Situated in a stretch of pre-war torn downtown New Mombasa, the Liwitoni MagLev station provides the central setting for this latest Halo 2 multiplayer map. Long gone are the citizens, who would regularly partake in lunch, shopping and socializing amongst the towering skyscrapers and scattered palms. The people have fled in fear of the coming Covenant forces but plenty of danger remains – the city's high-speed MagLev commuter train has been badly damaged and now hurtles erratically through the transit system.
In order to further immerse players into this world and tie it back to the single player campaign, Rob McLees created a real life transit map of New Mombasa based on the actual layout of both the seen and unseen environments from the campaign. Additionally, according to Mike and Chris you will occasionally hear some "really cool, well written and well acted dialog" within Terminal. Apparently they provided all the voice work and are "VERY proud of themselves."
So, how did this map really come about? What was the central idea that would ultimately spawn a badass cityscape complete with a runaway death train? I asked designer Chris Carney and artist Mike Zak to explain:
Well, Jaime’s initial two main high-level ideas were to make vehicle combat central to a 4v4 asymmetrical map, and to create a situation where the flag-return would often be contested. Mike played around with abstract layouts with this in mind. As this was taking shape, he was thinking about a fictional hook for the map, which eventually came from his Christmas vacation. He spent a bunch of time riding the Sky-train in Vancouver. And he LOVES mass-rapid transit. Because he is a hippy. After the initial layout was determined, Carney came onboard to really hone the experience, to rub it, to season it, to simmer it, until it became a glorious “reduction”, where the most important elements were the strongest flavors. Like ditching the banshee, and making a spawn hive for the defenders. Cause that’s cool. The hive."
For those of you who haven't actually been able to experience these elements, don't worry, we'll get into a bit more detail shortly. However, before diving into the details, I wanted to find out what the team felt was their biggest challenge in designing a map like Terminal. The answer isn't surprising:
"Balance. Always the biggest challenge in an asymmetrical vehicle-laden objective map. Especially an asymmetrical Wraith-laden objective map."
The image below is an overhead view of Terminal. As you can see, weapon and vehicle placement is deliberately planned to provide balance to both teams. While the defensive team does have the almighty Wraith, the offensive team gets a Gauss Hog and rocket launcher to even up the odds. At one point early on, the Banshee was a starting vehicle and was intended to be the counter measure to the Wraith in lieu of a rocket launcher. After numerous testing sessions the decision was made to nix the Banshee as it broke the intended play experience. As players became better and better with the Wraith and in turn their team became more dominant, the decision was made to add the rocket launcher back in. Balance was restored.
With a variety of unique elements going for it, Terminal seems to have a little something for everyone. What do Mike and Chris like the most about their map? Here's what they had to say:
And the track’s pylons…and fighting in the parking garage, or “parkade” as Mike refers to it. The dukes of hazard jump over the tracks. Hit that. Bam."
I asked Shishka to share his thoughts on the same subject. Here's what he enjoys the most about Terminal:
"The train, no doubt. There's never really been anything like it on a Halo map before. It's this instant death that, unlike the pitfalls in maps like Lockout, you can't necessarily see coming. It gives crossing parts of the map this tense "Russian roulette" sort of feel to it that makes the map fun to goof around in even when you're by yourself."
Ze Train! Ze Train!
Without a doubt, the key defining element of Terminal is the runaway MagLev commuter train that streaks through the map at regular intervals. More than just a visual gimmick, the "super train" has real impact on gameplay. Somehow, it always seems to come at just the
moment. The "Dukes of Hazard" jump that Mike and Chris refer to is a stretch of road that leads from the offensive base, around the perimeter of the map, across the tracks and to the courtyard in front of the defensive base. It's a fairly straight shot and generally the most direct route to take the Warthog. The problem is that eventually you have to cross those tracks, and if you're not careful, you will have an unfortunate meeting with said train. Such moments are frequent and create some of our fondest memories on this map. Here, Chris and Mike share their most memorable Terminal moments:
"The screams of flag-carriers and warthog drivers as they were “steamcleaned” by….the SUPERTRAIN!"
It really is an amazing moment that first time that you and your teammates are fully loaded into your Hog, charging towards the flag in a well coordinated effort, only to have the train come out of nowhere and annihilate everyone. For even more train action, try playing a game of King of the Hill where the zone spans both tracks in the center of the station. Ouch.
One of Shishka's most memorable Terminal moments also involves the train of death:
"Way, way earlier in Terminal's development, probably the first day I had ever seen terminal, I had jumped in a hog and flew over what I call the "Leap of Faith," the area where the road comes to a dead end but the dirt path makes for a makeshift ramp from which you can fly over the tracks. People observing the playtest murmured that I was lucky and let it slide. I came to the bottom of the terminal just as the flagman ran outside, picked him up, and headed back for the jump. The jump is really meant for one way driving, though, so nobody thought I'd make it. Instead of flying over the ramp itself, though, I climbed the hog across the tracks, up and over the ramp, and missed being hit by the train by merely a foot or so in the process. I guess I'm just a lucky jerk, but the flag was captured that round."
Vehicle combat is front and center as the defensive team demands respect with a Wraith patrolling their courtyard. Neither team can ignore the impact this plasma spewing behemoth has in any gametype. Luckily there are counter measures in the way of a Warthog and a Rocket Launcher. And, if the Wraith gets bold and strays too far from the courtyard, the various pillars and structures can really limit maneuverability and create boarding opportunities. No matter how you look at it, the various vehicles on this map will play a big role in the outcome of a game, just as the designers intended.
In addition to the Wraith, there are two Ghosts and a Gauss Warthog that appear as default starting vehicles. The Ghosts work great for zipping in and out of garages and the various columns supporting the tracks. From my personal experiences, the Warthog is often sacrificed in exchange for taking down the Wraith.
Weapons & Power-Ups
As with any maps, knowing where to find the right weapons and using them in the right way is often the key to victory. Terminal is no different as each team has access to a few key weapons from the start of the game. Much like Zanzibar, the game plays out with players taking up roles and grabbing these "power" weapons at the start of the game.
The Rocket Launcher can be found just to the right of the offensive team base, inside a toll booth. You'll definitely want someone on your team to grab this before you move up to engage the Wraith. The rocket is also very handy for taking out the turret positioned in front of the defense base. Another important starting weapon is the Sniper Rifle, which is also positioned closer to the offense than the defense. However, if you don't move quickly, it is possible a defender can sneak in and steal it. Don't let that happen.
The Energy Sword can be found atop the tracks just outside the offensive garage. There are a number of ways to get up there but of course you must always be aware of where the train is. The Sword itself is very handy once you move to the confined areas inside the station or the parking garage. Just up the tracks from the sword lies an Overshield. If you can successfully grab it without being run over, it will be worth the effort. Lastly, a Shotgun can be found in the loading dock next to the train station (not pictured). Naturally the Shottie is a great close-quarters defensive weapon that will serve your team well.
At its heart, Terminal is designed for 1 Flag CTF or single bomb Assault variants – much in the same way Zanzibar was. These games do play fantastic but of course any of the available gametypes will work. While Terminal is an asymmetrical map, it actually holds up a bit better in multi-flag games than Zanzibar does. The main station base (left) is definitely easier to defend but the other starting base (right) is more formidable than trying to hold a bare strip of sand on an open beach.
Some of my best Terminal moments have been during games of multi-team Team Slayer. We've had quite a few evenings spent playing 4v4v4v4 TS on Terminal and it never seems to disappoint. Sniper gametypes also work great due to the huge variety of cover, nooks and crannies to hide in and snipe from. As mentioned above, King of the Hill often turns into a crazy game of "dodge the train" while trying to earn a few seconds between splats.
Tips & Tricks
Before you dive into your first game on Terminal, here are a few general tips and suggestions to give you a slight advantage over the rookies you'll be facing. Chris and Mike had this advice to share:
Control of the Wraith determines a good deal in objective games, but there are also several counter measures…so most strategies revolve around dealing with it.
Capture the rocket launcher as early as possible. It’s in the ticket kiosk in the parkade.
Sniper dominance…there are several site lines…but also protected routes…use them.
Returning the flag via the tracks is the shortest route, but also the most dangerous. If you take it coast to coast like that, you’re super.
In Team Slayer, usually the team that owns the plaza, wins. Especially if they also own the vehicles. There are too many boarding opportunities in front of the parkade.
As was noted above, controlling and using the key weapons will go a long way towards achieving victory for your team. In objective games, good ole fashioned team work and coordination are a must as getting into and out of the station can be nearly impossible once the defenders have entrenched themselves. Luckily, there are multiple ways inside, and the best approach is usually to exploit multiple avenues simultaneously. Of course, if that Wraith is still lurking out in the courtyard, it will be a short lived adventure.
Defenders – when all else fails, it's perfectly legitimate to use the Wraith and open fire on the insides of your base. You may take a teammate down in the process but every offensive player caught inside the base is likely to perish.
The train can also be used strategically as a means of providing cover. Time your movements to coordinate with passing trains and put a huge obstacle between yourself and an opponent's sniper rifle. There have been many times when I was about to fire the finishing shot on an adversary only to have the train come through and block my bullet, allowing them to escape. Damn that pesky train.
Shishka has played his fair share of games on Terminal as well and passed along this advice:
"For defensive teams, controlling the Wraith is *imperative*. The Wraith helps you suppress the other team from entering the most exposed part of the terminal, and forces them to take the points of entry that are easiest to defend. Offensive teams will want to consider alternative paths for the Guass Hog besides simply jumping the leap of faith and facing the Wraith head on. A warthog parked beneath the passenger loading/unloading area makes for a good escape vehicle if you can manage a quick grab and run with the flag, for example. Also, be sure to grab the rocket launcher in the parking lot."
The train will be speeding your way in just a few weeks – July 5 th to be exact. Terminal and all the other new multiplayer maps will be available via the Multiplayer Map Pack in retail stores or via a premium download on Xbox Live.
Next week on Bungie.net we'll be uncovering the mysteries of Relic, a battle-scared island amidst the blue seas of Delta Halo. See you then.
To see more screenshots from the upcoming maps, check out the Halo 2