Shooter maps come and go, but every now and then one sticks out in your memory; it’s almost like a place you’ve really been. This article will list what I think are the ten best shooter multiplayer maps, and by “best” I mean “most memorable.” I’m not going to argue they’re the most tactically flawless, but simply that they were/are played the longest, and remembered the most.
And in case you’ve seen this article before on another site, I’ve read most of them, and I have a few to add that everyone else missed. Hit the jump.
10. Crash (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Series)
“Call of Duty” maps are highly functional, but few leave a lasting impression. Crash, however, was one of the truly great mid-sized, close quarters arenas ever built. Players could choose to hide and seek their way across rooftops and into buildings, or come right out for a straight fight at the downed chopper. But wherever you were, you were never completely safe, and your guard never dropped.
9. Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Although GTA4′s multiplayer wasn’t perfect, it offered a level of freedom that was by turns exhilarating and daunting. No other multiplayer map in existence could offer aerial combat, car chases, deathmatch, and motorcycle racing simultaneously. Because it was so huge, Liberty City was kind of a schizophrenic experience: sometimes too fun to be legal, sometimes profoundly aggravating. But when it was good, oh man was it good.
8. Facility (Goldeneye 007)
Shooting an opponent while he was trapped in a bathroom stall was a new and unique joy, but it was far from the only one “Facility” offered. Laid out like a labyrinth with endless hallways, antechambers, air vents, and blind corners, this quintessential console frag-fest was fun with any weapon, in any game mode, any time.
7. Wake Island (Battlefield Series)
The map that just won’t die, Wake Island has made an appearance (albeit sometimes in modified form) in almost every BF game, even “Battlefield Heroes.” Its simple U-shape made it immediately memorable, but also proved remarkably tactically deep. Single infantry units couldn’t hope to huff it to the enemy base on their own, the geography was too stacked against them, so players began thinking in terms of squads and vehicles, which is exactly what DICE wanted. To this day, Wake Island stands as a symbol of the “Battlefield” franchise’s emphasis on large maps, vehicular combat, and squad tactics.
6. Gridlock (Gears of War Series)
I would argue that the little sniper house in Gridlock is the greatest choke point of all time (I speak in the present tense here cause this one is still being played in “Gears 3). God only knows why we all try so hard to take it, it’s an incredibly exposed sniper position, but I have never seen a game on Gridlock transpire without half a dozen bloodbaths around that worthless little hut. A close second is the grenade launcher/Digger sitting menacingly in the arch way, exactly halfway between two symmetrical fortresses. You can come at it dead-on, but then your enemy has you in their sights. You can try to take it from the flank, but then you won’t know if someone else has it already until it’s too late. Genius.
5. Hang ‘em High (Halo: Combat Evolved)
The original “Halo” was overwhelmed by the pistol, a beast Bungie never meant to let loose. No map better demonstrated superior pistol skills than the labyrinthian Hang ‘em High. What made this map special was its careful balancing of upstairs and downstairs, so that neither necessarily had the advantage. While higher ground normally means victory in shooters, Hang ‘em High neutered the bird’s-eye tendencies of some players with incredibly thin, vertigo-inducing walkways and ample ground-floor cover. High was also unusually large for an indoor map, which kept battles from spiraling into close-quarters twitch fests. A successful round required deft balance of medium and short range tactics, which just happened to be the pistol’s specialty.
4. No Mercy (Left 4 Dead Series)
Talk about a level that earned its name. No Mercy was (and is) the purest, most perfect distillation of the L4D formula. An absolutely epic map, Mercy forced players through apartment buildings, city streets, warehouses, hospital hallways, rooftops, subway tunnels, and sewers, gradually ratcheting the tension throughout with a full game’s worth of memorable set pieces. In “Versus” mode, the map came alive as one of the very few that didn’t skew towards survivors or zombies; either team could crush the other if they really wanted it (except that damned gas station section, that always leaned zombies). Valve has a knack for iconic maps, and No Mercy is one of their best.
3. de_dust2 (Counter Strike Series)
“Counter Strike” represented a paradigm shift in shooter games, and de_dust2 became the poster boy for that shift. Although it’s not much to look at, de_dust2 has separated more boys from men, more wheat from chaff, than any other map in history. It’s a merciless place, flat and open enough to constantly be exposed, but still full of corners, half-closed doors and blind alleys. The result was a punishingly difficult map that remains one of the truest tests of talent among gamers. Win here, you’re simply better than your opponent.
2. Blood Gulch (Halo: Combat Evolved)
Although it’s been resurrected many times in the “Halo” franchise, only the original Blood Gulch is the real masterpiece. A bafflingly simple design gave birth to the Gulch: two identical bases, nestled in mountains that block access from the rear, and mutually blinded by a hill in the center. Any gamer worth their salt can tell you epic stories about this map, from desperate warthog runs to capture the flag, to brutal shotgun showdowns inside the cramped bases. Blood Gulch emphasized vehicular mayhem without losing sight of infantry combat, and for that reason will probably always be “Halo’s” flagship map.
1. Facing Worlds (Unreal Tournament Series)
The big kahuna. Much like Blood Gulch (although predating it by a few years), Facing Worlds was built around the two-base idea, but these bases were skyscrapers instead of squat forts, and they could see each other plain as day. Both the best Capture the Flag map and the best sniper map of all time, Facing Worlds demanded team work and differentiation of tasks. Any flag run without good sniper cover was doomed before it began, but the snipers were always extremely vulnerable to their counterparts on the enemy team. And although flag captures were the currency used to measure success, most of us knew that the game was really decided in the towers high above the ground, as rival snipers faced off “High Noon” style for control of the map. Brilliant.