Halo 3 Beta Reviews: Maps

I’m going to try to run a series of Halo 3 Beta reviews starting today that examine a number of elements from the game. This first entry in the series is going to look at the new maps.

*Valhalla*

ValhallaValhalla is far and away my favorite map of the three. It’s a roughly symmetrical map set in a valley with a base at each end. A small stream flows through middle, bisecting the map and giving a little visual interest. And let me just say that the water effects are stunning!

My favorite new thing here is the man-cannon – grav lifts tilted to a 45-degree angle so as to launch your avatar into the map. Each base has two man-cannons, one of which shoots you straight to the middle of the map and one that shoots you 30-degrees off to one side. Your gametype strategy will often determine if you use one of these and which direction you wish to launch.

Each base also hold a variety of weapons, two Mongooses, and a Warthog – the latter of which now features a pumped-up chain gun that will quickly lay waste to almost all opposition.

There are all kinds of great locations on this map for various strategic maneuvers. Commanding the knolls in the middle, though, is often the best spot for controlling the map. A sniper rifle or Spartan laser based here can kill just about anything that moves. But watch out for that ‘Hog and gunner because they can drive over that hill before you realize you’ve even been gunned down. So far, my favorite gametypes for this map are Team Slayer and Territories. I’ve yet to play a CTF game, so I don’t really know how the dynamics play out here.

*High Ground*

High GroundHigh Ground is just that – a ruined base sitting at the top of the hill that must be defended (or stormed) at all costs. Access can be gained through a portable grav lift over the wall on the left side, through the bunker at the base of the wall, through the main gate (that first has to be opened from _inside_ the base, by a stairwell on the right side, or through a short tunnel off the staircase. Despite these access points, the defense can quickly force a chokehold on access, making it very difficult to secure those territories, grab the flag, or plant the bomb.

Weapons litter the map, and two new action items – the bubble shield and the power drain – grace this map with their presence, affecting the dynamics of battle in new and interesting ways.

Oh, and watch out for those spike grenades. They stick to whatever surface they strike and throw shrapnel every which-way. They’re only instantly deadly is they get stuck to you, but they’ll take your shields down in an instant, if you happen to get caught in the blast cone.

Storm the base, take the High Ground. That’s what this map’s all about.

*Snowbound*

snowbound.jpgSnowbound is my least favorite map at the moment, but it’s growing on me the more I play it. This map features two bases in a winter landscape. The bases are connected by an underground tunnel, and there are a series of force-fields in each. Players can pass through, but weapons-fire and grenades cannot – you might just find yourself with a face full of explodey if you’re not careful.

Be careful not to walk outside the perimeter of the map – there are cannons lined up for the sole purpose of blasting your sorry butt back _onto_ the map. So, no straying!

Ghosts are the vehicles of choice on Snowbound. After all, anything with wheels simply won’t roll well on this terrain. Oh, and grenades don’t bounce on the snow, either. Remember that.

All in all I’m loving the Halo 3 Beta. The visuals are fabulous, taking advantage of the greater processing power of the Xbox 360 and launching the Halo experience to the next level. I can’t wait to see what multiplayer maps get released in the final version in September!

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