THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
– Do you have a favorite version of Windows?
– Who did you romance in Mass Effect?
– What’s a game you like to play while doing or watching something else?
There are some maps whose layouts have become indelible, taking up valuable space in our brains that we could be using to remember, say, where things are in our own actual neighbourhoods. Maps like de_dust2, Blood Gulch, Wake Island, Badwater, Nuketown, Facing Worlds, or that one level in Overcooked 2 where you have to run back and forth across a busy street. Some are symmetrical, some are asymmetrical, but play them often enough and they’ll lay tracks in your mind so deep you dream about being there. Which is unsettling, but anyway:
What’s your favorite multiplayer map?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Shaun Prescott: Siege’s Presidential Plane. I was obsessed with Rainbow Six Siege around launch, and my favourite map was Presidential Plane. I wasn’t very good at the game and have since drifted away, but Siege’s extremely high stakes made it a great immersive roleplay experience, even if you aren’t particularly interested in the competitive aspect. Presidential Plane jacks the fantasy element because—at launch, at least—it seemed the most lifelike to me. I could easily inhabit the role I was playing (someone either trying to defend the plane, or trying to infiltrate it), and because the plane is laid out in a fairly logical way, I felt vaguely familiar with it long before I memorised the map.
It also seems to me an unconventional map when it comes to first-person shooter logic: there are a handful of awkward chokepoints, there are a lot of useless spaces, and it feels like game balance is subservient to world building. I prefer it when virtual spaces aren’t “balanced” into a generic competitive playground. I like unfairness if I can feel a part of the world.
Evan Lahti: That plane is an absolute sardine can with windows, Shaun. Is it the narrowest FPS map in history? Snipers can sit on the wings of the plane and shoot inwards, and most weapons can’t shoot outward. I do not recommend experiencing this. There are worse Siege maps though, like Favela and the defunct Bartlett University (shudder).
My pick: de_inferno. Plenty of classics to pick from in one of the most-played FPSes of our lifetimes, but I’ll put Inferno on a pedestal. The Mediterranean setting suits CS:GO perfectly, drawing on a vibrant but neutral palette that sidesteps military cliché. Structurally it’s a conventional three-lane CS map, with a clear mid lane and two bottlenecking routes to the separate bomb sites. The play down mid for both sides plays like de_dust2 sans the narrow door, and with a bit more risk for the Terrorists as they stick their neck out to reach the left side of the map.
Down that route to bombsite B, aka Banana, is a deadly curved alley primed for aggressive plays and grenade countering. You can blow up an entire team with a frag purely by getting the timing right, it’s brilliant. And the pit around bombsite A produces some great interactions. Holding this position post-plant, you have to deliberately corner yourself as you hold down three different potential entrances. I love it when someone springs over the top of apartments balcony to retake this position, often with a heroic leaping frag. [extremely Mediterranean chef’s kiss]
Natalie Clayton: Oof, this one’s a toughie. There are so many maps that stick out in my mind, from countless hours spent idling on hastily built variations of Team Fortress 2’s cp_orange to Hawken’s Prosk, a lovingly greebly urban sprawl that perfectly captured the trash-future vibe of that doomed mech shooter. I could gush about my favourite Splatoon 2 map, but that wouldn’t be very PC Gamer of me, would it?
No need to hand in my badge and keyboard just yet, though. Because while it may have debuted on Xbox 360, Halo 3’s Valhalla deserves to join the ranks of PC’s best maps. It’s Blood Gulch, but better—two towering bases staring each other down across a rolling valley, punctuated with winding streams and dark caves. Despite its open sightlines, hills and cliffsides provide plenty of cover for players caught in the open, and while banshees and wraiths can quickly dominate, a few well-placed power weapons ensure you’re never as safe in a vehicle as you think you are. It’s the entire Halo sandbox crammed into a narrow alpine valley, and easily the highlight of our weekly Halo sessions.
Morgan Park: “Blood Gulch, but better” landed like a gut punch, but I can’t spot the lie. It’s a lot better for Halo’s ideal lobby size. Though I will always hate how dominant snipers can be on those far-off cliff faces.
My Answer: Clubhouse. My favorite also (unsurprisingly) comes from Rainbow Six Siege. Clubhouse is the best expression of what makes Siege maps tactically interesting: a dense, varied floor plan where what’s above you is just as important as what’s directly in front of you. It’s not so huge that clearing rooms on attack is obnoxious and not too small that defending bomb sites is a chore. Clubhouse is that perfect medium porridge that my Siege friends never say no to And considering one Siege map is essentially four or five normal FPS maps stacked on top of each other, it’s impressive that all of Clubhouse’s layers are good.
Andy Chalk: 2Fort. It’s the ultimate multiplayer classic, a perfect balance of long sightlines, blind corners, strategy, and balls-out chaos. I started playing it in the original Quakeworld and continued right through to TF2. In fact, it’s pretty much the only TF2 map I ever played, because everything else paled in comparison. Call me a basic bitch if you will, but I speak facts. 2Fort is the absolute pinnacle of competitive FPS map design: The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
Lauren Aitken: Destiny 2: Pacifica and Javelin-4. I won’t be taking any questions.
From our forum
Pifanjr: The first thing that popped into my head was The Black Gate from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. My friend and I must have played that level over a hundred times. We were eventually able to finish it with only perfect kills.
ZedClampet: Founder’s Field in Super Mega Baseball 3. It’s the hardest field to hit homeruns on. In fact, with properly aimed pitches it’s practically impossible, and you have to try to hit singles/doubles instead. It makes it a completely different game.
Mazer: The original Unreal Tournament had some very memorable maps apart from the obvious Facing Worlds, I loved the ones which mixed low and normal gravities in particular as they benefited my all-time favourite hitscan weapon, the ASMD.
Morpheus was three loosely connected skyscrapers with internal and external spaces, and Hyperblast was a large spaceship with a trippy hyperspace skybox and a broadly circular layout. There’s a reason so many UT99 maps were remade over and over for successive entries in the series, they were so well tuned for the player movement and the weapon selection of the games.
Zloth: City of Heroes’ Shadow Shard. It was a series of four giant zones, full of floating islands of rock covered in grass, trees, and red pools & streams. Characters with flight could simply fly from place to place. Teleporters could do the same, but the distances were large enough that they might need to rest along the way. The islands were mostly too far apart for super jumpers and speedsters were stranded. So, the developers put in little launchers. Walk your character up a little slot in the rock into some blue smoke and you were launched to another island. That turned each zone into a giant maze! Once you learned your way around the maze, though, a character using the launchers could get to his/her destination very quickly.
Many people really hated the Shadow Shards. They just wanted to get to their missions, not navigate some weird maze. But I completely fell in love with the place! I (eventually) found my way through the mazes and memorized them. The atmosphere was bizarre and beautiful, the music was good, and the lore was really interesting. The fact that you could bounce around for hours without seeing anyone just added to the atmosphere.
The developers bowed to pressure and eventually added some teleporters so players didn’t have to go through every zone to get to the final one, then added jet packs so all characters could fly if they didn’t want to mess with the maze. Sad, but the zones were nearly unused as they were. The launchers remained, though, and I would sometimes go and “do the tour” just to take it in.