Cold Cartography – Sidewinder

The multiplayer maps of the Halo series have my respect for two reasons: first, they are well made to the point that every inch of an area must be explored in order to learn the best strategy and two, the overall story of the Halo Universe is written across their battlefields in unique ways.

Campaign (and now Spartan Ops) is the prime example of setting storytelling, where the story happens because the characters have an interest in what’s going on at a location. To put it another way, the setting is intrinsically important because the plot is happening in it.

But the multiplayer maps of the Halo games have no such luxury. Their settings are inconsequential to the main goal of their design – player vs. player carnage.

And yet, both Bungie and 343 Industries have wrapped the tight corridors and sniping vistas of the multiplayer maps in a warm blanket of story. What could have been a series of repetitive play spaces is instead filled with gorgeous skyboxes, impressive detail, and discernible threads of sub-plots woven into the landscapes.

(Large sidenote: This is something I admire about the Halo – even if you could care less about the story you can never get away from it. Someone who only plays hours of multiplayer and never touches the Campaign (crazy!) would still away knowing a little bit about the Covenant, Forerunner and Humans of the Halo-verse whether they realized it or not.)

To highlight these storied spaces I’m starting the first of several cartography-themed posts, and in honor of the winter solstice officially telling Autumn to try harder next year we’ll start with the multiplayer maps of winter

First up …

“Red Blood, White Snow”


Name:         “Sidewinder”

Location:     Installation 04

Game:         Halo Combat Evolved

Map Pack:   N/A

Stay:             Frosty

This map was responsible for many firsts in my Halo career. First experience of the lack of traction the Warthog displayed on ice. First real taste of long-range sniping tactics (peek-shoot-breathe, peek-shoot-breathe) First frustration of getting around the horn (or the lack thereof) on a game of Capture the Flag.

First use of trees as cover. First realization that trees where not the best cover.

First time I had to use teleporters strategically (notice I said strategically; at Chiron TL-34 I just ran around like crazy).

“Sidewinder” also had a great set up for multiple paths when playing CTF. You could run out in the open, teleport back and forth or use the different tunnels to try and get to the flag.

Having these three options made for many intense moments of decision as your team tried to figure out what the most likely avenue was for the other team to press from, and since everyone was local (no LIVE – gasp!) the tension was even higher.

What about you? Any fond (or not so fond) memories of this ice-cold map on Alpha Halo? I’d love to hear what stories you and your friends contributed to this multiplayer space – feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!


>>>>>>>[Post tenebras lux]


  1. I really loved this map. Blood Gulch was always my go-to playground when I had friends over, but Sidewinder was a close second when we eventually got bored of Blood Gulch.

    I remember a mini-game I used to play where one person would drive the Warthog around the map and the rest would try and destroy them with rockets from the edges of the map. The icy patches made this even more hilarious. Hours of fun. I miss CE multiplayer now. So simple, yet you had so many options with a little imagination, and that was long before Forge.

    Also, “This doesn’t seem physically possible!” Ah… memories… 🙂


    1. Gunslinger,
      Great to hear from you man!

      Yep, both Blood Gulch and Sidewinder were favorites of our group as well – I think the big backdrop gave a feeling of grandeur to the scope as our seemingly small Spartans trekked across the landscape in order to capture the flag, take the lead, drive a friend, etc.

      You mini-game reminded me of another first on Sidewinder – the “long rocket.” You know what I mean – where you fire a rocket from a across the map and wait/hope for the text to pop up on the side that you got the kill.

      Since you were all in the same space, you could just wait for the “What?!?” from your friend as well 🙂

      I’ve felt the tug of nostalgia as well while I was thinking about this map and I think you hit it with the words, “So simple…” I love the maps of subsequent games, but that first crop holds a special place.


    2. “This doesn’t seem physically possible!”

      That’s exactly what Jimmy kept screaming. 😛

      Multiplayer’s never been my main interest, but I have fond memories of CE multiplayer games in college. Sidewinder will always stick out in my mind as my favorite large-scale multiplayer map from that game. Epic warthog flag-runs ending with the hog either getting nailed by a scorpion or narrowly escaping, teleporting behind an unsuspecting sniper. Even infantry assaults into the bases. Great times.


  2. Like my fellow commentators our gaming posse also had some amazing games in this icy field of carnage, so much vehicle fun and, being a slayer purist, probably the only map I ever really enjoyed CTF on. I think this was probably my most anticipated remake so when avalanche came out for Halo 3 I pretty much wet myself, but enough of my underpants issues I look forward to seeing what else you have up your sleeve in this series.


    1. Quim,
      Thanks for the comment and the re-blog! Really appreciate it.

      I’ll work my way to “Avalanche,” but you’re right – the result was underpants-wetting. The additional man-cannons gave the map even more flow, and snow-themed vehicles? Awesome.


  3. Ah what a lovely piece of nostalgia. I think sidewinder was probably the first Halo map I ever played in MP. It’s a map whose glory has never really been fully recaptured (even with the recent CE Anniversary remake) the sense of scale was epic and four player matches turned into a game of hunt and hunted where you would be searching around the map for your opponents while trying not to be spotted by those pesky snipers. This map really came into it’s own with system link leading to some epic objective and slayer maps that really felt like you were in the midst of a truly terrifying battlefield.

    Write more of these Bias I love em.


    1. Eremenko,
      Thanks for the re-blog man! Truly appreciate it.

      System-link did help this map shine – it was large enough that screen-peeking still didn’t let you know exactly where the other team was, and that’s a good thing.

      The “hunt and hunted” aspect you brought up is a good one – because of the size on Slayer and CTF matches, the tension could build between kills to a fever pitch. You knew it was going to be an epic win or fail 🙂


  4. I would have to say one of my favorites (this might get some angry reactions) would have to be boarding action (Team snipers and Team Slayer). Call outs were very simple but knowing the map and how it worked was extremely important! Two sides (Blue and Red), 5 stories tall, power ups (at inconvenient spots), well placed power weapons, and some of the levels were divided in half. Lots of good cover but not cluttered (like most of the new maps). The sniper was a deadly weapon but I soon found out the pistol could be devastating. Lots of great moments of cross map Rocket shots where it was mentioned in previous comments. Your inside the room with a view where the rocket spawns and you see someone on level 5. He just came through the teleporter. He is predictable, everyone wants the sniper. He runs in a linear direction, you know where he is going. You shoot your weapon and wait. he turns the corner and with great excitement he sees a sniper that just spawned. While running to pick it up he is thinking about all the kills he is going to get. He picks it up only to be blown to bits from a oncoming rocket. Everyone hears him scream “WTF!!! You have to be kidding?” And so begins the fight for the 5th level and each player is racing towards the top hoping to control the sniper. Great story and thank you for picking my brain!



    1. Robowski,
      Thanks for the follow and I hope the series keeps picking your brain 🙂

      “Boarding Action” and I have a love/hate relationship, but mostly love. Because the enemy movements were (for the most part) predictable, when you were on you were on – and when the other team had your number, it was hard to feel like you had a chance!

      “Sidewinder” and “Boarding Action” both had great potential for the “long rocket”, and you described an encounter perfectly. Nothing like thinking you finally have your hands on the coveted sniper only to be blown away in your moment of triumph.


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