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Now that the veneer of freshness is drying off of our copies of Modern Warfare 2, we can fully devote ourselves to complaining about the lack of dedicated servers, and just how much the maps suck because our piss poor ranking certainly isn’t due to a lack of practice and the statistical disadvantage of playing against millions of people, no! Which got us thinking: What multiplayer maps reign over all others?
Above: Sports nerds have been romanticizing these for years
Of all the praise heaped upon weapons, classes and XP, we couldn’t help but notice that not a lot of love goes out to the environments in which we wage warfare. The Map itself is truly the unsung hero of the multiplayer experience. Every ounce of thought that goes into balance, strategy and player longevity is sprinkled throughout every inch of ground our avatars walk, with little to no fanfare.
Harken all ye polygonal sandboxes: Your time is NOW! GamesRadar is polling our panel of experts – and yes, having a website makes us experts – to celebrate our favorite multiplayer maps across multiple platforms!
At one point, Bomberman was synonymous with multiplayer. The franchise’s hold has lessened over time, but for several years thousands of closeted pyromaniacs vented their frustrations through the game’s utilitarian, grid-based versus maps. We were going to choose the standard Bomberman map as the best, as it’s repeated in almost every single game in the series, but the level that conjured the most heart-pounding moments was Power Zone from the SNES Super Bomberman.
Above: Goes from zero to SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT in four seconds
Power Zone begins with everyone’s blast radius cranked to maximum, so each and every explosion screams across the map in all four directions. Matches can last mere seconds, or they can stretch into frenzied minute-long ballets of flaming death. There are no blocks to destroy, no power-ups to fight over, just you and your mile-long cones of raging heat. Few other multiplayer maps, let alone other Bomberman maps can create the same sense of fleeting destruction. Well, except maybe Modern Warfare 2’s Rust map.
Multiplayer is hard. To succeed in the slightest degree, you have to memorize every corner of every map. You have to learn every nuance of every weapon. You must possess both lightning quick reflexes and deep reserves of meditative patience. You must stalk through the map cautiously, thinking at least one step ahead of your prey at all times.
Or you could just play on Rust and actually have fun. This playground-sized map requires absolutely no strategy – within seconds of spawning, you’ll usually find at least five guys running around frantically in front of you. Just shoot. Blindly melee. Randomly throw a grenade. You’re bound to kill someone. And if you die instantly instead? No worries. Within a few more seconds, you’ll have spawned ten feet away and find at least five more headless chickens for potential slaughter.
Above: Just slide
Is Rust mindless and pointless? Sure. Is racking up points here too cheap and too easy? Obviously. Do I care? Hell no. Life is short, and games are long. I don’t have the time – or the stress management skills – to memorize every map, learn every weapon and die a billion times while attempting to do so. Rust is instant gratification. Rust is therapeutic. Rust is the best map in Modern Warfare 2. (And yeah, Shipment is the best map in Modern Warfare 1. Don’t deny!)
Now, everything on the PSX has aged pretty poorly from a visual perspective, so for the purposes of this feature, we’re setting The WayBack Machine for the Fall of 1995. The Sega CD and 3DO were going nowhere, and two new consoles were trailblazing the shape of things to come: Polygons! Both the Saturn and PSX were forging new 3D territory, the likes of which console gamers had never really experienced before.
Above: Breathtaking, isn’t it?
Initial offerings from both Sega and Sony showed that they could pull off prettier versions of Mortal Kombat, and ugly versions of Tekken, but the first Twisted Metal game was a bold new genre. Mario Kart had never produced multiplayer based vehicular-combat this nasty, this chaotic. And the Paris level is part of the reason why. Never mind that the series’ high note somehow gave cars Street Fighter-esque combos and only allowed two player controlled combatants (bots filled in the rest), the Franco-polygonal culverts and streets provided getaway hiding spots, speed-based-strategies and invaluable weapon drops scattered throughout.
Above: This pic from Twisted Metal: Head-on recreates the Parisian catastrophe and is far easier on the eyes
But you know why Paris stands out: The ability to blow the shit out of one of the world’s most beloved national monuments solely to open up the map to a new altitude of play. A couple of Power Missiles to the legs of the Eiffel Tower created a ramp up to the metropolitan rooftops, where even a full-scale ice cream truck could get the drop on an enemy like f***ing Batman!
Above: With access points from the back door (left), the vehicle bay (top) and stairwell (center), fights in the bottom floor get intense
Typically, when thinking of first-person shooter multiplayer maps, one thinks of specific enclosed spaces. Whether these enclosures are delineated by obvious walls, or more discrete piles of junk or broken down cars, standard FPS maps only provide so much freedom. In PlanetSide, entire mile-wide continents serve as the backdrop. On these continents, several different types of facilities exist, forming areas closer to the scale of traditional FPS maps.
Above: Image courtesy of PlanetSide Universe
The best of these is the Technology Plant, arguably the best base for an empire (PlanetSide's teams) to own, because it gives access to the more powerful vehicles. More importantly, it's the most fun base to attack and defend. Unlike most FPS maps, all facilities in PlanetSide are surrounded by huge open areas of mountains and forests, creating an Omaha Beach-style siege even before the standard close-quarters FPS action takes over.
Above: Be careful when entering the courtyard gates - if you see this, run!
Defenders of a Tech plant must cover a vault-like front door, a narrow back door, a huge vehicle bay entrance with its sloped entry ramp, and the roof doors where hotdroppers can appear out of nowhere as they bail from aircraft. With up to 399 players swarming the doors, stairwell, basement, and walltops, the Tech Plant always proves to be a boiler for massive action. Once you’ve battled literally hundreds of opponents on foot and in tanks, buggies and aircraft around the catwalks of a Technology Plant, going back to the puny, limited 16-player maps of most FPS games feels pathetic.
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