Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops Survival Mode Preview
Listeners of the GodCast will know that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was right up there on my personal list of most anticipated titles to experience during E3. So I’m sure you can understand the excitement when I was told we’d be able to get some hands-on time with the game behind closed doors.
As we sat down to play on the individual Xbox 360 consoles, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the updated graphics. It amazes me every other year, how Infinity Ward manage to squeeze so much juice out of that IW Engine (now apparently renamed MW Engine, in support of the new Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer alliance). The engine has been updated and upgraded every couple of years since the original Call of Duty game. If you thought Modern Warfare 2 looked sharp on your console, you’re going to be quite surprised by how refined Modern Warfare 3 looks.
Last month, our News Editor Terry Lucy and I spoke to Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling. In Terry’s Modern Warfare 3 preview he discussed Robert’s hints that Modern Warfare 3 would feature a new addition to the Spec Ops game mode. Not long afterwards, we revealed a few more details about Spec Ops Survival Mode, drawing our information from quotes Robert Bowling had made. A master of hinting, that one! At E3, team GodisaGeek were able to get down and dirty with Spec Ops Survival mode and play it to our heart’s content.
The premise of this new mode is the idea that rather than taking on campaign missions, as you would in traditional Spec Ops mode, you and a friend join forces to combat waves of enemy bots. This feature takes advantage of all the multiplayer maps in the game, allowing you to play survival mode on maps you already know. While Survival Mode is intended to be a co-operative effort, it can be played solo as well as split-screen and of course over Xbox LIVE. We played over Xbox LIVE on a map called Dome, set at a radar station in the middle of the desert. I believe this is the level TheLegendOfKarl can be seen spawning in at the end of the Call of Duty Elite trailer.
Starting with only a pistol, players can pick up a shotgun from their kills, during the first wave of enemies. From that point on, new weapons can be purchased from the Armory, which is another new addition to the game. A laptop is placed in a semi-safe location around the map, indicated with a large green gun icon. Players interact with the laptop, bringing up the Armory menu. Here guns, ammo and upgrades (such as red dot sights) can be purchased with in-game money.
As well as the Weapon Armory, there’s also a Support Armory, indicated by a plane icon, where players can buy Air Support and AI backup. The backup can be extremely handy during the trickier boss stages. Players can call in friendly AI with the D-Pad, just as you could with Perks in the regular multiplayer modes in Call of Duty. The friendly AI is available in two distinguishable squads: Delta Squad are there for extra fire power to distract the enemy, and Riot Shield Squad are more of a defensive team, with riot shields at the ready to absorbs the enemy’s shrapnel. You can only buy one support feature at a time, but once you’ve used the support action, you’re free to buy another.
The bright green grenade icon highlights the third and final armory, the Equipment Armory. This is the place where you’ll go to stock up on frags, flashbangs, rpgs, and what are known as Auto Sentrys, which are the turrets from regular multiplayer mode. The Auto Sentry is a very welcome addition and enhances the tactical gameplay by providing additional cover for the player characters.
In-game money is earned from kills, in a Counter-Strike fashion. Bonus money is also a reward for completing challenges. For example, the Kill Streak bonus earns a player $500 for killing 4 enemies in a row without taking damage. Each time you earn the Kill Streak, the bonus money goes up by an additional $500. An interesting aspect is that you can share money with your co-op partner. So if player one is short of a few bob, player 2 can dip their hands in their pocket and help them out. There’s a nice performance ticker at the end of each round, detailing kills/deaths and money earned.
Players are given 30 seconds at the end of each round to pick up weapons and prepare themselves for the incoming onslaught. Of course if you’re ready earlier you can both press A to start the round immediately, but after playing a bunch of horde and zombie modes in previous games, this feels like a nice little touch.
Enemies get tougher with each round, gaining better armor and weapons, and acquiring sub machine guns at wave 4. Each round of enemies features new challenges, such as enemies with gas masks and smoke grenades. You may have heard about the Kamikaze enemies, which run at you with C4 strapped to their chest. Once the timer has been initiated (which happens when you shoot them) it doesn’t matter if they’re dead or not; they’re going to blow! This can be used as a tactical advantage, to take a few of their buddies out with the explosion. Dogs are re-introduced to Modern Warfare in this mode along with enemy bots, and by wave 8 they too have C4 attached to them. Red flashing lights and explosions all around you, the playing field soon becomes quite hectic, making the 30 second breaks all the more necessary.
If you make it as far as wave 9, you reach the second boss round; Juggernauts! This being an Infinity Ward title, they don’t just spawn around the corner, out of sight. In true Modern Warfare style a helecopter flies overhead, drops a smoke grenade down, and out of the cloud of smoke comes the beast that is the Juggernaut. Pure blockbuster awesomeness.
The AI seems to have some nice depth to it. It’s the small things that really count. If you stay in one spot, enemies will pick up on that and try flush you out with grenades or flashbangs, and if you plant Auto Sentries, enemies soon become aware of the tactical advantage and will target the turret in order to take it out of the equation.
By wave 10 the enemies have full armor and AK-47’s, and attack helicopters will be popping in every few rounds. From that point on it’s a pretty damn challenging experience. This is definitely going to be a game mode used to hone those multiplayer skills, online or offline.
Gamers familiar with the Call of Duty franchise will be aware of Last Stand and/or Final Stand. It’s a perk that’s been used in multiplayer so that instead of dying immediately, a player is down but not out on the ground, with nothing but a single pistol clip to avenge your impending death (or not, in Call of Duty Black Ops, where team mates can recover you). In Spec Ops Survival mode that’s the default situation, but in this game mode, when a player is shot to the point of being knocked down, they can recover themselves by killing another enemy with the pistol. This can only happen one time per game though. After that, it’s up to the co-op player to help you up.
Probably one of the most anticipated features of the new Spec Ops mode is the independent ranking system. Ranks and Leaderboards will be completely seperate from those in the regular multiplayer game. This will breed a whole new type of Call of Duty player. Joining the single player campaign fans, the multiplayer aficionados will be the Spec Ops enthusiasts. There will be a whole new elite community and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more entertaining and tactical videos on YouTube.
A lot of pre-E3 speculation and rumours had this mode down as Modern Warfare 3’s Horde mode, but that’s not entirely true. This new game mode is probably more accurately described as Horde mode meets Wager Match, meets Modern Warfare. With Modern Warfare’s ranking system, the combat upgrade abilites and ever-improving enemies, Survival mode goes a step further than traditional Horde modes, offering players more content to get their teeth into.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is due out on November 8th, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.