer, but works best for FFA gametypes. The default Team Infinity Slayer power weapon spawns entail a SAW appearing on the first floor in the building, a Shotgun spawning on the second floor in the building, and a Rocket Launcher materializing out in the open on the exterior perimeter of the building. Red Team is undoubtedly closer to both the SAW and the Shotgun. Red Team also has a good shot at the initial Rocket Launcher spawn towards the start of the game, but Blue Team generally arrives a couple steps ahead of Red Team. Part of the enjoyment of the map is seeing both teams going after the Rocket Launcher at the beginning of the map and witnessing the ensuing barrage of grenades and DMR/BR fire. Despite all this, the positioning of these weapon spawns strongly favors Red Team with the slight exclusion of the Rocket Launcher. Even though Blue Team generally arrives at the Rocket Launcher first, Red Team is well within grenade throwing distance. As a result, the Red Team can potentially have possession of all three power weapons within seconds of the match and turn the tide permanently in their favor. Despite the initial weapon spawn issues favoring Red Team, the map plays out quite nicely should the firefight play out indoors. The two story building has 10 entry points (5 for each team) with no favoritism to either side. In the event you are playing a game mode that includes radar, the Hologram can be used to great effect making the opposing team fire off a crucial rocket or sniper round that could potentially change the outcome of the game.
My favorite section in the building would have to be the car garage. The inclusion of the fully elevated hydraulic platform and the decommissioned vehicle (which can be used to transverse from the 1st floor to the 2nd and vice versa) leads to some drawn out cat-and-mouse firefights. Having a team that communicates well and uses Promethean Vision in conjunction with Camouflage to properly relay information can help lead to success.
Balancing issues can occur should the fight stay predominantly outside the perimeter of the building. Blue Team has closer access to a couple of two story towers that can provide a significant advantage in the event they have a Sniper Rifle, Rocket Launcher or both. Because of this, I feel the default layout of Landfall would not play out well for 2V2 matches. Only in the event a Forger decides to modify the initial layout and utilize the abundance of “Landfall Bridge” objects available to them and block out the exterior would I recommend playing this as a 2v2 map.
Despite the asymmetric design and Team Slayer balancing issues, Landfall plays out just fine for FFA. Since enemies can spawn anywhere, no area is safe for an extended period of time (or if it is safe, chances are you won’t rack up enough kills to come in 1st). Power weapons play a key role in changing the tide of the map. If you have the Shotgun or Rocket Launcher while indoors, its quite easy to sneak up on other enemies who are already engaged in a firefight. Since the building doesn’t provide many areas to hide, chasing down enemies with low shields and finishing them off is almost too easy.
While the map is quite playable on Team Slayer, the initial power weapon spawns can lead to an insurmountable lead in favor of the Red Team which leads to many players quitting quite early in matches. Landfall definitely redeems itself in the FFA department as it quickly became one of my favorite maps. Despite some of its shortcomings, this map works out better across multiple gametypes than Monolith and serves as a nice addition to the current Halo 4 map rotation.
Monolith is a quasi-symmetrical map that plays out better on objective gametypes. The map layout has two identical bases directly opposite each other, with a center structure that has an underpass accessible from both sides. Adjacent to both bases are two towers, though both feature different two-story layouts. A unique design choice is the man cannons placed on both of these towers. If you wish to quickly transverse the length of the level, simply walk onto one of the man cannons. Playing King of the Hill while the control point is in the center structure allows the player to aim down and throw grenades on enemies while floating over the map.
If you were to partake in the Majestic DLC playlist, chances are you would be playing this map on King of the Hill and rightly so. Monolith offers plenty of cover to help elude long-range fire, so what better way to help keep the match action packed than to have an objective that forces players to not constantly stay behind cover? The control points generally force players to stay out in the open. If you try to dodge a grenade while controlling a hill, chances are you will have to exit it in order to avoid being damaged. Some of the control points also span two levels. Since a hill must be completely free of enemy players, this forces teams to leave their comfort zone and try and find the enemy player(s) wherever they are (more than likely with camo on or crouching). All of these elements combined help lead to some exhilarating, close quarters combat with a dash of long range combat.
For Slayer gametypes, the map doesn’t even come close to capturing the same excitement. Percentage wise, of all the games I’ve played in Halo 4 that went to the time limit, Monolith was the map where this occurred the most. Not because two equally skilled teams were facing off, but because it was just too easy to avoid long range fire whenever occupying one of the structures on the perimeter of the level. Couple this with the fact that players who get an ordinance drop with a sniper rifle tend to hide in the bevy of cover rather than engage the enemy and you have a recipe for a campfest that would earn everyone Eagle Scout merit badges by the end of the match.
Overall, I found Monolith to be an ‘ok’ map, but definitely my least favorite of this map pack. If it weren’t for its redeeming qualities in objective gametypes, I would’ve liked to have seen this map in the scrap pile (along with every map from the Crimson Map Pack).
Skyline is a two-story symmetrical map that I’m sure the pro crowd will love. The playable area of Skyline seems to be the smallest of all the maps in Halo 4. Reaching one end of the level to the other could probably be accomplished in about 5-6 fully charged sprints. Despite the small area of the map, it doesn’t feel as if you are running into a constant barrage of bullets and explosives. This can be thanked in large part to the highly barricaded second floor. Walls, windows, and barricades surround a vast majority of the 2nd level with few drop down points. Running along on the second floor generally provides plenty of cover except near the power weapon spawns. However, since your sight lines are cut off in almost every direction, getting a good sense of your surroundings can be difficult, especially in gametypes that have radar disabled. On the opposite end, being on the ground floor generally provides almost no cover, but your surroundings are less obstructed and it is quite easy to figure out where the big firefight is taking place. As long as no one is watching you from one of the few openings up above (which, to be honest, is somewhat rare), you can place a well-timed assault up one of the airlifts in the center of the map.
The map feels very balanced for the most part. In CTF variants, there are 2 Sticky Detonators and 1 Shotgun while in the Team Slayer variants there is 1 Sticky Detonator and 2 Shotguns. While a team coming into possession of both the Sticky Detonators can be quite the sticky situation *ba-dum-teeesh*, I never felt the other team had complete control of the map. The best part about CTF was how the reduced sight lines on the second floor factor into the gametype. Flag carriers are labeled with an indicator so you always know their position (friend or enemy). Since the sight lines are limited, chances are the flag carrier will have no idea what awaits around the corner. As a player trying to kill the carrier, I was often licking my chops as the upper level doesn’t have very wide walkways so hitting the carrier with a grenade is almost entirely about timing rather than aiming. As a player trying to capture the flag, you know the moment of truth is coming once you pass the halfway point on the way back to base. ‘Are there enemies crouching? If so, how many? Do they have any of the power weapons? S**t, I think they have ALL the power weapons!’ These firefights have led to some memorable moments in the limited time this map has been out.
For all the effort that went into the balancing of the map, particularly the sparse but well-placed openings on the 2nd floor that allow players to shoot at enemies below, there is one thing that absolutely ruins the balance of this map: jetpack. In the past, I’ve heard players complain about how jetpack needs to be removed entirely. While I never believed that as I was known to use it from time to time on maps such as Powerhouse, the issue of balance as it pertains to jetpack has never been more apparent than on Skyline. My first three matches had at least 1 player using the jetpack and I was finding its use to be quite a nuisance. The muscle memory for controlling my aim vertically aiming wasn’t kicking in right away, but I did quickly regain my form disposing of airborne enemies. An issue that I didn’t overcome was being able to bring my reticule back down to ground level in order to focus my fire on other oncoming enemies. Quite often, an encounter with a jetpacking enemy went like this:
Enemy uses jetpack, we exchange fire, I get the kill, I am killed by his teammates before I can get my reticule down to ground level. End result for me: 1 kill / 1 death.
I tried different loadouts, different strategies, but almost always the same result. While running or dropping into cover after an encounter of this type is usually my go to move, the small proximity of Skyline makes it significantly less effective. Furthermore, the barriers setup on the second floor to limit the sight lines can easily be vaulted by a player with a jetpack. This isn’t an issue of skill or ability, but rather a limitation of Halo’s control options. Simply put: There is no option to adjust Y-Axis sensitivity!!! Imagine playing a flight simulator without being able to control the sensitivity of the yaw or playing any Tribes game and having no ability to customize your vertical aim. Chances are, you wouldn’t even bother to play those games. Maybe this wasn’t a big deal before Halo: Reach, but none of those games ever had a jetpack.
As a test to see if this was just me, I ended up making a loadout with the jetpack (which I might add was the first time since launch day). Despite having a lack of experience with it, in my first game I ended up getting 26 kills, double digit assists, and the victory. Several times, players would make attempts to divert their attention to myself in the air only to either be gunned down by a teammate or myself before getting a shot off. Other times, enemies would try running away from me without even making an attempt to look up. While it was nice to finally stop getting a K/D of 1:1 on this map, I couldn’t help but feel like I was exploiting a game limitation rather than attributing it to any amount of skill.
Although the jetpack can completely ruin the balance of this map, its not enough to prevent me from being impressed by it. After all, there are pro variants that disable armor abilities and radar that I can still enjoy. While I’m not throwing it up there as a classic (not yet anyway), Skyline fills an important void that’s been there since launch: a small, symmetrical map that casual and pro players can enjoy. Skyline is easily one of the best arena style maps available to Halo 4 players, if not the best.
Title Update 2
There were several bug fixes included in this update (almost none of which I ran into except temporarily losing control of my Spartan after Extracting a capture point), but the biggest focus is undoubtedly on the Boltshot nerf. Prior to this release, many were left wondering what this would entail. Would it be a damage nerf, ammo nerf, a range nerf, or a combination of all three? Would the Boltshot be excluded from being a secondary weapon? The answer: a Range nerf. Although the Boltshot retains its ability to perform a one-shot kill, the range has been significantly reduced. In my usage with it, I found one hit kills and shield pops a lot less frequent. Furthermore, I found myself opting to use my ordinance drops on items such as Shotguns and Scattershot rather than keep my Boltshot and use my ordinance on damage boost or speed boost. Gauging the community response, nothing short of a significant damage nerf or excluding the Boltshot from the secondary weapon list would’ve sufficed. Regardless of where you stand, the range nerf was a step in the right direction. I’d rather have 343i take a baby step in the right direction rather than take a giant leap and in the process, nerf the Boltshot too much. Unlike others, I wouldn’t mind using different weapons than just the ones featured in the original Halo.
It goes without saying that the Boltshot nerf was a welcome addition. Although it can be argued whether it was enough, no one seems to be clamoring for the Boltshot range to be reverted to pre-patch form. As for the DLC itself, all the maps are quite enjoyable, with Skyline probably being the best of the bunch. Being that this is the second wave of DLC, I don’t necessarily feel the season pass has been a great investment at this point (I still can’t wash the taste of 343i’s piss out of my mouth months after the Crimson Map Pack) but the Majestic Map Pack was a step in the right direction. If you don’t have the season pass at this point, I would skip the Crimson Map Pack, but I would recommend buying the Majestic Map Pack. There may not be a huge ‘wow’ factor with these maps, but they help fill a void that’s been there since launch and are a lot of fun to play on.
The Majestic Map Pack is currently 800 Microsoft Points and can be purchased here.