Maps can make or break a shooter's multiplayer mode. Get the level design right and your community will come flooding back time and time again. Get it wrong, and you'd better pray to some sort of deity that your mechanics are up to scratch. We were mulling over the day's news earlier today when, out of the blue, Jon had an epiphany and a conversation was struck up determining our favourite FPS multiplayer maps. All of a sudden, a top ten was on the table.
So here it is. Let us know if we've missed any of your favourites.
10. The Longest Yard (Quake III: Arena)
Sometimes you just have to say, "sod balancing!" Jump pads glaore, open sightlines, plenty of verticality, The Longest Yard began life as a part of the Q3 Test beta, before being promoted to fly the flag for Quake III: Arena as the game's demo map.
There was a little sniper net, only accessible through some nifty jump pad platforming, and acceleration pads on the second level that made for hilarious rocket jousting. No wonder it's still a fan favourite to this day.
9. Crash (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
Overgrown was good, but Crash is better. Arguably the finest map Infinity Ward have ever made, it perfectly combined paranoia-inducing outside action with the frenetic fury of indoor combat. Balanced incredibly well to suit both sharpshooters and ground-pounding riflemen, it never gets skipped.
Also hearing Santa chuckling to himself as he bombs the hell out of you at Christmas time is excellent.
8. Calypso Casino (Rainbow Six Vegas)
If you wanted team deathmatch, it was all abut Casino Vault, and LVU Campus was pretty fun too. But when it came to A&D, there was only one map that fitted the bill: Calypso Casino.
Attackers would spawn on the roof, and from there it was all about choice: two elevator shafts, two stairwells, two rappel points, and four fastropes gave the assault team numerous avenues down which to breach into the multistorey caasino. Defenders really had to work together to ensure the safety of the package. It's one of the most vibrant MP maps on this list and we never got tired of it.
7. Gold Rush (Team Fortress 2)
There'll be those who lament the absence of 2fort on this list, but really it had already been done superbly (see #1). Instead, it's the rather innovative Gold Rush that makes the list from Valve's cracking shooter.
Two teams, one cart full of explosives, and a bullet-filled tug-of-war.
But the best thing about Gold Rush was that you always felt like you were a part of something greater, with the objectives giving the action strong purpose no matter what you were doing. Of course, having loads of turrets, rockets, and other things that go boom helped, natch.
6. Library/Facility (GoldenEye 64)
Yes, I know there are two maps above but it's my list, so there! Facility is almost always touted as GoldenEye 64's premier level, and with good reason. Firefights in the toilets were always a particular highlight of any game, and it was so popular that Rare recreated it in Perfect Dark too.
But, personally, my favourite level was the Library. Combining both Stack and Basement, the Library offered plenty of verticality along with some very sneaky secret passageways, one of which usually housed the RCP-90. It had everything, from hidey-holes to high-ground vantage points to the tight, twisting corridors of the basement level.
5. Wake Island (Battlefield 1942)
Wake Island is amazing. It really is. That it has survived seven years of repeated reincarnation is a testament to its enduring popularity. The rather unique shape off the island gave rise to some of the most intense, diverse, and thoroughly exhilarating multiplayer matches I've ever had. Whether you'd taken to the skies, or jumped in a tank, or were simply ground-pounding on foot, you were always at risk. The shape meant that the capture points were always in shift, that the enemy was always manoeuvring to flank and take back those you'd abandoned to advance.
Strike At Karkand deserves a mention for being jaw-droppingly good, and taking the battle to the streets with a vast urban map that was stuffed with tanks, but when you mention the word Battlefield, it'll be this map that jumps to mind nine tmes out of ten.
4. Tokay's Tower (Quake II)
Yes, The Edge is good. No, it's not as good as Tokay's Tower. An enormous spiral tower, liberally sprinkled with rockets and railguns, Tokay's Tower also housed a freaking BFG. It was an arena built for one purposes, and one alone: utter insanity. There were no safe zones at all. No way of really catching your breath, and so the Tower turned into a crucible of explosive frenetic action that presented numerous skin-of-your-teeth moments, and one fundamental certainty: you were going to die. Often hilariously.
There are precious few arenas today that can match it for sheer anarchic brilliance.
3. Blood Gulch (Halo: Combat Evolved)
We have so very much to thank Blood Gulch for. After all, without it we might never have had Coagulation or Valhalla, nor indeed much of Red vs. Blue. Hang 'Em High almost made the grade here with its lunacy, but Blood Gulch epitomised what Halo was all about: vast open space, huge player choice, and plenty of vehicular funtimes.
Two towers and a vast stretch of land between them might not sound like the setting for some of videogaming's greatest battles, but it's the plentiful array of diverse weapons, teleportation devices, Banshees and Warthogs that makes this level so damn great. It's no surprise that its legacy endures even today, thanks to Halo 4's Ragnarok (essentially a Valhalla reskin).
2. Dust (Counter-Strike)
If I was doing this list purely subjectively, I'd have put rats2 in here because every break time moment at school was spent playing on that map across LAN.
Well... not quite every moment. No round of Counter-Strike would have been complete without Dust popping up at least once.
You see, objectively speaking, Dust makes a strong claim for being the greatest multiplayer map of all time ever. Another map that allows players to embrace pretty much any play style that they choose, Dust has something for everyone. In fact, in between the tense, terse gunfights in the dark hallways, the opportunities for close-range shotgunning, plenty of crate-top sniping spots, and plenty of choke points, it's incredibly easy to forget that the 'aim' is to actually plant a bomb.
de_dust is one of the closest things to map design perfection that we will ever see.
1. Facing Worlds (Unreal Tournament)
Unreal Tournament may just be the best multiplayer shooter to have ever existed. And no, we don't say that lightly. Whether storming up the beach in AS-Overlord, performing ludicrous leaps atop DM-Morpheus' 12-miles-high Galaxyscrapers, or delighting in the frenzied action of DM-Deck16 - arguably one of the best deathmatch arenas of all time.
But Unreal Tournament shone brightest in Capture the Flag, and Facing World provided the perfect map for team-based, objective-oriented action.
Two towers, suspended in space and connected by a handful of walkways, set against a stunning backdrop of the Earth below, provided the battleground. Respawn points shoved player back into the action quickly, with sniper vantage points at both ends, and treasure troves of goodies in the middle to tempt headstrong foot soldiers into a crucible of death.
Simple in terms of design, flawless in execution. The safe havens of the towers complemented the unprotected No Man's Land of the central walkways superbly. The constant dances with death as you scampered furiously ahead to the enemy base, the satisfaction of taking down the enemy flag carrier leaving your base with a expertly-timed sniper shot. The level was so perfectly balanced, a shining example of symmetry, and therefore created a constant shift of cause and effect, a push and pull dynamic between the two sides that made split-second skill all important.
Epic took a simple concept, and perfected it utterly. If Plato had a Form for CTF mapmaking, it would look like this.