A look at the battlefields that have stuck in our minds over the years
Whether it’s been local, online or both, multiplayer gaming has gripped the games industry over the past decade and a half, and many gamers have seen their multiplayer experiences strengthen their love of the medium. The Doublejump Staff is no exception to the rule, and we’ve sat down this month to have a chat about the single maps and experiences that stick out in our mind as being among the best of the best. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this little trip down memory lane!
Abir: Battlefield 4‘s Guilin Peaks and Pearl Market
While I cut my teeth playing hours and hours of Assault-only servers in Counter-Strike: Source, I never felt as happy playing a multiplayer game than when I fought in either Guilin Peaks or Pearl Market. Both of these fantastic maps were introduced in Battlefield 4’s China Rising expansion and both represent some of the best examples of multi-level combat zones in shooter history.
Guilin Peaks sees both opposing teams face off either on the lower rice fields, amongst the buildings and caves within its central area, or in the air in helicopters. Some of the best firefights that I’ve ever had involved my squad rolling up on a control point and picking off enemies one by one by using the shrubbery as cover. I loved equipping my trusty M416 equipped with an infrared scope to see enemies through smoke, bushes, and inside caves. You could enjoy even more shenanigans if you loaded a jeep full of C4 and sent it careening into an area full of enemies, or mowing down the opposing team in a helicopter with an expert pilot. Oh, the memories…
Speaking of which, Pearl Market traded the previous map’s lush rice fields for a suburban marketplace complete with stalls, vans, and neighbouring apartment buildings. In fact, I often found myself scraping through a gunfight on the ground level before sprinting right into another one among the rooftops and vice versa. Every match had a defined ebb and flow as the spawns changed according to the order in which each flag was captured, so you always knew that a firefight was around the corner. The AEK-971 was my weapon of choice due to its high, but manageable, rate of fire and vertical recoil pattern.
Cav: Battlefield Bad Company 2‘s Arica Harbor
Battlefield’s Bad Company offshoot may have been a thinly-veiled experiment to judge how receptive console gamers would be to the previously PC-only franchise, but the sequel was a red letter day in console-based online multiplayer. Though many correctly identify the game’s since-unrivalled destruction (arguably the Frostbite engine’s finest moment), BC2 was also a high water mark for DICE’s level design, with some of the franchise’s best and most competitive maps.
At the peak of Bad Company 2’s powers sits Arica Harbour. Following a single road as it winds through a port and two connected towns, it masterfully expanded and contracted players’ options. Coming out of the rabbit-warren complexity of its first residential area into the brutal choke point of the bridge required players to be adaptable and persistent, willing to brute-force their way through a momentum-killing meat grinder. Get through to the other side, though, and the stealth-friendly shipping container maze across the river would provide valuable breathing room to sneak past hotspots, and coordinate a final push on the office complex at road’s end. This diversity in environments and linear flow made it the definitive Rush mode map: ask any BC2 veteran about the MCOM station on that bridge, and witness proof that the human face can adopt a nostalgic glow and a PTSD-driven twitch simultaneously.
What a game, what a map, and now and forever… Fuck snipers.
Frank: The whole of Fallout 76
I love Fallout. Even in its goofiest moments, it’s always been close to my heart as a prime example of what a post-apocalyptic setting can offer. When I think of Fallout, however, I think of it as a singular experience, something to play alone so as to drive home the feeling of a harsh, isolated wasteland. I also don’t want my friends or some online person I don’t even know, jabbering in my ear while I read through and listen to its stories at my own pace. It might be unsurprising, then, that I’ve little love for Bethesda and almost everything it has done with Fallout since it took ownership of the property. From stripping back the focus on narrative, to forcing in poorly implemented action mechanics, the studio never ceases to find a way to gall me with its decisions. Understand that I am an angry, bitter man, so when I say that I love Fallout 76, it’s not for the reasons that you might expect.
Bethesda tanked its ill-deserved reputation as an industry darling with a single game. Fallout 76 removed everything that made Fallout great — namely NPCs, compelling plot beats, and any semblance of a competent, well-written story — and left only the awful, awful gameplay that couldn’t be hidden behind the writing anymore. It was made worse by an overall design that was driven entirely by trying to force players into purchasing microtransactions. Because that’s obviously what Fallout had been missing all this time. Let us also not forget the bugs, for which Bethesda is infamous. Fallout 76 took bugs to all-new, hilarious heights of horrendousness simply because they had such a significant impact on the only experience. Of course, none of this was helped by the fact that Bethesda couldn’t stop screwing up as a company at the same time.
Given how much I’ve piled it on, you’re well within your rights to wonder why on Earth I like this hot mess of a game, and the answer’s simple: I love it because the audience didn’t allow Bethesda to screw up without caring about the impact it had anymore. No more memes, no more Todd Howard coming out on stage with cheeky jokes about his company’s inability to fix bugs. Just one PR gaffe after another, and desperate attempts to fix what shouldn’t have been broken in the first place. Maybe now Bethesda will try to play nice with Obsidian again, and salvage some of thi–oh wait. Thanks, Bethesda – I love to hate Fallout 76.
George: Mario Kart Wii‘s Rainbow Road
I’m going to try and be real with everyone here: when I was finally allowed to get behind the wheel of a car at the tender age of 16 only to mind-numbingly drive around in a car park for an hour I was… disappointed, to say the least. After I’d seen so many crazy courses hype driving up to be a chaotic mess with lightning striking cars, banana peels comically slipping drivers and the dreaded blue shell to watch out for, finding out that it was all just a fantasy was just upsetting.
Okay, maybe I am a bit too disillusioned with reality, but the fact remains that there was nothing more fun (read next level insane) to a 7-year old then the entirety of Mario Kart Wii. If there was a single course that encapsulates this perfectly, though, it’s Rainbow Road, with Baby Park coming in a close second. Psychedelic visuals, a decent soundtrack and the best arrangement of boosting opportunities available made this stage a must-play whenever friends were in the area – mainly because winning a race on Rainbow Road gave you that “I’m better than everyone” feeling that kids lived for as they watched everyone else fall back to earth in 480p because there wasn’t a rail to save them. Winning races on Rainbow Road and finally understanding that jerking the steering wheel side-to-side is not a good strategy (I’m looking at you, Luke) is what separated the children from the adults (or… slightly more mature and skilful children).
Surprisingly, this course still holds up. Last year, some friends and I got together to have some drinks and enjoy the 8-player chaos of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, only to find ourselves swapping the Switch for a Wii and passionately playing Mario Kart while the Switch version sat on the shelf, collecting dust. Of course, alcohol consumption did impair our skills (Mario does not approve of drinking and driving, kids), but the sheer chaotic fun – and intense light show – had us laughing well into the night, with many of us proclaiming to be the greatest driver since Michael Schumacher because we managed to skew the RNG ever-so-slightly with a perfectly positioned fake item box.
A decade on, Rainbow Road has seen many new iterations but these later versions look more like a generic space track than the Rainbow Road we all loved. Mario Kart 7 shamefully removes parts of the titular rainbow road, replacing them with sections where you drive on the moon, and Mario Kart 8 is more disappointing still, turning the course into a space station… complete with guard rails. Disgusting. Regardless of how the course evolves over time, there will never be a better version of Rainbow Road than Mario Kart Wii’s.
Harry: Halo 3 and Reach‘s Forge
Everyone has a few games they played with friends or family as kids, whether it’s Super Smash Bros., the Lego games, or a split-screen shooter. I have numerous fond memories with so many different games from when I was younger, but none of them stick out to me more than my time with Halo 3 and Reach. Despite spending unholy amounts of time in Reach’s Firefight and 3’s multiplayer modes, my friends and I always found ourselves being drawn back to the Forge for one reason or another.
It’s hard to nail down why the Forge was so much fun, because we always seemed to be doing different things each time we jumped into it. I recall spending ridiculous amounts of time in Halo 3 just messing around with vehicles, weapons, and enemies to create new situations you couldn’t find in typical multiplayer matches. In retrospect, it doesn’t sound all too riveting, but I distinctly remember my 10-year old self being absolutely enthralled with it at the time, and nothing could pull me off it. There was something so riveting about booting up Forge mode and running around with Energy Swords and Gravity Hammers as we proceeded to beat the ever-living hell out of each other. We didn’t think it could get much better than that, but we quickly learned otherwise after diving into Halo Reach. Reach opened up a whole new bevy of customization options which added to the longevity of its Forge mode, not to mention the vast array of community shared stages that you could download and jump into at anytime.It created a stark feeling of community, and spawned so many beloved YouTube channels and web series.
With other creative building games like Dragon Quest Builders, Mario Maker, Minecraft and Terraria on the rise again, it’s easy to let the other quality stuff fall to the wayside, even if it’s not an entire game. The Forge modes found in Halo Reach and Halo 3 inspired creativity within me and my friends despite not being very creative people, and we can’t wait to dive back in when the Master Chief Collection comes to Steam.
Jake: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s Rust
Every Call of Duty game to date has a couple of maps that everyone loves, and they fall into two categories: ones where everyone fights to get to the same spot(s) and spends the rest of the game watching the entire enemy team try to get them out of there (see: Terminal, Highrise); and the proving grounds, where all manner of strategy flies out the window and only the best of players will come away with a good score (see: Shipment, Rust, Dome, Firing Range). Rust is unique among the fan-favourite Call of Duty maps because it’s both.
Of course, Rust was in the right place at the right time – Modern Warfare 2 was the peak of teenage society’s obsession with being good at Call of Duty, and Rust was the typical tiny map that everyone would use to settle their scores – but if you remove the “1v1 me, bro” aspect from consideration it’s still a really, really good map. Whether it was an objective-based game or a straight-up deathmatch, teams would spend the majority of the game trying to get to the top of the refinery, at which point their enemies had nowhere to run or hide from their rain of bullets, explosives and killstreaks (especially when you consider that the lucky winner’s teammates are still on the ground, flushing you out of any hidey-holes you managed to find). Getting situated up there was either an intricate game of chess involving your entire team or sheer dumb luck, but it was also very difficult given how small the map is and how exposed the only paths up there were… It was also a free win, and that’s why everyone worth their Doritos and Cheap, Shitty Energy Drink had a custom class devoted to doing just that.
At the end of the day, whether you were pushing for a Tactical Nuke, trying to get a nice boost to your kill/death ratio (after spending two hours finding “the right lobby”), going for some sick montage clips, trying to prove that you were better than someone you’d never meet or just warming up before your session began, Rust was the place to be after school. Thanks, Infinity Ward, for keeping a whole generation of teenagers off the streets!
John: Grand Theft Auto IV‘s Liberty City
I have a lot of love for Grand Theft Auto IV and Liberty City is a big part of that, standing above the rest of Rockstar’s worlds in my eyes. It has that last-gen colour palette that’s so drowned out and colourless it’s almost monochrome; its lighting is dreary and almost sickly, as if the entire city was caked in grime and smog; the game’s original music is tense and almost eerie, a fusion of subdued hip-hop beats and orchestral score that really captures the dimly lit, low-fi grunge of GTAIV’s faux-New York City; and then there’s the radio stations which, despite recently being gutted due to lapsed licenses, remain my favourite of any open-world.
The city doesn’t change much in multiplayer (not like that other one), but it’s where the game’s innate absurdity is laid bare. You control like a marionette on Ambien, cars almost float off the road with enough speed, you can be ragdolled and paralysed from a nudge, and everything about the gameplay is at least mildly clumsy (if not extremely clumsy). It’s GTA x QWOP, and adding friends just dials up the funny.
The co-op missions might get the most out of this nonsense, though years later I only really remember playing Hangman’s NOOSE. Storming a police-packed airport to pick up an arriving mob boss and taxi them to somewhere else in the city, it’s a manic race against hordes of armoured police and a Mad Max battle against the game itself just to keep your tyres on the road. One fuck-up and you’re trapped under the weight of a six-star wanted level, struggling to even pull yourself upright.
God I loved GTA IV.
Lucas: Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Blood Gulch
Whenever you’re talking about the games of yesteryear (or yester-generation), there’s always going to be that one person who brings up Halo: Combat Evolved, and then goes on to praise that game’s bloodiest, most dangerous map, Blood Gulch. Despite its apparently-simple two-base layout, Halo fans everywhere remember the Gulch as one of the best maps to play. You had desert sand and some foliage surrounding the map, with cliffs and rocks to help you find new places to hide from sneaky snipers or ramming vehicles, although none of that mattered when someone started using the tank or Wraith; those badasses rendered any and all cover devastatingly pointless and turned the tide of each match very, very quickly.
The vehicles’ game-changing capability meant that each side fought hard to get their hands on it – a task made all the more difficult by the fact that it was outside, lacked any real cover, and was exposed from above, below and every other conceivable angle. I still have fond memories of a three-on-three match where my brother was sniping from the cliffs, my step-brother escorted me in a Warthog and I blasted the enemy team’s tank into oblivion… Right before my internet connection fell out and I was kicked from the game. Despite that unfortunate ending, there wasn’t a better feeling to be had than destroying an opposition that thought it had an easy win.
When all is said and done, there’s little wonder why Blood Gulch is considered one of the Halo series’ – if not the multiplayer shooter genre’s – best maps, or why it’s been recreated in some form or another in literally every Halo title since. It was just that good.
Luke: Super Smash Bros. Brawl‘s Spear Pillar
Spear Pillar is one of the earliest multiplayer maps that I can remember playing constantly with my twin brother. We weren’t very experienced gamers when Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out, especially when it came to fighting games, but we were pretty massive Pokémon fans, so when we saw Lucario and Pikachu battling it out in full 3D – as opposed to the 2D sprites we were used to – we simply couldn’t resist having Brawl serve as the backdrop for the massive rivalry that was developing between us.
Even without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, I can safely say that Spear Pillar was one of the best stages you could play on Brawl, particularly if you were just looking to play for fun and not do anything too competitive. The stage hazards, Dialga and Palkia, were incredibly disruptive, but they made the whole stage unpredictable – not to mention incredibly satisfying when you managed to land a KO while the controls were reversed. The stage has a really pleasing aesthetic, too, accurately representing the cinematic appeal that the location had in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (although it does look quite dated nowadays), but its best feature was its soundtrack: Cynthia’s Champion battle theme from Diamond and Pearl is my favourite piece of music in any video game, and being able to Smash with it in the background, in all its dramatic glory, was an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Matt: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s Shipment
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit at a very specific time for me – a time where I knew that I loved video games, but was still exploring the ins and outs of various genres to see where I landed. As far as shooters were concerned, this was it. I had just received my PlayStation 3 as a gift and Modern Warfare was the hot topic. To put it simply: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was my new GoldenEye, and Shipment was my new Facility.
In an era where your kill/death ratio mattered more than whether you were a good person or not, Shipment wasn’t a very popular choice when playing online, but it was the only choice when it came to determining the superior soldier in a group of friends. It was always annoying to play a larger map with fewer players because you’d spend half the game running around like an idiot looking for your opposition – Shipment was a tiny little yard with four shipping containers in the middle, so it solved that problem beautifully. It meant that every game, no matter how many players were involved, was played at breakneck speed. Shipment was where you’d go if you wanted to improve your reflexes or learn how best to a long-range weapon up close; you never had the opportunity to pick and choose your battles like on other maps, so you had to make do with the firefight that found you, and the only way you’d win would be with superior reflexes, mechanics and timing.
Although I’ve got fond memories of local multiplayer games on Shipment, it sticks with me to this day because it encapsulated the fast, frenetic gameplay that become the norm. I might not be claustrophobic as a result of my time spent there, but it certainly taught me that the smaller the space, the less room there is to run and hide. No campers allowed.
Ty: Destiny‘s “The Devils’ Lair” Strike
Although Destiny is remembered more for its barren release-day offering and the myriad issues and controversies surrounding its development than for its quality as a video game, millions of players – whether they were there from the beginning or after The Taken King – still adored it. I fell in love with the super-polished gunplay, and I was intrigued by the world and the lore that Bungie presented, to the point where I logged thousands of hours, met new friends, and made countless fond memories in my time fighting “The Darkness” (which still sounds stupid, but what can you do?).
The crux of all of those fond memories was the game’s original Strike, The Devils’ Lair. The mission went live in the open beta way back in 2014, and it was the best way to showcase what Destiny was all about; it had intense shootouts punctuated by the epic battle against the Walker tank and the fun skirmish against its final boss, Sepiks Prime – the big ol’ Servitor who was so popular that Bungie brought him back from the dead for the game’s final expansion, Rise of Iron.
That said, it wasn’t those bosses that made The Devils’ Lair such a fantastic experience; it was the real sense of adventure that it created. Every bit of progress you made felt like you were pushing well beyond enemy lines into a place where humanity wasn’t welcome; you pushed through a conflict between the Hive and the Fallen, destroyed a tank that guarded a Fallen fortress, only to learn that the thing the Fallen had put so much effort into protecting was essentially a church, where this giant, sentient eye was being worshipped as a god. Bungie told that whole story through level and world design, a philosophy that permeated throughout Destiny’s Strike and Raid design and really helped to sell the message that the solar system no longer belongs to us.
I’m planning to jump back into Destiny when the sequel comes out on Steam in October, if only to see if Bungie can come close to topping The Devils’ Lair.
Zack: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s Mementos
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s first fighter pack contained Joker from Persona 5 and, along with him, a stage based on the Mementos area from the same game. In Persona 5, Mementos is a dungeon that the player explores over the course of the whole game and the primary location where side-quests take place. It is also, without a doubt, the most boring area in the entire game. Every different area (and there are over 50 of them!) feels practically identical, with similar aesthetics, designs, and the exact same monotonous soundtrack. This all serves the game’s story and themes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the mysterious parallel dimension’s main dungeon is somehow less interesting than the main character’s high school.
Compare this to Mementos stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; it carries a chaotic energy, with walls that appear and disappear, platforms that drop in and out of the ceiling, and a train that sweeps the bottom of the stage and can potentially KO fighters or even knock a falling player back onto the stage. The music draws from some of the best tracks not just from Persona 5, but from Persona 3 and Persona 4 as well, with both fantastic choices straight from their original games and some catchy remixes of certain songs to give them more of a fighting game vibe. The actual Mementos theme is, thankfully, nowhere to be found. Finally, the stage’s aesthetic itself changes depending on the music, with Persona 3 songs having a classy blue colour while Persona 4’s soundtrack gives the stage an energetic yellow motif.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate contains plenty of fantastic stages, but it’s Mementos specifically that embodies one of the best things about Super Smash Bros. as a whole: paying homage to the original games while simultaneously creating something new and exciting. By taking Persona 5’s dull, monotonous Mementos and adding the sort of flair and charm one would expect from Nintendo, the Mementos stage manages to be one of the best stages in the entire game.
Of course, with most multiplayer games coming with a number of different maps and experiences to enjoy, there’s a pretty high chance that your favourite hasn’t made the list. Hit up the comment section, or our socials via the links below, and share your favourite multiplayer maps with us and the world!
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Also published on Medium.