April 25th. That’s the date Bungie have set for the first batch of Halo 2 downloadable multiplayer maps. The maps will come in two packs. The first, the Bonus Pack, will be free to all Live users from the Download Content menu, and will feature two new levels.
The first of these, Containment, is set in huge snowy tundra and, as one of the largest Halo maps ever created, is especially designed for Big Team Battle. Warlock, meanwhile, is an update of the original Halo’s Wizard multiplayer map, this time set in new Forerunner architecture on Delta Halo.
The second of the Halo downloads is the Killtacular pack, comprised of Turf and Sanctuary. The former is a medium sized planet earth locale that seems set to perfectly realize the urban street warfare of the Campaign mode’s opening areas in multiplayer. The latter is set on Delta Halo with a walled Grotto marking the centre point between two temple bases, designed primarily for eight-player Skirmish matches.
Unlike the Bonus Pack, the Killtacular Pack will cost $5.99 to download, with localised prices varying across territories, though here in the UK we expect to see a charge of £5 or less.
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Those patient enough to wait, however, will have free access to the latter two maps from June 28th. And bearing in mind the payed-for maps won’t be in the widespread Matchmaking playlists, the Killtacular Pack really does look like one for those early adopter types, or those that only ever play custom games.
This comes on top of the latest auto-update released on the Halo servers, altering some of the fundamental gameplay traits. Anyone logging onto the servers for the first time since the weekend will now find grenades and melee attacks are more powerful, the SMG/Plasma Rifle combo less so, and magnums now do less damage than before. The standby cheat, meanwhile, has also been addressed, though with Bungie not saying how, it remains to be seen how much cheating this will curb.
It’s all an effort to balance out the gameplay so dual wielding is less essential, and along with the two download packs due next week, it’s a welcome addition.