Version tested Xbox 360
One of the joys of a great multiplayer shooter is the equilibrium you find once you know the maps inside out; the confidence that comes from knowing all the angles, and knowing that your opponents know them as well. It's then that the strategic elements of even the most meatheaded fragfest come to the fore, as balanced teams move and counter-move like chess players. Only, you know, chess players with automatic weapons and foul-mouthed headset banter.
Of course, eventually familiarity breeds contempt and you start to grow weary of the same old scenarios. That's where the oft-maligned DLC comes into play, with the FPS being one of the few genres where such additional material isn't automatically viewed as the devil's baked beans. There's a tangible value to an expanded map list, and when you're a series as established as Call of Duty there's a very real need to feed the hunger of your fanbase in order to stay at the head of the pack.
All of which brings us to the prosaically titled Map Pack 1, the first such offering for World at War. While the game hasn't quite unseated its direct predecessor Modern Warfare in the online gaming stakes, there are still plenty of people - around a quarter of a million at any time if our experience is anything to go by - all happy to keep racking up the XP back in World War II.
The good news for those players is that this trio of new multiplayer maps is a bit of a belter, boasting compelling environments and balanced design that will take even expert players hours of action to fully exploit.
Station is the smallest of the three, a medium-sized Berlin subway station ruined by Allied bombs. It's a long map, with the open space of the platforms in the centre broken up by abandoned railway carriages. The sides of the map offer claustrophobic rat-runs of tiled corridors, full of corners and cubby holes for close encounters, while steps lead up to a second tier, offering fantastic vantage points for the snipers, but precious little protection from flanking counter-attacks. Capture missions work especially well in these tight confines, ensuring constant action.
Knee Deep, on the other hand, is a large open-plan Japanese village. Huts on bamboo scaffolds rise above streams, and with players able to duck, scurry and clamber up, under and around the multiple structures, it's a complex map that rewards steady teamwork when sweeping through. Once again, there are elevated spots for snipers but they're too exposed to encourage too much camping. It's such a large map with so many covered routes under the huts that snipers are likely to get cramp as they linger in the rooftops waiting for the enemy to blunder into view.
Finally there's Nightfire, arguably the pick of the three maps. Set in a moonlit section of Berlin's ravaged interior it offers a staggering number of routes and approaches for each of the game types available. Lots of buildings are open to you, most with multiple storeys to explore, while the streets are littered with convenient cover. However you prefer to play, this is a map that seems custom-made to offer something for everyone.