At Call of Duty XP Activision showed off their new 'Survival' mode for Spec Ops – the cooperative multiplayer mode making a return from Modern Warfare 2. If you've read our MW3 multiplayer preview, then you know that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer games took liberties in adding new modes that made the shooter play quite differently.
For anyone who is familiar with both Infinity Ward's Spec Ops mode, and Treyarch's Zombies modes from previous Call of Duty titles, then believe me when I say that Survival mode in MW3 is pretty much a mix of the two. As the name implies, players team up to fight off as many waves of enemies as they can before the inevitable round that you just cannot hold off.
Two Spec Ops Survival maps were available to be played by the press and public alike, being Dome, and Paris. Both maps offered roughly the same experience, save for a slight difficulty hike from Easy to Normal in Dome. Unlike the Zombies mode that I've compared it to, Survival seems takes place in smaller maps, making every encounter feel very up close and personal. Waves of enemies rush you and your partner, with a countdown timer in between each round allowing players to collect themselves, replenish ammo, or prepare for upcoming rounds.
There are 3 crates spread across either map – each marked with a different symbol (gun, grenade, and aircraft). Using points/money earned from surviving and killing enemies in each wave, players can purchase contents in each box. The box marked with a gun is used to replenish ammo, or to purchase a weapon. You have access to all weapons from the get-go, which is nice, since that allows you to select any handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle, submachine gun, or assault rifle that you're familiar and comfortable with. The grenade box allows the player to purchase explosives such as different grenade types, C4, and more. The box marked with an aircraft is extremely useful, allowing players to purchase upgrades like Body Armor, or acquire the ability to call in support reminiscent of the Kill Streaks from multiplayer at any time. Trust me, that support comes in useful, and ranges from air strikes, turrets, choppers, to even your own AI controlled Delta Squad.
That's a lot of firepower, but for good reason. Modern Warfare 3 sees the return of some enemies we're used to fighting, but this time they've brought a little something extra with them to the battlefield making them pretty insane to fight in hordes. Some attack dogs are now be strapped with C4 (yes, exploding dogs), enemy choppers, and making a return are the heavily armored juggernauts from MW2 – except this time, they can carry blast shields with them. Redundant? Maybe. But the added layer of armor makes those guys a real threat that shakes things up, and adds a layer of fear and anxiety to the already intense action.
One thing I noticed off the bat was that there was never that frustrating moment you feel in the Zombies when you run out of ammo. Most enemies drop weapons (as they are not zombies) when killed with a few rounds left in the clip. Due to the low amount of ammunition in each dropped weapon you cannot expect to survive just picking guns up off the floor, but you always have a chance to continue fighting if you run out of ammo.
Full disclosure – Spec Ops Survival mode was the most fun aspect of Modern Warfare 3 that I had the opportunity to experience at CoD XP. Sure the survival/horde formula is already tried-and-true, and has been featured in many different games already. However, that didn't stop me from retrying games over and over with my partner, and even coming back to Spec Ops at least once a day during the event.
I'm not sure why regular Spec Ops (linear objective-based co-op missions) didn't make an appearance at the show, but I assume it's because Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer wanted to show something completely new.
I find myself looking forward to playing more Spec Ops, and you should definitely check it out for yourselves when Modern Warfare 3 is released later this year. Check out a gameplay trailer below (Note: that is the Xbox 360 version of the game, since this was a 360-sponsored event after all) :