- “Sand, Surf, and Spent Shells.”— Death Island's description
Death Island features two bases, one red and one blue, which are on opposite sides of the island. These bases each contain two teleporters which lead either to a Shade gunner's outcrop or a platform on top of the base where players can find two Banshees, a Ghost, and a Sniper Rifle.
In the center of the map is a large permanently closed hatch, similar to the one that the Pelican Echo 419 enters at the end of The Silent Cartographer. On it lies the map's Overshield, along with a Rocket Launcher, a Shotgun, a Fuel Rod Gun, grenades, and a Health kit. It also can support other vehicles such as the Warthogs and Scorpions that spawn below the base on the beach.
Since the map is large, a greater number of players, such as 8, should be playing. This map includes water which can be used as a hiding spot. It is similar in terms of design to the Halo 2 map, Relic, and the beginning of the Halo 3 campaign level, The Covenant.
- Many games of CTF played on Death Island will have little flag involvement. The most likely place to spawn is inside the base, so everyone runs straight for the Banshee teleporter to the top of the island. Most players charge at the other team's Banshee roof, but this doesn't get to the flag. Paths down to the bases from up there are too far from the bases, and trying to jump from the Banshee roof into a base's interior will always result in dying from the fall unless you have an Overshield, or land on a slope either on top of the base or on a wall.
- If you are experienced with fall damage reduction, it is possible to jump off the banshee roof and land on the slope above the entrance to each base, although the red team's base is much harder as the wall partially blocks you. If successful, on CTF matches you can score very quick captures by doing this and having teammates to cover you.
- The trees near each of the bases are solid, so landing on them can provide a quick way down to each team's base, where you can easily nab the flag and go through the teleporter, or if no one is looking, snatch a warthog and drive away.
- Players should value their vehicles because they are vital to this map and should be used whenever possible. Controlling the Scorpions and Banshees are often the key to winning, mostly due to the map's large size. A good tactic on CTF is to get at least four Scorpion tanks, drive them out into the ocean, and bombard the enemy base. Then, you can sneak troops up the base while they are distracted and steal the enemy flag. Also, a group of Banshees working together are a force to be reckoned with and can even take down groups of Scorpion tanks.
- Another good tactic on Team Slayer or Capture the Flag is to drive Scorpions up to the top of the map and bombard; placing them over their teleporters can also greatly help an offensive attack, so long as you watch out for Plasma Grenades.
- The best way to win on this map is to stick together, play like a team, and use as many vehicles as possible.
- You can also use the Shade turret as an option if needed, although it is less practical for offensive purposes. It is able to take out Banshees and Ghosts, especially in Team Games where they are likely to be in dogfights. Also, it can give cover fire to a teammate fleeing an enemy, although since the Sniper Rifle spawns next to the teleporter, the Shade is of dubious value.
- During Free-For-All Slayer, a good tactic is to go through the Banshee teleport, grab the Sniper Rifle, and camp near the Fuel Rod Gun's spawning point. It's a good vantage point and makes picking off enemies relatively simple. If a vehicle shows up, you have the Fuel Rod Gun to counter it, and you can drop into the cave and behind the rock for cover.
- This map is an experienced Banshee pilot's dream. Unlike Blood Gulch and Sidewinder, the level's invisible ceiling is incredibly high, providing ample room to maneuver. With the proper tactics (i.e. falling shots, curling, and peeling), the top pilots can take on two Scorpions at once and win. If they continuously neutralize all threats (other Banshees, Scorpions, Shades, etc.), the pilot can allow a team to dominate a match.
- Often, Scorpion drivers will back into the ocean to prevent being blindsided. But this makes the vehicles very hard to access for teammates if the driver is lost. Another problem is that these drivers will often stay still, making their pilots easy targets for a sniper.
- A useful trick for modes with 4 Ghosts spawning per team is to take the enemy Ghost that spawns behind the Banshees and drive it off the cliff. If you successfully land, it is then a fairly simple matter to drive into the base, splattering anyone getting in the way and take the flag. The Ghost's high speed also makes it the perfect flag transporter.
- In both bases, there is a ledge high above that has an Overshield on it. Although not accessible without mods, it makes for a great camping spot, especially if one has the Fuel Rod Gun. In CTF games, this can wreak havoc and allow a teammate to grab the flag while the enemy is confused.
- Each base can spawn up to 4 Scorpion tanks. Try to get teammates to use them with you. Controlling a number of Scorpions at a time is a good way to win a Slayer or CTF game.
- Each base has 1 Shotgun. A good tactic is on a CTF game is to camp in the base with the Shotgun and take out any opponents that try to steal your flag.
- An evil tactic to take is sneak under the enemy's base where the tanks are located. Hop into one of the tanks, and edge a little ways forward than the tank is seen from above. Due to the game's mechanics, any enemy who jumps onto your tanks instantly dies. Also, you can shoot any enemy that jumps down near your tank.
- Another "evil" tactic to do on Team Slayer and CTF is grab a tank and any enemy who enters the base is done for: just aim the cannon near one of the side entrances. This is called the Scorpion Death Trap.
- When looking into a base from outside the island, there is tree on the left hand side of the map. A good tactic is to grab a Sniper rifle and jump onto the tree. It is extremely difficult to be spotted at that location as the shadow of the cliff conceals the player well.
- Getting outside the Invisible walls on the map is also possible and can be done in the same fashion as the above rock glitch. Simply stand in front of the barrier and have a teammate ram into you with the Warthog, which should send you through the wall. Just make sure "Friendly Fire" is set to "off". You can also do it by yourself with a ghost. The Ghost method described above is also useful.
- Players that attempt to throw grenades from outside the map will find that while their player model does perform the animation, but the grenade is not visible.