The 10 greatest FPS multiplayer levels of all time
We take a trip down memory lane to the finest frag arenas ever constructed.
With more multiplayer first-person shooter games out on the market than ever before, each with their own perks, gameplay mechanics and range of weaponry, nothing sets them apart more than memorable maps where you’ll be fragging your foes – after all, it’s where you’ll be spending all of your time after the 12 second long solo campaign is over and the credits have rolled.
Sure, Destiny and its Crucible offer a plethora of classes, super abilties and distinctive armour sets, Halo 5: Guardians puts you in the boots of a seven-foot Spartan and Call of Duty makes you a bullet-soaking super soldier, but if the maps aren’t any fun, you’ll drift away and play something else completely. If your latest military-inspired shooter’s mundane maps are starting to grate on you, join us as we reminisce about 10 of the most iconic multiplayer maps ever to grace our systems.
Let’s start with arguably the most iconic FPS multiplayer map of all time:Counter-Strike’s de_dust2 has not only been a series staple since the map launched in March 2001 (two years after the original), but also managed to beat the curse of the sequels – it’s simply much better than the original. Crafted by level designer Dave Johnston, de_dust2 is well balanced between the two teams; practically everyone knows it like the back of their hand, making for better matches; and its beige, sandy hues contrasting with green boxes are synonymous with Counter-Strike itself – you think of the game, you think of de_dust2. Nearly 15 years later, it’s still going strong, with updated versions of the map gracing each rendition of CS – and Global Offensive’s visually impressive take is home to some of the most enthralling pro matches to ever grace the scene.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Shipment
1v1 me brah. Infinity Ward rewrote the FPS rulebook with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, an incredible shooter with a solid single-player campaign and even better multiplayer. While Crash is arguably the map that helped define the game’s tip-top multiplayer, Shipment’s simple, compact and (especially) claustrophobic, symmetrical design lent itself to fast and frantic games that kept your finger permanently on the trigger. Perfect for quick pick-up-games, free-for-all madness or for going 1v1 against a mate, it helped put COD4 multiplayer on the map and would be later be revisited and reimagined in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Halo: Combat Evolved: Blood Gulch
When you think of Halo: CE multiplayer, Blood Gulch is almost certainly the first match to come to mind. The enclosed, symmetrical canyon was home to many a match of Slayer, and its size and scope lent itself well to Halo’s different game types. Not to mention it was perfect for epic sniper duels, and wide enough for quick vehicular action too, making it a staple for multiplayer battles. Its popularity led to a remake in Halo 2, and it also served up as the inspiration for Halo 3's Valhalla – which in turn would evolve into Ragnarok in Halo 4 – before popping up again as the Forge-created Basin as part of Halo 5: Guardian's Battle of Shadow and Light DLC. And of course, it’s pretty much the backdrop to Rooster Teeth’s award-winning machinima series, Red vs. Blue.
Battlefield 3: Caspian Border
It’s big, it’s bold and it has everything you love about Battlefield in one massive place. Caspian Border debuted in Battlefield 3, and its vast landscape made it perfect for large team battles that’d keep you up late at night with your mates. With Battlefield’s wide arsenal of vehicles at your disposal, including fighter jets and helicopters, Caspian Border embodies Battlefield at its finest: combat on a large scale. EA has since remastered and bolstered the map for Battlefield 4, giving next-gen gamers the chance to experience it too.
Call of Duty: Black Ops: Nuketown
With Activision ensuring COD gets a fresh title each year, it’s hard to keep track of Call of Duty’s successive rotations of brand spanking new maps, but 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops introduced us to the too-perfect world of Nuketown and it’s been stuck in our brains ever since. Looking like your typical, 1950s US suburb, as the name of the map implies, it’s used to demonstrate the effects of a nuclear warhead and you'll find mannequins aplenty, vehicles to use for cover and propped up houses that look like they came straight out of a movie set. The map itself is fairly small, but it’s fast and frantic, and of course a nuke drops at the end of every game, turning everyone into zombies. Nuketown returned in Black Ops 2 with a futuristic version set in 2025, while Black Ops 3’s take on the map puts it further into the future in 2065 – unfortunately, it’s only available for gamers who pre-ordered.
Quake III Arena: Q3DM17 (The Longest Yard)
Quake III Arena’s catchily named Q3DM17, also known as ‘The Longest Yard’, is one of the most iconic and influential deathmatch maps of all time. After Quake II’s confined arenas, DM17 was the equivalent of stabilisers coming off, or the barriers on a bowling lane coming down. The map’s elegance is in the simple fact that you can fall off, anywhere: it forced you to learn how to make the most of Quake’s movement mechanics too – jumping, running and more jumping. Set on a series of floating platforms in space, The Longest Yard gave you nowhere to hide, nowhere to camp, and left you at the mercy of keen-eyed railgunners – you’ll be hearing plenty of those railgun pings when you’re playing on this map (which is available on Quake Live these days, if you’re keen to revisit it).
GoldenEye 007: Stack
If you had a Nintendo 64, you had GoldenEye 007, and you definitely had some late nights with your mates slapping each other on Licence To Kill until the screen fades to a drizzly, reddy black. Even with multiplayer added as a last minute addition to the game, Rare’s video game adaptation of the James Bond movie of the same name is still heralded as one of the greatest multiplayer games, ever, and its visually distinctive maps are some of the best known even today. Stack gets our vote as the game’s greatest map, with its two floors of mayhem, narrow staircases that practically beg for proximity mines and labyrinthine layout, even if there aren’t any toilets to hide in…
Team Fortress 2: 2fort
Valve’s Team Fortress 2 shocked many by going free-to-play back in 2011 and creating some strange form of hat economy in the process, but the studio’s ability to create tantalising, compelling maps that pushed its players was never in doubt. 2fort is TF2’s hallmark map, and its design dates back to the original Team Fortress mods for Quake, giving you simple, symmetrical base vs. base action with a bridge smack bang in the middle that soaks up plenty of gunfire. Of course, with ‘team’ in the name of the game, you’ve got to band together and take down the enemy, and no map really pushes this vibe better than 2fort.
Halo 3: Last Resort
Halo 2’s Zanzibar not only looked good, it played great too, giving you plenty of lucrative sniper positions, close-ranged opportunities and lots of room for vehicular maneuverability, making full use of Halo’s multiplayer capabilities. Zanzibar got a high definition upgrade in Halo 3 in the form of Last Resort, which was essentially the same but much more refined, with tweaks and changes and a second tunnel for you to drive vehicles through, meaning you’d have a better chance of getting that prestigious medal for mowing down foes.
Unreal Tournament: Facing Worlds
Saving the best for last, when we think of stellar multiplayer FPS maps, we immediately think of Unreal Tournament’s classic Capture The Flag staple, Facing Worlds. No other map showed off the game’s intense capture the flag mode better than Facing Worlds: an epic outer-space battle arena set on an orbiting asteroid with two Egyptian-themed towers leering at each other. Everything about this map has a purpose, from the slight slope that crests in the middle of the map, preventing you from seeing what’s over the other side when teleporting, to the juicy, ripe Redeemers sitting on top of both towers. There’s simply nowhere to camp – you can run behind the towers, but if you do you’ll be completely out of the action.
Fine-tuned for CTF, you had to hop and frag your way to the enemy tower to steal their flag, and of course, with huge towers propped up on either side, you’d have to ninja your way past enemy sniper fire to actually be in with a chance of getting that flag back to your base – and epic encounters like this helped solidify Facing Worlds as one of the game’s most groundbreaking maps. With the Earth shining brightly in the background, CTF-Face is easily cemented in gaming history as one of the greatest FPS maps ever.