Halo: Reach Defiant Map Pack Review

Despite the thoroughly developed story behind the Halo universe, there’s a reason that said development required a series of tie-in novels to expand on the scant information provided in the tiny allotment of plot per game. The series has always been first and foremost about multiplayer combat, and with the release this week of the new Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach, that definitely hasn’t been changed. As the first Halo-related release from Microsoft’s Studio 343i after the departure of Bungie, the Defiant pack is a big test of their ability to manage the money generation factory best-selling series. so the question is: does it live up?

Yes. Mostly. But yes.

We expected to grade on a curve, considering this is DLC for a game developed by a different studio for a game that has sold more copies than the bible1. Not small shoes to climb into, but 343i can breathe easy because no curve required. The Defiant Pack, while perhaps leaving you wishing there was more to it, turns out to be a tremendous amount of fun. Halo: Reach fans still hungry for blood 6 months after the main game’s release can consider their bloodlust (mostly) sated.

Then again, this is just a map pack. There’s no new story content, just new places to to get your kill on, which makes it difficult to expound for hours on it. Luckily, it isn’t difficult to spend, as I did, hours playing it, but once you’ve done so, you kind of wish there was more to it.

The Maps

Condemned

The first the three new maps is Condemned which, like the second map, Highlands, is an arena for competitive multiplayer. Condemned is a small, cleverly designed map set on claustrophobic space station in orbit around Planet Reach. It’s cramped, twisty and as a result kind of creepy in a very small way – I won’t say it lends an air of survival horror, but it does feel more urgent than the other two maps. It also has some pretty stunning visuals – don’t spend too long looking out the windows at the really cool looking fleet of ships or you’ll die, a lot. Add in a wide variety of weapons and an excellent zero-G section and you have for a varied environment and challenging combat.

Highlands

The biggest of the three new maps, Highlands comes the closest to expressly adding to the prequel setting of Halo: Reach. While the other maps are excuses to killkillkill, Highlands is set in the same training facility that made a Marine out of Master Chief, in the middle of the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to save planet Reach. It’s full of variation, places to hide and plenty of weapons and game modes (like the excellent capture the flag) to keep you occupied for days. Like the Condemned map, it also has some rather stunning visuals, this time in the form of the obvious combat missions taking place just beyond the horizon, warships in the distance dropping ordinance onto the planet while you train the Master Chief way to become a Galactic Hero get even better at massive carnage.

Unearthed

Unearthed is the smallest of the three maps, nothing but a brand new setting for firefight matches. Being made strictly for firefights, it’s not that big, just a small area in which to go buck wild on friends or AI enemies with whatever weapons you can grab. Set in one of the Halo universe’s ubiquitous abandoned military bases, surrounded by a big dirt road. As you’ve guessed, it’s playable in one of the accessible firefight modes; I’m particularly partial to Generator Defense, but I played around with all of them and had a ton of fun. There’s plenty of weaponry, but don’t forget about those dirt roads I mentioned because there’s a lot vehicles too, and just as in the single player campaign, they deliver some pretty excellent destruction. NOTE: It’s recommended that you play this against other humans, because the AI is dumb. Zerg Rush is basically their only tactic.

Final Verdict

The defiant Map Pack is a lot of fun with plenty of variety to keep you coming back again and again. I expect that nonstop excellence is guaranteed once the Forge experts start getting their hands on these levels and making them their own. That said, Firefight being my personal favorite type of game, it’s kind of annoying that they only included one Firefight arena, particularly considering how small that arena is. In addition, while the Defiant Map Pack isn’t outrageously priced, 800 Microsoft points (or $9.99) isn’t free. There’s no reason they couldn’t have thrown in another Firefight location, or scrapped Unearthed in favor of a larger competitive multiplayer map.

Ultimately, there’s nothing particularly new or incredible about the Defiant Map Pack, it’s just a really solid DLC and proves that Studio 343i is up to the task of managing Microsoft’s flagship FPS franchise. It won’t blow your mind, but it will definitely keep it occupied for hours, and that’s probably enough.

Pros

* Variety of weapons, environments
* Excellent graphics
* More delving into the Halo backstory

Cons

* Small, even taking the price into consideration
* Leaves you wanting more, but not in a good way

Final Score: 85/100

1) Not unprecedented of course – Certain Affinity developed the Noble Pack.

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