For those of you that plopped down the money for the Call of Duty Elite premium service on the Xbox 360, then yesterday you likely went online to discover a digital treat waiting under their proverbial online tree. Two new maps were released, kicking off a nine month season of content drops that will feature 20 in all.
The first drop contained the maps “Liberation” and “Piazza.” Both maps will be included as part of a pack that will likely contain at least four maps, and will probably go on sale for around $15 in March (although nothing has been officially confirmed on that front). For right now, Xbox 360 users are the only ones to see these maps, but PS3 Elite premium members should have them within a month, while non-premium PS3 users should see the pack in April.
So with the number of people that have access to the maps relatively low, we took on the arduous and demanding task of playing the maps. It was rough, sitting there and getting paid to play video games, but we did it because we love you. Here are our impressions of the maps.
(DT Associate Editor Ryan Fleming)—Liberation is a map that I will both love and hate, depending on my mood. Set in a militarized Central Park in New York, the wide open spaces will immediately appeal to snipers and people that love to camp and/or use stealth, so for me it will depend on whether or not the Leroy Jenkins curse takes me. It is also a good map to follow people like Adam, and use them as bait—er…the vanguard. The actual geography of the map is fairly well plotted, but one of the biggest issues (or advantages depending on your POV) is the colors of the map. It is easy to blend into the trees and leaves and become incredibly hard to see. Because of that, this will be one of the slower moving maps in MW3.
Various game types will have drastically different feels, and some work better than others. I am a fan of Domination, which I think works well here. Kill Confirmed can lead to some interesting moments, as snipers leave several tags out as bait, but for me Team Deathmatch was the least fun. The mounted machine guns paired with a team of snipers and silenced opponents can make this frustrating and slow. For me, this map works better when there are objectives. Oddly, while teamwork is always important, the map is so wide open and you can die from so far away that it is harder to properly coordinate than other maps. Good news for the lone wolf-type player, bad news for the “Captain Whatthehellareyoudoing” type who is trying to rally people to hold a certain area.
I really liked the survival mode potential of this map. There are a few areas that you can make into decent choke points—be warned though—learning the map is the key to survival, as enemies will pop out of areas you had no idea they could come from. If you choose your location poorly, you can also find yourself in a bad situation. Fighting off attack choppers and juggernauts can also be a pain if they catch you unprepared since there isn’t much cover, and riot/delta teams often try to catch bullets with their teeth. They fail. Or succeed if they are looking for the sweet embrace of death.
(DT Contributing Editor Adam Rosenberg) Liberation is an easy sell with me. Not only does my New Yorker blood scream with joy at being able to run around in a virtual re-creation of a war-torn Central Park, but this new map’s big, open spaces and loooooooong sightlines also appeal to my love for dealing out death from a great distance. Ryan really nails it too; the lush greens on this map provide PERFECT cover for Ghillie suit-wearing snipers. Bring along a thermal scope if you can; it’s a tremendous help here.
As open as the map is, there’s a surprising amount of separation between the different avenues of advance. For such a flat landscape, Liberation has a strange sense of verticality to it. Dry creeks run beneath bridges, with the high and low positions being completely cut off from one another in most places. There could be a firefight raging right below you, or above you, but you’ll have to circle all the way around to get to it. Shotgun-toters and SMG wielders are at a distinct disadvantage, though a small, central underground area offers ample opportunity to ambush passing forces. A strategically placed personal radar can be quite useful on this map, especially if short-range actions are your specialty.
At the two ends of the map are sandbag-mounted chaingun turrets which, when used properly, can wreak havoc on enemy forces. Like the one in the Bakaara map, it’s suicide to spend much time firing, since it makes you an easy target for distant snipers. The two miniguns on Liberation are great for crowd control, however. Just be sure to note: they’re not usable in Survival mode, only multiplayer. The trick on this map–no matter which mode you’re playing–is to always proceed carefully and avoid the open central areas, particularly near the fountain and any other location in which your uniform colors might stand out against the environment. Anything to make you a less appetizing target for the many snipers who are sure to be watching the heavy traffic areas.
(Adam Rosenberg) Piazza is a small-ish map overall, but there are so many levels to it that it ends up feeling much larger than it actually is. Much like Liberation, there’s a lot of up-and-down movement; the difference here is that you have many more overlooks to work with. Snipers will want to swap their standard scope out for an ACOG, but a crack shot can do a lot of damage from a distance here.
Really though, shotguns and sub machine guns are your best bet for Piazza. The map is filled with sharp corners and steep stairwells, to the point that you’ll need to constantly be on your toes since you can never really be sure of when an enemy will suddenly come into view. Close-range fighters can confidently move around in the middle parts of the maps, while snipers and other long-range fighters will do best sticking to the fringes, preferably with a silencer.
The key with Piazza is to always be mindful of what’s above you and below you. Death can easily come from any angle. While it’s definitely important to keep your eyes on the path ahead, ignoring the raised balconies and walkways as you proceed will result in certain death sooner or later. The action moves quickly and intensely on Piazza, though I don’t see this one supplanting Dome as MW3‘s Nuketown (the tiny Black Ops map). It’s just too unpredictable. This one, moreso even than Liberation, is definitely going to live on as a “love it or hate it” type of environment.
(Ryan Fleming) Piazza is a different type of map in every way from Liberation. It is small and confined, with a few areas that can quickly turn into choke points. People that love their shotguns will be free to terrorize and annoy the crap out of opponents with free reign. Sniper rifles will be fairly useless in the center of the map, but as Adam noted, a prepared sniper can hold down the sides of the maps. SMGs will be right at home, and will likely be the weapon of choice for most. I personally love the fast paced nature of Piazza, but when people are spread out all over the map, spawning can suck (more so than usual). I may or may not have considered throwing a controller at least once.
The various map types all work fairly well here. Domination can be fun, but there are balance issues. Holding onto a flag can be easy, especially with claymores and the like, but attacking can make you angry to the point that you want to punch something cute. There are multiple pathways all throughout the map, so there are ways though. Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed are both a good fit for this map, and Search and Destroy can offer some interesting possibilities.
Survival can either lead to an epic stand, or a frustrating one. You can easily set up defenses in areas that can hold off endless waves of enemies, but if a few make it by, you will find yourself trapped. Moving around might be the best strategy, but it is also a risky one. Still, it makes for a different experience than most survival maps.
Both maps offer something new to the current selection. Neither really blew us away, but we both thought that they will make for a good bit of variety in the rotation. The level design is solid, and both maps are designed to offer a certain amount of gameplay variety. Liberation gives snipers and distance players a new playground to try out, while Piazza is going to appeal to fast-paced players that dig their short range weapons. Both maps are a good addition, and a nice kickoff to the season of content.