September 4, 2011

The Last Call (of Duty) at XP

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 9:12 am

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops XP
Saturday was the last hurrah for Activision’s first fan-event for Call of Duty, and I made sure to sit down with the new Spec Ops Survival mode before tactically ex-filtrating via zipline (followed by epic shuttle bus).

I was teamed up with a girl who hadn’t yet played Survival herself, and she asked me if it was akin to zombie mode from Treyarch’s parallel series. I hadn’t though of it that way, but the comparison is apt; Survival is the Modern Warfare stab at the now ubiquitous horde mode concept, much like zombie mode was for Treyarch.

The difference, of course, is that Modern Warfare puts a slightly more in-universe spin on things—and a little more traditional, too. Treyarch’s zombie maps have been increasingly experimental, putting bizarre twists on Call of Duty gameplay—but Survival takes a different approach, instead packaging the standard COD trappings in a reasonably straightforward Battle Royale, though that’s not to say there are no new ideas.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops XP
As is horde standard, waves of enemies descend on players who must fend them off co-operatively. Survival can take place on any of the sixteen on-disc multiplayer maps, and unlike zombie mode, there’s nowhere safe to hide and no way to turn back the approaching army—besides the liberal application of weapons fire, that is.

Enemies come in a number of varieties; I encountered run of the mill soldiers, suicide bombers, dogs, suicide dogs, helicopters and heavily armored juggernauts, all looking to ruin my day in grand videogame tradition.

Players start with little but pistols and grenades—but as waves progress, stations activate from which guns, ammo, explosives, strike packages, and other upgrades can be purchased, using points earned from smacking down enemies.

Interestingly, it’s even possible to call down squads of AI soldiers to help break the enemy advance, or care packages offering some of the perks found in the multiplayer component.

With only two players, however, Survival is a different animal from comparable horde game types: it’s a, uh, harder animal. It didn’t take many waves for myself and my teammate to be overwhelmed by exploding dog bombs and juggernauts, kicking us right back down to wave number one. The upgrades become critical almost immediately, as exponentially increasing difficulty demands player re-equip regularly.

While I didn’t spend much time with the game, Spec Ops felt like a reasonably exciting means to be defeated endlessly within Call of Duty—only by AI instead of thirteen year-old kids with aimbots.

Still, where zombie mode was very much the opposite of what one might have expected from Call of Duty, Spec Ops Survival is more or less exactly what one might expect—whether that’s to its credit will be for gamers to decide this November.

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