Impressions: Halo: Reach: Noble Map Pack

Halo: Reach has been my stomping grounds when it comes to online multiplayer for quite some time now. Initially, I planned only to complete the campaign (then my most-anticipated adventure for the year) and move on despite my love for the franchise. My ridiculously long backlog called out to me, you know. I couldn’t afford to spend hours online ranking up or perfecting the art of the sticky! Of course, my train of thought changed once I actually got back into the multiplayer grind I hadn’t enjoyed since the early days of Halo 3. When I started playing every night, I couldn’t quite stop, and thus found myself breathlessly awaiting the Noble Map Pack, the very first DLC offered for Bungie’s lavish love letter to Halo. And now that I’ve had a chance to play around with it, I can only hope their future offerings can live up to benchmark set by this set of maps.

For 800 Microsoft Points (roughly $10), you’ll get three maps: Anchor 9, Breakpoint, and Tempest. Anchor 9, my personal favorite of the three, is a decidedly smaller and more closed-in map, similar in appearance to The Pit, seen in Halo 3. The actual area Anchor 9 takes place in is a station orbiting Reach, which becomes evident when you start traipsing around inside. By stepping through the energy shield you can take fights into space, which is made even more interesting if you happen to have chosen to use the jetpack. There are plenty of enclosed passageways in which you can hide if you choose to keep the fight inside, and an upstairs level you can nab a turret from to rain death from above…if you catch your opponents sneaking around the lower level, that is. The fact that you can take the fight out into the expanses of space makes this map feel very different than previous offerings throughout the years, and I found through playing around in Forge that you can turn off the energy fields sealing off the large window into space.

Unfortunately, this did nothing to alter the map as a whole other than aesthetics. I was hoping there’d be something novel, such as a switch in gravity, but this did not occur. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time spent in Anchor 9 in Lone Wolf game-types, as well as Multi-Team, where the carnage often got out of hand. I love smaller maps, what can I say?

It makes sense, then, that I wasn’t head over heels for the next map. Breakpoint is the exact opposite of Anchor 9, an expansive tundra similar in appearance to an in-game point revolving around Dr. Halsey (I won’t spoil things for those who haven’t completed the game). It’s an 8-16 person all-inclusive behemoth obviously meant for large Invasion games. It also houses a Warthog with an attached rocket launcher and Banshees in order to get from point A to point B much quicker. The mountains are a perfect haven for snipers of course, and an extending bridge is an interesting addition that changes as objectives are captured. If you’re not an Invasion fan, some truly explosive firefights can take place here in Breakpoint, so there’s no reason to think you need to rely on your team-playing skills. It’s a gorgeous view from the mountain, and even better if you’re staring down the barrel of a DMR.

Finally, Tempest brings up the rear, an intermediate-sized map that fits nicely between Anchor 9 and Breakpoint. A desert environment surrounding apparent Forerunner technology, Tempest is perfect for smaller teams or objective games. Similarly, if you like to go it alone, there are plenty of tight spaces to squeeze into if you’re feeling like camping. This map didn’t stand out too much for me, likely because it largely resembles classic Halo, from the very beginning. It seemed to blend in amongst the other droves of areas I’d frag my way through, though the Covenant grav lifts were useful when attempting to capture flags and whatnot. Certainly the weakest map of the three, but still I preferred it to Breakpoint due to its relative intimacy.

I was quite pleased with the three maps included in the Noble Map Pack, both in their functionality across different game types as well as their variety. They provided a different experience than the maps coupled with the game, and I enjoyed my time spent with them. For 800 Microsoft Points, they’re very versatile and unique additions to the core game, especially for those of us who enjoy team-based games, and if you decide not to download them, you’re not out of luck thanks to Halo: Reach’s matchmaking system. I would, however, recommend you do so if you want to spice up your repertoire of maps, as these are an excellent first batch and could quickly turn into some of my favorites, especially Anchor 9.

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