With no console Halo game coming out in the 2013 calendar year, 343 Industries needed to release something to keep gamers playing the “killer exclusive app” to the Xbox 360, in Halo 4. They had previously released three scheduled map packs, available with or without the War Games Pass (which, just to clarify, does not work with or cover this DLC), but besides what will eventually probably be another season of Spartan Ops, there needed to be more multiplayer content to pique fan interest. Thus, the Champions Bundle that 343 Industries released yesterday, was born.
Because of the new features of Halo 4, this DLC package features content never seen before in a Halo game, which makes it a completely different animal than any other normal DLC. Normally, in the days of Halo 3 and Halo : Reach (and Halo 4 if you didn’t have the War Games Pass) you could expect to pay 800 Microsoft Points ($10) for new multiplayer map content, which would net you three multiplayer maps. In the Champions Bundle however, you get only two multiplayer maps and an assortment of different content (weapon skins, game type, armor permutations) which you may or may not care about. Is it a good deal? It all depends on the quality of the content, and how much you care about the content.
The first map, entitled Vertigo, is a medium-sized, rocky, forest centered map on the border of a large body of water. 343’s description of the map is as follows :
An asymmetrical map, Vertigo provides a wide variety of indoor and outdoor combat. The map lends itself best to Slayer and Extraction game types and is best played with anywhere from 8 to 10 players. Vertigo also touts the return of a dynamic, interactive element in a Halo multiplayer map: Each base has a trigger point that depletes the shields of all players in range when shot. The map also contains a series of caves on each side as well as three levels of verticality, providing players with several different routes for attacking each base.
This is good and well and all, but how does it play? is the real question gamers want answered. Off the bat, interactive maps are very fun to play on and should be desired by all gamers. For example, in the Halo series both Zanzibar and High Ground featured interactive elements (mostly having to do with opening and closing gates), as did the bridges in Call of Duty Black Ops’ map Discovery and ziplines in the map Kowloon. (Random side note, did you know that in Star Wars Battlefront 2 on the Kashyyyk map, you could hit a switch to raise and lower the sea wall that defended the oil fields? This tidbit was so valuable if you knew how to use it.) Bottom line, interacting with the map to alter gameplay makes it simply more fun. And, as my friend Henry Kissinger and I found out last night, it can be extremely frustrating as well. Whether the towers were on a timer, or were being triggered, we couldn’t exactly figure out. It was cool to see that even the high ground/camping spots were vulnerable to attack, which was good for balancing. Beyond this, the map was to me, very enjoyable. Vertigo is very detailed, and strikes a good medium-sized map balance having enough room to run yet still places to defend and navigate in duels, making it very reminicsent of Halo 2’s Beaver Creek. This map shouldn’t hold more than 10 players in it, with 5 v 5 probably being too crowded, 4 on 4 being preferred. I wouldn’t say this map is outstanding, but it’s definitely solid enough to rank in the upper echelon of Halo 4 maps.
The second map, Pitfall, is a remake of the Halo 3 classic The Pit. Its description reads as such:
Pitfall stays true to its original layout, remaining a medium-sized symmetrical map. However, it will also contain updated features (such as strategically placed crates and ledges) that provide increased pace and flow. Pitfall has the setting of an abandoned UNSC training facility with battle remnants outside. The Pit has a similar setting except it is located in South Africa and is not abandoned.
Back in Halo 3, I had mixed feelings about The Pit. A sniper with a decent degree of talent could own the map. By the same token, anyone camping in the sword room with the sword (or oddball) could own the game. I had some friends like Thurston Howell who loved the map, but to me it just wasn’t as great as they (he) made it out to be. Adding the ability to sprint however, changes the game entirely. Everything moves much quicker, and with armor abilities such as Jet Pack and Promethean Vision, it turns into a more balanced faster paced game than ever. Some codgy old badgers of players probably hate the speed and the changes associated, but honestly I really enjoyed playing this map. It’s balanced, it’s fun, and it’s fast. It reminds me a lot of a speedball course in paintball. There isn’t much to hide behind unless you’re intentionally hiding in the back, and if someone is going to make a quick move and come out shooting you better be ready. With the addition of a lift, the sword room camping aspect is all but removed. The only thing I wish this map had would be the Brute Maulers from Halo 3. Other than that I’m going to love playing slayer variants, and the new gametype released with this map pack called Ricochet.
Although in two weeks the Ricochet team armor and game type will be free to all players, for the time being it is only a part of the Champions Bundle. Ricochet is a game very similar to oddball and assault, with there being a center ball dropped and each team having a goal in which to score upon. You can either throw the ball in or run it in, different amounts of points being awarded for however you score (which I haven’t quite figured out yet). Playing on Pitfall is a little cheap, as it is very easy to run about halfway across the map, jump, and throw, in which you have a high probability of scoring. I look forward to seeing this game type tested on several different maps, and hoping that it finds a couple good homes to play on.
The final elements of the Bundle are all about aesthetics. The first aspect is a bunch of new gun skins. Included are some steampunk inspired skins for every loadout gun, that look a little silly when gears are thrown into the equation. Available for the Assault Rifle only there are the Teeth and Trauma skins, the first being a shark’s mouth similar to WWII fighter planes, and the latter being a blood splatter on the end of the gun. There’s also the camouflaged Salvage skin, Indigo, and Flare skins, which are available for the Battle Rifle and Magnum only. These skins look good, but then again I’m not a huge fan of skins that you can just buy. I’d rather that you earn them or unlock them in some way, as with the previous skins in Halo 4 or the skins in Gears of War 3 or Call of Duty. I want the appearance of my gun to mean something, not just show that I can blow money on meaningless in-game content.
To round out the Bundle, there are three new armor permutations included. Honestly, I hate the Halo 4 armory, which is horrid compared to the great one that Halo : Reach came with. There are simply too many options, the majority of which are ugly as sin and don’t even look like suitable armor for a Spartan, instead making them look like cybernetic clones. Adding armor was an option that I wanted in Reach but not in Halo 4. Thankfully, two out of the three armors are classics, being the Mark V and ODST armor. They don’t look bad, but they do look kind of plasticky and pale in comparison to their Reach counterparts. The last permutation, the Prefect armor, is straight up ugly. You look like Cyclops from X-Men, which isn’t a good thing.
You can purchase all elements separately if you so choose, which I should have told The Secretary before he blew $10 on the aesthetic crap that he’ll never use. The two maps and Ricochet game type and Ricochet armor come in the Bullseye Pack for 480 MS Points ($6). The three armor permutations come in the Infinity Armor Pack for 240 MS Points ($3) and the Steel Skin Pack has only the steampunk skins for 240 MS Points as well. Or, you could save $2 and buy the entire Champions Bundle and receive the other skins as well as all the detailed content.
Is it all worth $10 of your hard-earned money? To me, the answer is yes. Although the armor permutations are rather worthless, there are enough maps in this game to warrant replacing what would be a third map with cool new skins and armor options. Both maps are solid, and I would much rather have two good maps and some aesthetics than two good maps and a bad one (I’m looking at you, Monolith). If you don’t care about the looks, save yourself $4 and just buy the maps and the game type. Otherwise, grab the whole bundle while you can, because I think it is worth it!