Joystiq hands-on: Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack

Click to view the Mythic Map Pack gallery walkthrough

Halo 3 is about to be refreshed with a trio of new battlefields known as the Mythic Maps: Orbital, Assembly and Sandbox. While the maps aren't scheduled to release on the XBLM until spring -- sooner if you pick up Halo Wars CE -- we've played them, and we brought our camera. Check out what we thought after the break.

But first, don't miss your chance to win a Mythic Map Pack redemption code!
Sandbox is ... well, exactly like it sounds. While the map has the same look as Sandtrap, Sandbox has been designed to be completely customizable. Originally, creative Halo 3 fans were limited to Foundry's empty area for their Forge designs, but now Sandbox gives map makers a new setting and three new levels of elevation to play with.

click to enlarge

At a preview event, I got to play a few rounds of Oddball on Sandbox and the wide-open middle area and multiple vehicles made for a few brutal exchanges. Creative types are free to design the skybox level anyway they see fit. If the night sky isn't your idea of fun, a block in the center of the map can be removed to reveal the third Forge-able area, the underground. This box-shaped room is perfect for those Grifball tournaments you've been dying to hold, or to play a few rounds of golf with the game's new Tin Cup, Golf Ball and 7-Iron items. They're a fun bonus, and the 7-Iron (a re-skinned Gravity Hammer) is even a usable weapon of sorts. And, as you may have heard, Sandbox includes a new piece of scenery known as the Killball that leaves everything smoldering in it's path.

Assembly is a small map with two very distinctive sides. One area is dominated by high platforms and walkways while the other is a low, open space. First thing you'll notice, Assembly is hella pretty, from the detailed landscape to the surrounding architecture.

click to enlarge

Team King of the Hill was the mode of choice in my hands-on, a perfect fit for the small size of the map. This key choke point helped start rampages when controlled, as did equipping the map's lone Gravity Hammer. By the end of one round I'd knocked out so many enemies with the Gravity Hammer I thought I should have received a "Carpenter of the Year" award ... and yeah, I felt pretty cheap after it was said and done. There isn't much to Assembly, though. At only 10 Spartans in our matches, Assembly was filled to the top with that whole, "Spawn and die within 10 seconds" kind of gameplay.

Orbital may look like a large map, but it really isn't. A long, winding corridor separates each of the opposing bases, luckily, a pair of Mongooses are available for us lazy people. The corridors that separate each base are very tight, and filled with geometry that can be used as cover. The two points of the map meet in the center between a large gap, overlooked by a balcony where a rocket launcher sits.

click to enlarge

Although we primarily played King of the Hill on Orbital, most of us looked like we were competing for the best suicide rate: Everyone tried to jump the gap on Orbital, and few made it (see, sometimes journalists are noobs too!). At one point one member of the opposing team actually made the jump, which prompted his entire team to follow. Never have there been so many simultaneous suicides that didn't include the use of dosed fruit punch.

While all of the maps work well with the fast-paced gameplay, the creativity of some gamers makes Sandbox the potential standout of the bunch. Now the only question is, "Is the Halo Wars CE worth the price of admission?" Hopefully, we can make your decision a little easier with our review of Halo Wars and HD video preview of the Mythic maps.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.