Halo: Reach Defiant Pack Offers More Of What You Love

by Matt Miller on Mar 14, 2011 at 10:11 AM

If you've been enjoying Reach's stellar multiplayer, the three new maps deliver the goods.

Bungie has done a great job in the past of expanding their games over time, at least for multiplayer enthusiasts. The three new stages on display in the Defiant Map pack are fun to play and up to Bungie's expectedly high design standards, but have been designed by another developer: Certain Affinity. None of them introduce any elements that are going to dramatically shake up the multiplayer landscape, but what the new stages do deliver is of high quality.

Before mentioning the features of each individual map, it's worth noting how well each of the three manages to tie into the fiction of the Reach storyline. The new maps are grounded in a mix of beautiful scenery and the devastating effects of war -- an aesthetic that Bungie's games do better than almost anyone, and Certain Affinity has followed suit with some gorgeous locales. Each map has a sense of place within the world of Reach, and it makes the multiplayer feel like it matters in a way in which other shooters struggle. 

Condemned taps into the space battle vibe apparent in Reach's campaign, but sadly doesn't offer any options to fly the same ships that were in the story. Instead, the battle plays out inside an orbital space station that has been boarded by the Covenant. Outside the windows, you can watch the tail end of the UNSC/Covenant naval battle as it plays out. The medium-sized, roughly symmetrical circle map is built around a large central area that happens to also be low-grav. The surrounding areas are filled with communication terminals, short hallways, and even a hangar with an inoperative ship. The map is built for 6 to 12 players, and seems to be the most general-use map of the bunch; expect to play a lot of Team Slayer, Team Objective, and Free For All matches as you run through its metallic corridors.

Next up: A giant new competitive map, and a new stage for Firefight

Highlands is a breathtaking outdoor environment set in a wilderness training facility on the surface of Reach. Amid the green pines and waterfalls there is ample evidence of devastation. A crashed Pelican sits near the center of the field. Distant smoke plumes rise on the horizon. A Covenant drop ship hovers a few miles away. The massive map is built for 8-16 player matches, especially Big Team Battle (where the map really shines), but also Team Slayer and Team Objective. There are plenty of ground vehicles scattered around the map, and excellent opportunities for dedicated snipers to find a perch. There's also a focus on aerial vehicle battles that was somewhat lacking in the base game's multiplayer offerings. The wide-open outdoor spaces may present a challenge to players more into the close-range throwdown. That said, the level is ideal for large team fights .

The third new map is a dedicated Firefight stage -- great news for fans of the cooperative enemy wave experience. Unearthed is set in and around a titanium mine on Reach. The large map has a ton of cool options to help your Spartans face off against the increasingly powerful enemy arrivals. A warthog with a missile launcher sits comfortably in a garage near home base, which is a fun way to start out the match with some big explosions. There's also a Ghost available for those who venture out to pick it up.  A downhill slope from the base to the location of most of the arriving enemies gives a slight tactical advantage to players as they defend the high ground. Unearthed is a fantastic addition to the cooperative Firefight mode. More importantly, it's great to see Bungie continue to expand both the cooperative and competitive options for the new game.

The Defiant map pack may not be right for any but the most dedicated Reach players, if only because the core multiplayer offerings in Reach are so good. However, if you've been playing for several months and are ready for some new maps, Defiant doesn't disappoint. The new environments are all gorgeous, well-designed, and have a great flow to them. The pack also offers a little something to everyone, rather than focusing on one particular type of multiplayer gamer. It's a good deal for the $10 asking price, but only if you've really tired out on the existing stages.

You can also read our full review of Halo: Reach right here.