So here we are, not even 5 months after the release of Gears of War 2, Epic have released a second map pack. This map pack, titled Snowblind, comprises of four new maps, all covered in lovely, crisp white snow. Now all we have to do is play around with yellow snowballs…..or not. Anyway, moving on, lets take a closer look at these maps.
This map is (unsurprisingly) a snow covered courtyard, with a symmetrical layout. Teams start at either end side, and then have the choice of either heading down to the courtyard floor, or up some steps to a raised area. Heading up high will give you access to the mortar/sniper rifle, while heading down below gives you the opportunity to grab the torque bow/boomer. There is a clever wall dividing the lower section of the courtyard, meaning that rather than there just being one huge battle flowing over the entirety of the courtyard, there are often a couple of fights taking place either side of the wall. Underneath the raised area of the courtyard with the mortar/sniper spawn there is a rather tasty little tunnel, with grenades nestled inside, which is a really nice place to hold up. There is no shortage of cover anywhere on this map, with loads of different objects for you to cower behind all over the place. This can result in some tense and tactical fights as you and your opponent move from cover to cover taking potshots at each other in between. However you go about fighting your opponent on this map, there will never be a dull moment due to the open nature of the courtyard.
Monster Tips – The tunnel with the grenades inside can be a great place to hold up if you are outnumbered, or even in Horde mode. Make sure you use the grenades to tag the walls in strategic locations, and use the surrounding cover to your advantage. Best of all, in this tunnel you are completely safe from the mortar!
Monster Map Score – 87%
Anyone who has played the original Gears of War should be immediately familiar with this map, although it now has a shiny layer of snow coating it. Again this is a relatively symmetrical map, with both teams having a set of grenades near their spawn point, as well as sniper rifle/torque bow spawning inside the back of a truck at both ends of the map. The key focus of this map is the warehouse along the side of the map, within which is housed the mortar/hammer of dawn. Getting hold of this weapon is no mean feat however, as there are 3 different entrances to the warehouse; one at either end, and one in the middle of the map. On top of this the cargo doors in the walls of the warehouse are not completely closed, leaving you with a nice gap to shoot in or out of. If you choose to avoid the warehouse you can head along the other side of the map and up onto the helipad, complete with a lovely helicopter for cover. Anyone who has ever played this map in the original GoW will no doubt remember that this map provides a great deal of different tactical options, and trying to keep on top of the enemy can prove a real challenge. This means that the map really lends itself to the wingman, execution and warzone gametypes, as you are never really sure where your enemy could come from.
Monster Tip – Don’t underestimate the flanking opportunities that can arise by taking the route across the helipad. Often most of the players will head towards the warehouse, leaving you with a great opportunity to flank round and come up behind them.
Monster Map Score – 89%
This map is based around a massive symmetrical junk-processing plant full of abandoned offices and equipment. Along one side of the map is a raised walkway, along which are a few abandoned offices which can be used for cover. At the middle point of this walkway lies the scorcher flamethrower. Opposite this is a central office building which sits raised above the ground floor, and is accessible by some ramps. Underneath this office are the grenades, and on a small walkway around the office lies the grinder/boomer. As you can imagine, with the grinder/boomer in such close proximity to each other, there is usually a constant fight going on for this central area, which makes for some truly intense games. Further to this, some beautifully placed objectives (such as the capture point for submission games) help make this map truly stand out. A team that can strategise well on the fly can often be more important than your actual skills at the game, which is something few map designs can achieve.
Monster Tips – Holding the central point can be a huge advantage maker in most game types. Stick together as a team and help cover one another. Once you have control of this area, be sure to guard it well, and take full advantage of the grinder/boomer to pick off people at a distance.
Monster Map Score – 93%
The final map in the pack is based around a collection of snowbound tunnels. This map is essentially split into an inner and outer area in terms of movement. Once you go into the tunnels at either end, the only way out is at the other end, or by opening the door in the centre. You can however see out of the tunnels into the outside area, so you can pick off people from a distance, as they cannot get up close and personal without going to the entrance of the tunnel at either end of the map. Similarly, anyone on the outside can also shoot into the tunnel. The outside area consists of loads of cover in the form of broken down cars. There is also a large bridge leading up to a dead end at the top. This spot, whilst fairly exposed, gives you a nice advantage due to the distance anyone must travel up the bridge in order to reach you. Weapon placements also give this are a boost in the form of the mortar. Other weapons on the map include grenades at either end of the tunnels, a flamethrower in the centre of the tunnels by the door, and the sniper rifle/torque bow at the base of the bridge. This map is overwhelmed with cover, making it more suited to deathmatch style games rather than objective based, due to it being awkward to move to a certain point in a hurry. Unfortunately I feel that the sheer amount of cover hurts the overall feel of this map, therefore I found it the weakest of the new maps.
Monster Tips – Taking your whole team sweeping through the close quarters of the tunnels can really cause some damage. First of all in a close environment it is extremely difficult to win a fight against multiple players, and secondly it means that the mortar is rendered useless, as obviously you can’t be hit by it in the tunnels.
Monster Map Score – 70%
So, four maps, with a couple of great designs. If like me you still thoroughly enjoy taking your lancer online and introducing the chainsaw bayonet to someone’s face, there really isn’t much reason not to pick up these maps. Sure, there may already be a good selection of maps, but each of these maps brings something new to the table, and ends up feeling like something completely fresh and new. On top of that the new maps look fantastic. I know some people are complaining that Epic are making us pay for new maps all time, but when the maps are this nicely designed, why should we not pay them for their effort?