The problem with previewing multiplayer maps is all that damn running and gunning—it always interferes with my sightseeing.
Taking in the pretty scenery is no small feat when you're hoofin' it at top speed—often lugging an over-sized flag—while some meat bag is trying to find a home for his armour-piercing slugs in the back of your skull. I was reminded of this burden during a recent visit to Bungie's Washington studio, where I was to spend some quality time with Halo 3: ODST's three new multiplayer maps: Heretic, Citadel and Longshore.
Any hopes of leisurely touring these maps as I would a destination on my 1000-places-to-see-before-I-die list were squashed when I realised X-Play's own Mr. Sark was in attendance. I wouldn't be able to stop and smell the Warthog exhaust with G4's resident competitive online gaming expert on my tail.
Afraid I'd spend the majority of the day with my Spartan armour parallel to the floor, I asked if Bungie would accommodate a more informative sightseeing tour of the new maps before I locked, loaded and taxed my trigger finger. Not only did Bungie kindly oblige, they sat me down with senior designer Lars Bakken who, like an enthusiastic tour guide—minus the microphone, lame jokes and double-decker open-air bus—offered the following travel tips and information for those planning their Halo 3: ODST multi-player destination vacation. Destination: Heretic History: "Heretic is a remake of Midship from Halo 2, which is something fans have been asking for since Halo 3 launched. We looked at what maps we wanted to make for Halo 3 DLC, and we knew there was a hole in our small free-for-all style maps—symmetrical spaces good for two-on-two, three-on-three, eight-person max matches."
Must-see attractions: "We increased the visual fidelity and added some flair, like a complete Covenant armada that's actually cruising through space outside the ship you're on. This addition gives more of a feeling that your ship is cruising through space...it doesn't add to the gameplay at all, but it is pretty cool."
For first time visitors: "It's small, but there's really good routes that you can run, so you'll get in a nice groove. And even though you can't always see where the enemies are, a quick glance will give you a good idea as to where they're hiding. In terms of spatial recognition, it's very easy to know where most of the other players are most of the time. "
For seasoned travellers: "This one's a nod to the pro community. We tried to keep it as faithful as possible to the Halo 2 version. I can't say it's pixel-perfect, as it is a different engine and you've got different properties for the Spartan multiplayer character, but it's as close as possible to a complete recreation. "
Souvenir shopping: "Those familiar with Midship will know exactly where every weapon is...we didn't change any of those things."
Destination: Citadel History: "This one fits into the idea that we needed another smaller, symmetrical arena-style map that'd be great for two-on-two, three-on-three, eight-person max matches. The cool thing about this map is that it's actually inspired by a campaign space from Halo 3. It's forerunner architecture, which obviously has its own unique look to it."
Must-see attractions: "Even though the map itself is symmetrical and very similar on both sides, one of the sides is enclosed and the other is open...we did things to make the two sides feel different. The colours are different. One side is darkened by panels in all the windows, and the other side has really bright sunlight coming in."
For first-time visitors: "There's a lot of really cool ways to get around the environment: shortcuts, jumping through windows, hidden areas. We also added a central platform, where a rocket launcher sits. Citadel is very good for Team Slayer, Oddball, CTF, King of the Hill and Multi-Flag."
For seasoned travellers: "The cool thing about Heretic's centre platform is that there's two bays on either side of it, separated by a big open space. It's actually possible to jump from the platform to either of these bays. A lot of people won't be able to do this at first, but I think the pro players will be able to pick it up immediately."
Souvenir shopping: "Citadel's got some great power weapons: a sniper rifle, the rocket launcher on the platform, shotguns, battle rifles, and carbines."
Destination: Longshore History: "With Longshore we wanted a larger, asymmetrical map, something along the lines of High Ground or Last Resort. The artists were really able to try something different here, too: Go into an area they hadn't gone to before, the abandoned docks of New Mombasa."
Must-see attractions: "There's a dynamic element—a telescoping bridge—that gives you another way into the defender building. It's usually not extended, but it can be activated by going into the defender base and hitting a switch. When activated, it gives the attacker a direct route to the flag, so they can essentially drop down on top of the defenders. "
For first time visitors: "It's a pretty big map with three very distinct sections: an attacker building, a defender building and a central wall separating them. The defenders can't quite see every way the attackers can enter—side routes, catwalks, stairs, the bridge, covered approaches—but the defenders do have the high ground and lots of great defensive positions, so it's nicely balanced. Longshore is a good map for 1 Flag and even big Team Slayer games."
For seasoned travellers: "Utilising the telescoping bridge is great in theory, but the defenders know the attackers are going to go for it, so if they can't defend the switch they know there's a good possibility that the attackers will use the bridge...and it makes for a really good grenade-trap tunnel."
Souvenir shopping: "The covered approach, underneath the docks, has some active camo and a shotgun."