7 Of The Best FPS Multiplayer Maps

There have been many great first-person shooters in the last couple of decades, but what really makes shooters work -- multiplayer-centric ones especially -- is the quality of the levels.

We all have our favourites -- maps almost feel custom-built for the way you like to play, whether it be the long-range havens with narrow corridors for snipers, urban environments with tonnes of nooks and corners for those with the twitch reactions, or skyscrapers and huge changes in elevation for those who like camping from upon high.

Here are seven of the best maps from first-person shooters over the years. I've gone back in time for this, because I find the real gems are the ones that stand the test of time, the levels that are so good that they get ported or re-made down the road.


Backlot, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The colour scheme won't win any awards, and new players were often caught off guard by grenades being lobbed sky high from the various spawn points. But Backlot's real value was its versatility.

It was a remarkably open map for attackers and defenders, offering plenty of angles and corners at A for those with rifles and SMGs. The right side of the map also had long straights for snipers to thrive, and the long hallway at the far edge of the map allowed someone to scope into A while still contributing to the defence of B.

But many of the chokepoints around A and the middle of the map were quite tight, tight enough for a single smoke to give plenty of cover for an agile team. Getting the bomb down was the real difficulty of the map; like most shooters, it wasn't uncommon for the defending side to win 8 or 9 rounds in the old MR12 format.

Backlot never pinned players back though: regardless of where you were, and where you wanted to hit, players always had options. And like any exceptional map, it was just as much fun in a public server as it was in an organised match -- although Call of Duty 4 was unusually blessed with many decent battlefields in that regard.


Spider Crossings (q3wcp9), Quake 3: Arena

It feels remiss to pick only one of the sensational capture the flag maps in Quake 3's long, long history, but the one that never feels stale even to this day is Spider Crossings. It's the default CTF map in Quake Live now, although I remember enjoying it back when you had to install the Threewave mod for Quake 3 (along with the Orange Smoothie Productions mod, or OSP, for competitive play).

There's an incredible amount of room in Spider Crossings, something best epitomised by the centre area that has two jump pads and a X-style crossing above the chaos below. It's a haven for those skilled with the railgun, whether it be in the center or around the flag spawns.

It's not such a gargantuan level, however, that players can be pulled out of the action. It's incredibly well designed and as far as Quake maps go, it's probably on par with Aerowalk for popularity. I'm still a little partial to Japanese Castles (q3wcp1), but there's no denying Spider Crossings' exceptional design.


Strike at Karkand, Battlefield series

The Battlefield series has had difficulty making a clean break from Karkand, and with good reason. It's been a staple of the gargantuan squad-shooter franchise since Battlefield 2, and it's been reused in many titles since, even making an appearance in the futuristic Battlefield 2142.

Good maps are all about options and shifts in gameplay, and it would take too many paragraphs here to detail how each of the various capture points and chokepoints are vulnerable (but not terminally so) to various weaponry, vehicles and infantry movements.

Because of the way Battlefield plays out, it's much better shown than explained, so here's a video that will give you a rough idea.


Inferno, Counter-Strike series

When you think Counter-Strike, chances are you think of Dust 2, or Dust in general. The colour scheme certainly fits the era, but perhaps what's so special about Dust 2 is the way it bucks the Counter-Strike trend. It underwent substantial changes for Counter-Strike: Source that were largely upheld in CS:GO, but even still it remains one of the few maps that are generally favoured for the attackers.

But as fun as this, there's one that has always been better balanced, one that has always produced more interesting shifts in the meta and one that has always been more meaningful over the game's life: Inferno.

It's so good that it even became a staple third-party map in Call of Duty 4, when the PC community was struggling to keep it alive following the release of Modern Warfare 3. But it's still one of the most important maps in the CS:GO cycle -- although it's dropped out of favour a touch -- and it's equally as fun to play in deathmatch, matchmaking, random public servers and organised games, more than a decade on.


Lockout, Halo series

Lockout is my favourite Halo map of all time.

When you think of solid, competitive Halo maps, they tend to fall into two categories: assymetric or symmetric.

Lockout is a map that somehow manages to play to those conventions, but subvert them in interesting, unique ways.

Because technically Lockout is probably a symmetrical map. But it's also assymetric in many ways. There are two distinct bases in Lockout -- the battle rifle side and the sniper rifle side. But the multiple different routes and avenues between those two bases makes Lockout unique. There are countless ways for sneaky players to infiltrate the enemy stronghold and dismantle them. It's a map that requires thought, rapid-fire speed-chess style thought.

It's also a map that encourages innovative means of traversal -- there's a tremendous abundance of routes players can take, which allows players to surprise opponents. But, conversely the map is cleverly designed to allow smart players to evade and escape attackers.

The end result: a tremendous game of cat and mouse that relies less on the accuracy of the player's shot than it does your ability to outsmart your opponent. I love it.

This entry courtesy of Mark Serrels


2Fort, Team Fortress

It'd be remiss not to at least touch on perhaps the most iconic class-based shooter of all time, and you can't touch on that without going back to one of the game's absolute classics: 2Fort.

2Fort has existed in some shape or form since the Team Fortress mod for Quake was around. That mod never had any official maps, but the community quickly made it so and 2Fort was and has been inextricably tied to every release of Team Fortress ever since.

It's got everything you could want, with plenty of room for all of the classes to contribute in some meaningful way. The layout has remained largely untouched as well, with perhaps the major change in Team Fortress 2 being the inclusion of the alcove in the centre that scouts and other classes can run along (while also providing limited shelter to medics and heavy players running underneath).

Facing Worlds, Unreal Tournament series

Thanks to PC Gamer for the downsampled image -- there were others, but this was far too pretty to go past.

You know, I tried to think of other maps. I actively avoided writing about Facing Worlds for as long as possible. What Call of Duty 2 maps stood the test of time. Carentan (or Chinatown, as it was remade) was pretty good -- how about that? I had a little debate in my head about the merits of picking Anzio over Avalanche for Day of Defeat -- both excellent, excellent maps, although Day of Defeat wasn't held in quite as high a regard.

I even had a discussion with others in the office about picking Morpheus, another Unreal Tournament map that plays a lot better than Facing Worlds. Campgrounds 2 from Quake 3 certainly is worthy of a mention, as is Q3DM17, the classic space level that shipped with the test version of Quake 3.

But there isn't anything quite as memorable, a map so synonymous with a game as Facing Worlds. I still don't think it plays that well -- good snipers can absolutely dominate, and when they don't it's generally because everyone is translocating every two seconds to dodge enemy fire.

When you think of Unreal Tournament, or the Unreal series in general, the first image that comes to mind is the shot of those two towers with the planet in the background. It might even be the most iconic image any map has ever created -- and for that alone, despite all its other flaws, Facing Worlds has to be mentioned.


There was plenty of other maps that were worth talking about, and plenty others that I have warm memories of. Terminal from Modern Warfare 2 was an absolute blast across a multitude of game modes; Aerowalk remains perhaps the best map for 1v1 duels in any shooter I've ever played. Medal of Honor's iconic Normandy level wasn't as great as a multiplayer map, but it was a cracking way to start a campaign, and Valley from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars left an impression that I still remember to this day.

What are your favourite levels from multiplayer shooters?

This story was originally published in November 2015.


Comments

    Ambush > Backlot in MW4. Something for everyone on that map.

      It's a trash map for organised play though and in pubs it immediately turns to crap the second someone gets a chopper.

      COD4 maps in my book:
      Backlot
      Strike/inferno (it's seriously that good as a remake)
      Crash/mp_ravens
      Vacant/Crossfire/Chinatown (aka. Carentan from COD 2)
      Everything else

        My favourites were broadcast, crash, ambush, and vacant. All are excellent for Search and Destroy and Team Deathmatch.

          Ambush was never used in organised play though, and for good reason.

          Crash is pretty much Call of Duty's Dust 2 -- great, but you always end up playing it because it just works for everyone. But it's just as good as Strike and the top 5 of COD4, on any platform, was Strike/Crash/Backlot/District (forgot about this in my list above, although it's better as a war map than pubbing) and Vacant.

        Facility beats everything in that list hands down ;)

    I always hated Backlot. The beginning of every match was all players throwing their 3 grenades (via perk) right into the path of the spawn zone and causing cars to explode. Giving someone a 7 kill streak.

    Also, choosing Lockout over Bloodgulch?

      Mark's pick! I thought about Blood Gulch as well, but I suppose in many ways you can say the same about picking Inferno out of the CS maps (great case to be made for Dust 2) or Backlot instead of Strike/Crash.

      That's why I hated Shipment in COD4 - it was a really tiny one with all these shipping containers all over the place. It was small enough that you could throw a grenade from one side of the map to the other, so the start of every round (and then every time anybody spawned) was just this mass of random grenades being lobbed everywhere.

        Shipment was amazing as a four-player LAN game where everyone had to use a pump action though! Broadcast will forever be my favourite from that game, but again, we were all about the little LAN games in our friend group (with HQ being our favourite game mode) and almost never played online (nor even close to sober).

        Every time I played shipment it was always a crazy mess - I've never seen anyone last for any length of time on that map. Still it was always heaps of fun!

    What do you mean no Facility??

    ...or Complex, or Temple, etc.

      Complex was my favorite
      So easy to disappear
      Especially as siberian special forces (all grey)

      Its a pity the old 64 only has one analog stick cause i cant drive that shit anymore!

        There's a dual-analogue mode! You can play both GE and PD using two controllers. It's pretty good, when I revisited PD a couple of years ago to finish it off (spent WAY too long stuck on the bottom-of-the-ocean level in Perfect mode), I did the rest of it using that control scheme and it was pretty great.

    no dust?!

      Ruh-Rooohh...... somebody didn't read the article :p

        I did, a mention and an explanation for why it wasn't chosen doesn't cut it because the best in terms of something subjective is defined by popularity and dust has been so popular people like me who don't play counter strike know of it and of its importance. The fact he had to clarify not choosing dust is evidence he should have. On the other hand I've never heard of inferno. Dust put CS on the map for a lot of people which counts more than which map is the most balanced.

        If you look at BF3 and put a vote up for which is the best map from the originals you would likely get Damavad as the most popular map. I could be wrong as I don't have any statistics and I'm just going off what maps seemed to have the most players most of the time and 24/7 Damavad was always full. This is despite Damavad clearly being a map that was much more suited to defense.

    This is a damn good list. Imho quality maps are almost a lost artform. UT and Quake 3 had it right, with their maps quite often being symmetrically designed and whatnot. Even the original Halo had Blood Gulch which was fantastically done.

    What about Dust 2? No Blood Gulch?

      I've put forward a good argument as to why I didn't throw Dust 2 up there. The Halo map was Mark's pick, incidentally.

    Deck 17 and Curse have to be close to a mention for Unreal series. Only two maps to make it from the very first Unreal game to Unreal Tournament 4.

    Quake 3 Arena : Longest Yard
    Best multiplayer map of any game ever.
    :)

      There's a nod to Longest Yard in the text about Facing Worlds! It's a trash map for duelling though, which is why I didn't run with it.

        Trash map for duelling maybe, but Q3DM17 won me a sweet loot at a LAN as they had a 24 player insta-gib match on it. That shit is hectic especially when everybody knows you're going to win and is doing their best to stop you.

        EDIT: I don't think you can trash either. Given the era you were either a Quake or a UT player. Quake had the Longest Yard, UT had Facing Worlds. Both are stand out iconic maps from a very divided time.

        Last edited 17/01/17 5:10 pm

          Hard to beat the memory of that Q3Test on iMacs back in the PC labs. Or the beta versions of Aztec on Gateway PCs. Fun times.

      As it was, is now and ever shall be.

    Agree with @rivvered on The longest Yard. Longest Yard was amazing fun, while being a great balanced map. Getting the rail gun would give you an advantage but actually getting to the rail gun was a huge risk. The same applied for the Quad Damage. Great map.

    Also im surprised that Deck17 and Grendelkeep from UT2k4 aren't on that list. Amazing, flowing maps that you could jump, dodge jump, lift jump around while raining death on anyone foolish enough to stop moving.

    Also when I think COD, I think Carenten (I think it was Chinatown in COD4). Brilliant map.

      Very, very, nearly went with Deck17 (it was the sequel to UT99's Deck 16) but just couldn't go past the imagery of Facing Worlds.

      Grendelkeep's not bad. And you're right about Carentan, quality COD 2 map -- as you say -- that was remade into Chinatown for COD 4.

      Wish they kept the Carentan look though.

    .....2fort? :o

      About to comment about 2Fort before finding....my own comment. Huh

      Last edited 17/01/17 4:23 pm

    Where is Carentan from COD:UO!? :(

    That was by far my favourite map in any game ever.

    Oh how I long for a good game of COD:UO....anyone still play it online?

    For me, Timberland in halo:ce and sandtrap in Halo 3

    My friend absolutely hates Bluefin Depot in Splatoon. Whereas I totally love it, especially the lateral asymmetrical aspect when played in Splat Zones. The dual-stream aspect makes it interesting for Turf War.

    Actually most of the maps in Splatoon are pretty well designed. Except for the new Underpass, I hate it so much compared to what it used to be.

    Deck 17 from the UT series would have to be my favorite. Followed very closely by Facing Words. I'm happy that they've got a few UT99 maps (so far, there will be more) redone in the new UT and kept the same music!!! On that note, the new UT is awesome!!

    no dm2 or dm4?

    You tease! Use q3dm6 (I think?) in the header, then don't include any of the vanilla q3dm* in the article! We played q3 a LOT in my office at uni, but only ever the base maps. So I can't vouch for the CTF map mentioned above. We were always partial to q3dm9 because of the potential for ramp and jump related tomfoolery, and q3dm17 (The Longest Yard) as mentioned by others for long range rail gun fun.

    (PS: It's "without further ado", not adieu).

    No mention of Splatoon? Get it together, guys. Bluefin Depot and Blackbelly Skatepark are the Backlots and Ambushes of this generation.

      *fistbump* Depot fanclub unite!

      Skatepark is a total nightmare half the time. Not a bad map by any means, but it just gets so damn hard sometimes. Warehouse is pretty great too.

        Honestly, I don't think there is a single map in Splatoon that I dislike, but Depot, Skatepark and Warehouse are my faves. I like Skatepark just because there is so much going on in such a confined area, and I usually try to make a mad dash for the central tower before anyone else can. Those first few moments are super tense.

          I really don't like the new version of Underpass, and really really really wish they just made it a new map and left the original one in. Other than that though, 'sall good.

          Haven't tried out the latest map yet though.

            I like the new Underpass, but the old one was a lot better. At the very least you can still play the old one in 1 vs 1 mode, though that doesn't make up for it that much.

            Haven't tried the new map either, but it looks pretty ace.

      Splatoon is 3rd person; technically the article is only focusing on first-person

    2Fort is probably my face MP map of all time - I hooked up my X1 controller to my PC the other day and played it (I used to play the 360 version) and it's still fresh.

    A few other faves
    Dustbowl (TF2) I love the asymmetrical gameplay here so much variety between attacking and defending and the 3 different stages is something you see copies everywhere now from Battlefield's Rush mode, Halo Reach's Invasion, Battlefront's Walker Assault

    Lazer Razor Arena (Monday Night Combat)
    If you ever wonder what a MOBA would be like as a shooter well that's Monday Night Combat, the Maps are symmetrical without actually symmetrical and the pathways for the bots predictable but there are so many options to get at the enemy that the gameplay never gets old!

    MOAR!

    Arica Harbor (Conquest - BFBC2)
    Seriously that map was home to so much chaotic fun for me in 2011

    Hijacked (CODBLOPSII)
    Now this was just stupid shoot first/ask questions later fun, on a boat no less

    Virus Vault (Splinter Cell Blacklist)
    It's a criminal shame that more people haven't played this game because it still my favourite MP stealth game ever (MGO is good but doesn't handle stealth nearly as well as this) Virus Vault has 3 distinct areas that the spies have to capture all with very different gameplay possibilities

    The best DM level, in my opinion, is Q1DM4

    Quake 1, deathmatch level 4 - with 8 players, its akin to being inside a meatgrinder, only you have a rocketlauncher. Gibs everywhere

    For me, my all time favourite fps map would have to be Q2DM1 - the edge. Lots of options and the weapon placement is risk reward based. It's had iterations in other quake games but it's never been as good as the quake II version.

      Correct - The Edge Quake 2.

        This!

        I think it deserves a place on the list as it predates anything else on there. I played a ton of Q2 online back in the day (Gamespy server browser anyone?) and no one ever got tired of playing The Edge. It's probably the only map I have ever known every inch of, knowing exactly how many hops it took to get from where I am to the nearest health or armour. Rocket jumping in and out of danger!

        Those were simpler times :)

          Working out how to get the mega health without nade/rocket jumping. My mind was blown

      I was always a big fan of The Warehouse (q2dm8) and The Frag Pipe (q2dm3).

      Last edited 17/01/17 5:07 pm

    Although it was not an online game i loved the warlords level on red faction. loved trying to do the suicide runs through the middle to the other tower.

      I was waiting for the RedFaction love... Warlords was a lot of fun, but personally, I could never get enough "Checkmate", a CtF map that was basically on 2 planes that formed a figure 8 shape.

    For a small map my favourite map is Firing Range (COD:BLOPS) by a long shot, love that map!

    For a larger map, Caspian Border gets my nod

    It's really annoying how people come on here and say the list is wrong and provide their own favourite map as proof. With that said, this list is broken without Blood Gultch (Halo) and Facility (Goldeneye) on it. What were you thinking!?

    I couldn't help myself.

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