Halo 2 Maptacular!Halo 2 Multiplayer Madness Last week, a couple of incorrect dates appeared on a retail website, and more tellingly, Microsofts own Xbox.com site in Korea. What it revealed was that we apparently had a multiplayer add-on planned for Halo 2, and that it would be for sale in stores. Of course, like a lot of internet stuff, it was partly true. The dates were off, and subsequent rumor mongering went off on all kinds of tangents - some frighteningly accurate, some way off. Bungie was caught off guard - we were waiting to tell you the whole plan when the powers that be (which is now) were ready. That put us in the unfortunate position of being forced to clam up until it was safe to talk! The official press release from MS can be found over at Xbox.com HERE. For those averse to press releases or simply needing clarification, well break it down for you: So the basic details for the new map release plan go like this: Were releasing a total of nine new multiplayer maps. All nine maps will eventually be available as Live downloads and as a normal boxed game disc - available at retail for $19.99 (US). The release on Live will be staggered, some paid, some free! The first two maps are free and coming in a few short weeks. (late April) The same day the 2 free maps are released, 2 additional maps will be available for purchase. The remaining 5 maps will be made available as a paid download on the same day the retail package goes on sale. The retail disc will contain extras, including a documentary, a cool project from our cinematic and animation team, every Halo 2 update released so far and possily one or two other little treats. By late summer, ALL the maps will be available for free. It is complicated, but the vagaries of matchmaking playlist rollout, the precedent set by making Live content available to non-Live users, the implementation of anti-cheat fixes and the support required to make the whole experience work smoothly, are somewhat unique in the annals of Xbox gaming. So please, bear with us. What we can say with some confidence is that were very proud of the new maps. Theyre cool-looking, fun, well-balanced and tested to destruction. They offer a wide range of gameplay types and are suitable for some modes you may not even have tried before. We cant wait to share them with you. The First Four New Maps! In late April, youll be able to download two maps for free - Containment and Warlock. At the same time, two additional maps will be available for purchase - Sanctuary and Turf. Each map represents a very different experience, from massive team battle, to intimate and intricate skirmish zone. Heres our breakdown of the levels: CONTAINMENT A massive, mostly outdoor, and somewhat symmetrical environment set in the frozen tundra near Sentinel Wall, on Delta Halo. The icy terrain is a walled valley floor, scarred by a massive trench, running between two enormous Forerunner compounds. Each of these structures acts as a base, and each base is itself large enough to drive a vehicle around in. The bases contain a heavily fortified flag capture point which presents a tough challenge for an unorganized offense. To even the odds, its possible to open vehicle access to these bases by activating a switch - exposed to sniper fire in the center of the map. Above this switch is the teleport exit for each base. The rapid access enabled using teleporters and vehicles means that while this is by far one of the largest Halo maps ever, its also one with a large number of transit options, on foot or in vehicles. Caves, ridges and tunnels provide stealthy entrance to enemy bases, while the jagged central trench is a great spot to take cover. Above, the exposed, icy fields are littered with the most explosive cores in the game. Default vehicles include Hogs, Scorpion tanks and Banshees. Containment was built from the ground up, with large scale objective games in mind, especially CTF. If you like Coagulation, and were a fan of Sidewinder, youll love Containment! WARLOCK Set in the rain-soaked ruins of an ancient Forerunner structure, nobody knows if Warlock is a temple, a castle or even a dwelling. What we do know is that the architecture predates the Halo itself, and that it must have been moved here, brick by brick, with obvious reverence by the Forerunners themselves. A small to medium sized map, Warlock is ideal for close-quarters fights, Slayer matches and thanks to its four way symmetry, multi-team Territories battles. Warlocks mix of obstacles and open areas makes it a perfect spot for more chaotic matches like Rockets. Sharp-eyed players may note its resemblance to the map Wizard, although it has been rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of Halo 2s new graphics and gameplay features. Warlock is filled with nooks, crannies and other hiding places, and while the ground is a warren of obstacles, its possible to reach any other point in the map by taking the high road - a series of platforms and ramps that stretch across the map, with a temple-like center structure dominating the arena. Teleporters dot the walls allowing you to evade pursuing enemies, or take instant shortcuts across the map. TURF The surrounding streets and evacuated buildings of Old Mombasa make it a dangerous warren, with potential assassins lurking in every shadow and around every corner. Dusty storefronts hide mazelike interiors, and narrow walkways above street level make this shadowy part of town a snipers haven. Although it was designed primarily with Territories and CTF in mind, Turfs wildly varying situations - open streets, large buildings, narrow passageways - mean that its surprisingly flexible. In spite of its size and complexity, the level even works well as a cat and mouse one-on-one map. Although the tight alleys and streets are initially confusing, there are plenty of vital landmarks - a downed Covenant Scarab, a makeshift Human military base and a massive warehouse, complete with huge swinging doors. Players can knock down catwalks to control ledges above the streets, and a well-parked Warthog can lay down covering fire for the team quick enough to grab it. SANCTUARY A walled grotto defines the center point of this Forerunner habitat, from which aqueducts span out, like the hands of a clock. It perfectly obscures a clear line of sight between two more robust temple buildings primarily used as Flag capture bases. The map was designed to be perfectly symmetrical and used for smaller, team based objective games, like CTF and Assault, but its size and layout also make it a perfect spot for Slayer matches and slightly more frenetic types like Territories and Oddball. The tunnels at the sides and the open areas in front of the bases make for frantic firefights and nerve-wracking chases. Stop for a moment to admire the scenery and youll see a complicated system of waterfalls, canals and pools. Splashing water and the chirp of birds help define the sound scheme of this otherwise peaceful environment. Editors note: Click here for the official Bungie screenshots.