By George Wood
Die hard FPS sharpshooters tend to get all mushy-gushy sentimental about the zones in which they’ve spent countless hours spilling the blood of hundreds of friends and internet strangers. Memories of crouching hidden in the best sniper holdouts, navigating secret tunnels, heart pounding, with the hope you have a quicker trigger finger than whomever is around that next corner. All the best routes have been trod well into the ground, every feature exploited for defensive cover and everyone knows where to go if you are looking to jump into the killing grinder. Multiplayer maps are an integral part of the FPS experience, so to show our appreciation below we decided stroll down the halls of nostalgia to rank our favorites thus far.
10. Wake Island – Battlefield series
Wake Island, in another universe, may have ended up a beautiful resort atoll with picturesque beachside views, a mojito and blended pina colada bar on the shore and swarms of retirees slathering on suntan lotion to prevent late-age melanoma. Good thing we live in far more excitable times, taking the site of a contentious World War 2 skirmish in the Pacific and immortalizing it as a killing zone for future generations throughout the majority of the Battlefield series.
The surf here is wonderful, but the shooting is far better. This Battlefield online multiplayer map has always been a paradise of destruction by land, sea and air. Dogfights overhead offer the ever-present danger of plane parts squishing your gunner overland, or if the plane parts miss you fear not because the hell-fiend Humvees wheeling across the map will gladly make a hood ornament out of you. Try to hug the shoreline with a nice stroll in the sand, dodging the inland action, patrolling gunner boats will certainly shred you into pieces for later consumption by gunpowder-fed sea crabs. Far cheaper than a vacation to Cancun, we’ll take the sun and blood-soaked action offered by Wake Island any day of the week.
9. Facility – Goldeneye
Within the classic Goldeneye campaign, the Facility level is a fortress characterized by enemies hiding in bathroom stalls, destruction of a bottling facility (booze? Coca Cola?) and a depressing lack of casinos and women for 007 to schmooze on.
Luckily, the multiplayer map ramps up the adrenaline factor considerably. Claustrophobic hallways, barriers and beams to cover behind, victory hinges on how jumpy your trigger finger is. Of course you can find ammunition in the bathroom stalls, bonus points if you can achieve sneaky surprise kills by kicking open the stall door and dropping your opponent like a bad bowel movement. Success is significantly guaranteed on your ability to locate the RC P90 Machine gun because the firing rate is absolutely a game changer.
8. 2Fort – Team Fortress 2
Featuring: The Bridge of DEATH. Even with rooftop coverage over the bridge constructed in Team Fortress 2, there is still a mighty high chance of impending execution should you try to weather the storm of bullets, rockets and flame that will surely rain down from the heavens if you try and cross to safety on the other side.
This memorable maze of a map is a shoo-in for best Capture the Flag arena in the TF series. Reinforced as we move down the list will be the simplistic strength of an uncomplicated map with little frills and full-blown awareness of what players need. What do they need? Turns out it’s always two bases, one to serve as home and the other to serve as “the other.” Like two frat houses attempting to steal the other’s composites, anything goes: Invisible Spies with shanks, Engineers building vicious sentry guns, and all other classes are bent on administering death to the other team, preventing the theft of precious flags or intelligence.
7. Strike at Karkand – Battlefield Series
Stress-fractured, dusty streets are dangerous, made especially so by eagle-eyed snipers perched on the balconies just waiting for unsuspecting foot soldiers to wander unawares into their sights. While Wake Island is an orgy of vehicular manslaughter from all sides, victorious strategy within the Strike of Karkand includes hugging buildings to stay out of sight and watching out for hooligans charging up the cracked streets with belt-fed lead cannons firing full-tilt. The original Strike at Karkand was a solid map, but what really drove this map to number seven in our list is the introduction of massively destructible environments within later games in the Battlefield series.
In later iterations, you can barely recognize the map after relentless pulverization performed by free-wheeling chain-gunners, rocket-slingers and expert demolition teams who just want to watch the world burn as they push the game’s physics engine to max capacity. Join in the joyful destruction at your own risk.
6. Crash – Call of Duty series
A lighting-paced small-sized arena of death prevalent throughout much of the Call of Duty series, Crash is one of those maps that multiplayer map designers nailed correctly the first time. As new CoD titles were released, besides updated graphics Crash has always been a playground of death featuring low-light building interiors, alleyway lines perfect for sniper fire and the area centerpiece, the burning still fresh remains of a burning helicopter crash.
Due to overhead coverage blocking out multiple killstreak rewards like missile strikes or air gunner support, this map has always been friendly to campers who want to hole up like a high-strung battle rats and pick off the competition from afar. Perceptive players pick up the rooftop crows nest and window lurkers quickly, while the rest will huddle in the shadows and pray they last longer than a few seconds after respawn. Crash has been and will remain a series favorite as long as people are still willing to kill each other virtually by any means necessary.
5. The Longest Yard – Quake 3 Arena
As a child, I loved the heart pounding, youth-defining activity of ricocheting around in bouncy castles. In real life, you are offered few opportunities to erupt off the walls like a rubber springboard or drop an aggressive, meteoric heel on your friend’s head from above, making them cry and probably tattle on you. The Longest Yard takes all the fun of this halcyon pastime, with the addition of an over-the-top weapon assortment that causes bodies to burst like juicy watermelon fireworks, staining the hard cement ground. The only strategy in navigating this multi-tiered map is to use the teleporters and bounce pads to spring skyward and rain torrential gunfire from above. The hyperactivity of action on this map easily makes it the most intense thrill rides on the list, guaranteeing a rush of adrenaline to the system each and every time.
4. Lockout – Halo 2
This frosty, isolated winter station suspended over a fog of certain death offers intense close-quarters combat combined with lanes to snipe foes and blast them with rocket powered projectiles. Versatility in strategy is the key here, as well as learning the locations and respawn times for the game-breaking weapons to end online lives with. Reinforced, angular walkways encourage gamers to incorporate trigonometry into their frag grenade throwing strategy, because there is nothing better than scoring a kill off a well-timed bounce blast.
Additionally, the fighters pit in the middle is a constant point of contention, even if the game mode isn’t king of the hill. Hold it for as long as you can but guaranteed it won’t be for long. Of course, the alternative option of scurrying about the undercroft of this map always leads to heady aggressive exchanges between players. Lockout will always remain enshrined in my memory as one of the most chaotic multiplayer maps in the Halo series.
3. Facing Worlds – Unreal Tournament series
Facing Worlds takes the tried and true formula of two bases with a hazardous middle ground and launches it past the atmosphere into space on a monolithic orbital arena. I’ve never felt so small and vulnerable running into battle between a titanic, screen engulfing view of Earth and the Moon, but those swept up in the background are surefire sniper fodder.
The best view in the house is offered to those defending their respective tower, way up high amongst the stars picking off the offense below. However, each sniper’s nest is quite exposed to the other team’s tower so even defense must keep their wits about them. On the base level, prospective flag stealers engage in a constant uphill tug of war, hoping their surrounding comrades and sniper support can mow down enough of the enemy to break on through and capture the goods successfully. This map is a well-executed, finely tuned example of the two base formula done masterfully.
2. De_Dust2 – Counterstrike series
Following the aggressive otherworldly action taking place on Facing Worlds, De_Dust2 is a far more cerebral game, though don’t confuse that with slow paced because the sluggish get executed without mercy. Whereas quite a few recipients on this list fall under the classic two base map variety, Dust2 is creative and inspired, a dusty town that could be straight out of a Spaghetti Western shot in the Middle East.
This map has been a consistent component throughout the Counterstrike series, starting out as an Aladdin-esque bazaar level to the current interpretation, a juxtaposition between war-torn walls and buildings below beautiful high-towers and tile walls. Cover has always been limited, requiring players to get creative with their shot positions.
Counter Terrorists have the strategic advantage in initially guarding the bomb sites, but the thrill of being a Terrorist, successfully busting through the wall of gunfire and crushing the competition is damn near invincible. Map awareness is absolutely key here to victory, but you’ll enjoy the ride to getting familiarized immensely.
1. Blood Gulch – Halo series
This iconic battle canyon has remained a fixture throughout the entire Halo series, because the premise is simple and therefore timeless: Two forts in an enclosed area, some vehicles, some anti-vehicle armaments, go kill the other team. Optimally compatible with capture the flag, feeling the high-octane rush of powering across the map, dodging tanks, Ghosts and gunfire to drop off a teammate, swing ‘round the base to pick up them again and bring the goods home via charging Warthog.
I chose Blood Gulch as number one because of the unmatched fun and versatility of this map. Capture the flag is obviously the perfect fit to this map design, but regular Team Slayer is just as fun. The length of matches here progresses almost episodically, an initial offensive push, banding together to put a deadly tank out of commission or dealing with map edge huggers or spontaneous teleporting enemies. Hours fly by experimenting with how best to claim the victory here, which leads to no two games being the same. My heart bleeds for Blood Gulch now and forever.
The best part about comparing things near and dear to gamer’s hearts is that you can almost guarantee an incendiary reaction from those who vehemently disagree with the order or feel slighted about their favorite maps not making the cut! Well my friend, this one of the perks of my profession, boiling the blood of the greater gaming community. If you find me online, go ahead and let me know how you feel. I promise to take every opinion to heart and ugly cry all night upon realizing my foolishness in ordering things incorrectly. Until then, keep your clips loaded and your sights adjusted. See you on the battlefield.