Last, but by no means least of all, comes the ‘Castle’ Map Pack, the third and final planned DLC pack to be included in the Halo 4 Season Pass. Featuring 3 new playable maps, Daybreak, Outcast and Perdition, along with nine new achievements (mostly of a vehicular persuasion) giving you an additional 250GP.

After the somewhat disappointing Crimson Map Pack, followed by the vastly improved Majestic Map Pack, does the Castle Map Pack make that season pass a worthwhile purchase?

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: 343 Studios

Released: Out Now

Format: Xbox 360

Version Tested: Xbox 360

Price: 800MP

We’re at a time when publishers and developers are looking to stretch the boundaries of what they offer with in-game add-ons – such as co-operative bonuses, additional zombies and even the end of the world – in order to convince would-be customers that purchasing their season pass is essential. However, 343 studios have once again stuck to their guns and simply offered up another three solid multiplayer maps of a distinctive theme, as well as some additional achievements to boot. It’s a simple, but effective formula, one where you’d expect not much could go wrong. With the Castle Map Packs’ three new vehicle based maps, not much really has.

Perdition

Prendition

Perdition is a sprawling urban labyrinth, set against the backdrop of an exploding reactor (which will happily devour the more reckless Warthog drivers). The streets are walled by towering skyscrapers.

Perdition is a location that will be familiar to those who played their way through ODST. Most of the action takes place at ground level, with a few elevated platforms offering players the chance to get the drop on one another. It’s the map that offers the fastest pace of combat, as well as providing the chance for most varied play styles. The wide open streets that populate much of the ground level quickly become home to vehicular carnage brought on by the various Warthogs and Ghosts available. Although there is a maze of tight streets and rooms at the centre of the map for those more willing to get up close and personal.

It’s a nice balance of vehicle and ground based game-play, although the layout of wide open streets mixed with winding claustrophobic alleys did, at times, leave me disorientated. You could be fighting enemies in one direction only to have their team-mates quickly spawn behind you, but it’s also possible to get the drop on the opposing team in the same way. Many times I found myself getting easy kills while the enemy team were busy fending off an attack from the opposite direction.

Despite this, Perdition is a map I greatly enjoyed and will no doubt continue to enjoy long after this review.

Outcast

Outcast

Secondly, Outcast. Outcast I believe is the weakest of the three maps on offer here. Aesthetically its fairly bland desert map filled with tall rocky caverns and two military bases, with not all that much interesting to look at save for the looping animation of a Drater Ship from Halo Wars docking and tacking off.

This Map definitely goes heavy on the vehicles; the opposing sides of the map each spawn a Wraith or a Mantis as well as the usual combination of Ghosts and Warthogs. During games, control over the map often comes down to the side that’s able to support their power vehicle. In my experience, the side that was able to run riot with either the Wraith or the Mantis across the map, without It being destroyed, would no doubt end the game as the victor.

However, in an attempt to balance the map, the maze of rocky pillars and caves that break up the limited open ground of this fairly large map offers more than adequate cover for those wanting to enter the fray afoot. Along with this, both the Rocket Launcher and Spartan Laser spawn on the map giving one plucky ‘Rambo’ the chance to take down a Mantis single-handed.

The heavy vehicle roster on this map causes me to think it would have benefited from more open space. Just giving players the chance to go all at it in a battle of Wraith vs Mantis seems best suited to Outcast.

As it stands. Outcast is still an enjoyable map, just a map that isn’t sure what it wants to be. This mistaken identity is the impression it leaves you with.

Daybreak

Daybreak

Finally, Daybreak. This is easily my favourite of the three maps.

Daybreak is yet another triumph for 343, thanks, in part, to its visually stunning locations. Daybreak is very reminiscent of the previous Halo classic ‘Blood Gulch’ featuring two opposing bunkers at either side of the map, separated by lush green hills and rocky outcrops. All of this is bathed in the glow of the early morning sun. Daybreak really does create a picturesque image that’s worth taking the time to be admired before bodies start to fly. And bodies will literally fly thanks to the maps’ man cannon.

The map offers a nice balance of both Perdition and Outcast in play style resulting in the most varied gameplay. Daybreak provides three different levels on which to do battle. The bunker roofs, along with the hill crests, offer ample sniping opportunities, but you’re going to have to be quick when setting your scopes on those below. The winding valleys and galleys become home to a world of high speed combat filled with much Ghost vs Warthog action. Then there’s caves hidden in plain sight, peppered throughout the map. These create a very tight, claustrophobic battlefield, similar to the winding streets of Perdition and will definitely create tension. This further emphasises the variety this map has to offer. On the exact same map, in the exact same game, your teammate could be having a much more relaxing time sat atop a bunker, sniping the enemy while you’re flexing that itchy trigger finger, take each corner, both apprehensively and aggressively.

The variety of gameplay from just one map meant I found myself generally voting for Daybreak, as did many of my fellow gamers online. Although the two bunkers may make you think this map is suited to only objective based games, I found that most, if not all, game types were most enjoyable on Daybreak.

Final Analysis

The Castle Map Pack rounds off the season pass quite nicely. No, it doesn’t offer the same creative and bold flare Majestic did in taking Halo multiplayer back to its roots, but It’s a more enjoyable set of maps than the bland, tasteless affair that was the Crimson Map Pack. What we get is a set of three maps that sit perfectly in the middle. There’s the large, expansive settings which aren’t particularly new to Halo 4, but now we get the inclusion of all out vehicular warfare, something I believe has been lacking up until now. Although not all of the maps may be up to scratch, the ones that are will keep you coming back to Halo 4 multiplayer again and again.

I believe the Castle Map Pack is significant justification for that hefty season pass price tag on it’s own, making this a worthwhile purchase for any avid Halo fan. While the season pass has come to a close, let’s hope that 343 Studios will continue to dole out this outstanding quality of DLC for Halo 4 and just maybe experiment a little bit more.

Pros

  • Most maps offer varied play styles.
  • The inclusion of a heavy vehicle element is refreshing.
  • Outstanding visual qualities once again.

Cons

  • Quality isn’t carried across all 3 maps.
  • Missed opportunity with Outcast. Doesn’t achieve full potential.

Final Score: 4/5

An excellent final piece of DLC for Halo 4 Season Pass Holders, the Castle Map Pack is some of 343′s best work, yet the quality isn’t all it could be, and full potential is not achieved.