Sometimes the arenas in which your multiplayer battles are fought are as memorable as the games themselves. The mere mention of certain titles first reminds me not of the single player campaign or arsenal of guns but my favourite multiplayer map, as that’s where I tended to spend most of my time. Dying, repeatedly.
Today we’ll be taking a short trip down memory lane and remembering some of the finest arenas in first person shooter history. Narrowing this list down to six was tough, but the good news is you can still get a game on every one of them – for the time being at least.
Don’t fret – you can reminisce, tell me what I missed and just how displeased you are in the comments at the end of the article.
I could have included any number of CS maps here, with de_dust2, cs_italy and de_aztec all being solid and fondly remembered maps. Instead I went for vanilla de_dust, purely on the basis that nothing says Counter-Strike quite like a vicious gun-fight in the underpass. The map has been featured in two games so far (three if you include Condition Zero) and is set to appear in the upcoming re-imagining of the franchise, CS: Global Offensive.
For CS: GO (as it is already being abbreviated) Valve have widened the underpass and updated the visual style, though the map will still be instantly recognisable to veterans of the series. The new game comes out in August for PC, Mac OS X, PS3 and Xbox 360 and features new maps, game modes and the biggest shake-up to game dynamics so far – a molotov cocktail.
CTF-Face aka “Facing Worlds” (Unreal Tournament)
Back in November 1999 developers Epic Games and Digital Extremes delivered one of the finest multiplayer experiences ever seen to apprehensive PC gamers. The original Unreal Tournament remains to this day an incredibly playable, addictive and accessible first person shooter, and while there are countless series-defining maps (Deck16, Phobos and Morpheus to name but a few), Facing Worlds was (and still is) the perfect capture the flag experience.
The map has been re-imagined and used multiple times in just about every release since the original UT, but to this day nothing quite compares to the original. Little else beats the feeling of teleporting to the roof, grabbing a sniper rifle and demolishing the flag carrier’s face before watching the rest of his body fly off into the depths of space.
Wake Island (Battlefield)
Battlefield 1942 used the real-world location of Wake Island on which to stage its flagship multiplayer experience, and there are few other arenas in the series that match it. The map has made it into several editions of the game in some form or another, with Battlefield 1943 providing a true modern remake for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.
There are still Battlefield 1942 servers running for those of you who want to relive the original, or for those of you with Battlefield 3, the Back To Karkand downloadable content adds all the eye candy and destructive power of the Frostbite 2.0 engine. Highlights include the ability to snipe someone on the complete other side of the map and destroy flimsy bridges with well-placed charges as your foes drive over them.
2fort (Team Fortress)
The original Team Fortress was a mod built on the Quake engine, with Team Fortress Classic being the evolution of that mod using the Half-Life engine. 2fort was an iconic map that introduced many to the frantic, class-based gameplay of the Team Fortress series and featured two opposing bases separated by a body of water and a single bridge.
The map has undergone quite a transformation since the original (pictured), though it has and always will be somewhat of a haven for snipers. 2fort was the first CTF map included in Team Fortress 2 which is now free to play. There really is no excuse not to download Steam and try it for yourself!
Valhalla (Halo 3)
The spiritual successor to the original Blood Gulch map from Halo: Combat Evolved, Valhalla was – for me – the most fun that could be had with a Battle Rifle and a Warthog. Higher Ground, Snowbound and Narrows all stick in my mind, but the Facing Worlds design, abundance of vehicles and plenty of well placed weapons made this one a true all-rounder.
If there’s one map I would love to see make a return in the upcoming Halo 4 release it’s this one. Dodging Banshee fire in a Warthog while screaming down a river while your friend dashes into the base to steal the enemy’s flag? Yes please.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a custom map, and for me no custom map flourished quite as much as fy_iceworld for Counter-Strike. The map was a simple square arena with the two teams spawning at opposite ends and there was no need to buy guns as they were all laid out in front of you when you spawned.
This led to frantic, minute-long deathmatch scrambles as opposed to the usual tactics and careful gunplay synonymous with CS and its successors. In short, it was the perfect way to finish off an evening of bomb defusing and botched hostage rescues and it spawned a number of sequels and parodies.
I know, I know – I missed your favourite map, right? Vent your spleen below! The games featured here are all highly celebrated franchises, all have benefitted from dedicated communities, some still have a vibrant modding scene and all are home to arguably some of the finest maps ever rendered. Here’s hoping we see them honoured and rejuvenated in next generation’s shooters too.