Halo 4: Crimson Map Pack (Xbox360)

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With all the holiday season commotion it may have slipped your mind that the first downloadable content map pack for Halo 4, the Crimson Map Pack, was released early in December last year, adding three all new maps to Halo 4’s Infinity matchmaking modes.

If you haven’t spotted them yet, they’re conveniently collected in the Crimson DLC playlist in the Infinity matchmaking menu of Halo 4. Having its own separate playlist, you cannot select specific gametypes (unless you play a custom game) but only the gametypes that come up in the map selection list, which from what I have seen has only been Infinity Slayer, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, Oddball and Extraction.

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 1

Walking through the maps, you can’t help but notice the amount of detail in these new online arenas. Harvest and Wreckage in particular are treats to look around, with a monorail flying overhead or the chance to explore giant shipwrecks. The beauty of the new maps aside, the map design itself is a bit polarising. Depending on your playstyle and preference, you might either love them or hate them.

I myself prefer some close quarter Spartan-vs-Spartan combat so the Crimson maps don’t sit too well with me. The problem for me is that they’re all pretty big maps with a lot of chances for vehicle combat, so be sure to have your plasma pistol equipped. On the plus side, though, each map seems to have been designed more for objective-based gametypes, rather than Slayer variants. Let’s take a closer look at each map:

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 9

Shatter is probably the biggest of the maps and sports a Mantis, in addition to a few Ghosts for getting around and through the many routes. The actual bases on the map make it ideal for Dominion and Extraction (for which it was the only map that comes up for Extraction) which is one of my favourite modes. Owing to the size of the map, however, even though I knew exactly where the bases were I’m pretty sure I never took the fastest route.

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 17

Wreckage is scattered with both UNSC and Convenant space wrecks and is easily the most detailed map of the lot, and from certain angles the sunlight in the background of the map can be quite blinding. It’s an excellent CTF map with many direct routes thanks to some well placed mancannons, which make for some fast and strategic gameplay. The open outside is in stark contrast to some intricate pathways (and hideaways) inside the actual wrecks which can make for some hairy Oddball games, but can cause Slayer games to be a little more than frustrating.

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 2

Harvest is by far the brightest map in the DLC along with a rich history in the extended ‘Haloverse.’ In addition to being a great CTF map, it is also the map most suited to Slayer gametypes (owing to it being symmetrical)… not that that is saying much. Like Wreckage it has a very congested middle area for plenty of fast action although the wide open sides mean that the use of DMR’s and Snipers, as well as the way that teams play, could cause some slow and frustrating games.

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 8

During the time I was testing there were still relatively low numbers in matchmaking so the skill matching system wasn’t pumping out ideal matches, and I often found myself up against some rather ‘devoted’ Halo players. That cannot be helped, although I don’t really see the numbers increasing too much. On the other hand, though, search times were not bad by any stretch.

Still, the fact that the Crimson pack is in its own separate playlist is a double-edged sword. On the one side it’s nice that those who don’t have the DLC can still play on the original launch maps and game modes, while the downside for DLC owners is that they now have to choose whether to play with the masses or to play on the new maps with a notably smaller player pool, and the inability to choose a specific gametype.

Halo 4 DLC Screenshot 18

The Crimson map pack for Halo 4 adds three large (and objective-based) maps that are all heavy on vehicle gameplay. For only three maps that aren’t in standard rotation, however, and don’t add much else, I can’t really justify the 800 MS Points being asked for the content.