Halo 2’s Lockout is the quintessential arena map

I hear 3 successive beeps, and I tense up. I utilized to think this response was thanks to Mario Kart 64 or some other Nintendo 64 video game. Years later on, I recognized it was from playing Halo 2 on the weekends when I was more youthful — and just weekends, due to the fact that my grade-conscious Latinx moms and dads desired what was finest for me. And while I delighted in Huge Group Battles on stretching maps like Coagulation and Zanzibar, I enjoyed cutting my teeth in Halo’s smaller sized arena maps.

My favorite of these was constantly Lockout. The map was simply a big square with 4 suburbs. However its simpleness is what makes it the essential Halo arena. Designed by Max Hoberman and Chris Carney for Halo 2, the map acts as a crash course in flow, or how a player seamlessly moves through a space. I spent so much time in the icy installation, above a bottomless pit, that I began settling disputes within my friends by playing it together.

Lockout’s simpleness is deceptive. Sure, it’s a basically a few rooms connected by bridges. But its corridors and tight turns push players into a traversal circulation state, as players figure out the best routes for attacking and evading enemies. Combatants move in micro circles in order to hunt other players, going up and down three levels as they check for powerful weapons and account for varied enemy sightlines.

Blue Spartans aim at a Red Spartan in Halo 2’s Lockout map

Image: Bungie/343 Industries

Moving through the arena requires weighing strategic options. There are multiple routes to get to the Battle Rifle tower, for example. Checking the energy sword location on your way to that landmark could mean jumping from the main square on the second level, and taking the ramp up, then returning to the course you started on and continuing to hunt. In contrast, you could take a more conservative approach, going along the lower level to avoid being caught in the open space of the main square.

Lockout also worked especially well for players who mastered the original Halo series’ various jumps, making the map even more of a playground. Risk-takers could move quickly through levels by taking leaps between walkways above the infinite abyss. An expert would just maneuver through the primary hardpoints, such as the gravity lift or the Sniper Tower. These points doubled as significant orientation markers for adept players, adding to the interconnectedness of the arena.

As Bungie and 343 Industries added more Halo maps to each installment of the franchise, I kept looking for the next Lockout. However I never found a multi-player map that could match how good the original felt to play. Even after its remake in Halo 3 as Blackout, I missed the cooler hues of the original map. And though Certain Affinity made minor changes for Halo 2: Anniversary’s Lockdown — like extending the Elbow below the Grav Lift with additional cover — it still didn’t give me the same rush that I was looking for.

Listen: I love The Rig, Midship, and The Pit. But they don’t trigger those same youthful brainwaves I craved when I jumped into Lockout. Maybe I’ll just have to accept that Lockout is always in the Halo conversation because its circulation is perfect. I don’t think I’ll find something like it for a while.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.