Gamescom 2011: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops Survival Preview

We fend off killer dogs and suicide bombers in this new wave-based twist on Modern Warfare co-op.

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You know you've got something big on your hands when you're expecting three-hour lines for fans to play your game on the show floor. And, that's just what Activision has forecasted for the Modern Warfare 3 demo that the publisher has brought to Gamescom 2011. Fortunately, we had a chance to skip the inevitable chaos and jump into a hands-on demo of the game's new Spec Ops Survival mode before the doors open to the public tomorrow.

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Spec Ops Survival is the follow-up to the similarly titled Spec Ops cooperative mode that was first introduced in Modern Warfare 2. Whereas that mode was all about two players teaming up in a series of objective-based missions, Survival uses the familiar framework of the wave-based enemy assaults seen in the likes of Gears of War's Horde mode and Halo's Firefight. The only objective for you and your teammate is to survive a potentially infinite number of enemy waves, all while earning cash and experience to upgrade your firepower.

We got to play on the Paris map, which was a medium-sized chunk of urban devastation where alleyways, bridges, and demolished houses made for some interesting routes throughout the map. Of course, you don't have to go anywhere--you just have to survive. The twist, as you might have guessed, is that the waves of enemies ramp up in difficulty and sheer ridiculousness the longer you survive. While you start against a small handful of on-foot soldiers, you eventually have to deal with attack dogs strapped with C4, heavily armored juggernauts, and even attack choppers.

The game balances this ramped-up difficulty level with a currency system that lets you buy and upgrade new equipment at a handful of crates scattered around the map. The strategy comes down to whether you want to spend a little bit of cash refilling your weapons and grenades or save up for something bigger like a grenade-launching sentry turret or an additional flak jacket to boost your armor against the impending onslaught of enemies.

We had an absolute blast with the 13 rounds of Survival that we managed to stay alive through. Yes, the waves-of-enemies framework is something that's been seen in tons of games before, but we were immediately impressed with just how well Modern Warfare's trademarks have been implemented. The breakneck pacing, the persistent unlocks, and the variety of weaponry all manage to work wonderfully even as you're staying in place, which is more or less the exact opposite of how things tend to go in the quickly moving Modern Warfare campaigns.

Some of the highlights from our time with the game included hiding under a bridge while coordinating with our teammate who was going to lure out the chopper and shoot it; the sheer level of terror that came about when we heard the escalating bark of attack dogs but couldn't see where they were coming from; and frantically running up to a second-floor balcony to unload our shotgun against the juggernaut that was too slow to match our pace. The whole formula works very well, especially when you factor in the strategy of deciding which upgrades you want to buy during the fleeting seconds between rounds.

Besides the Survival Spec Ops (which has a full leveling and unlock system separately tuned from the one found in competitive multiplayer), we had a chance to play through one of the new missions in the standard Spec Ops mode. This was an asymmetrical mission set in Berlin where our teammate was in a building sniping enemies while we were slowly lumbering through the streets defusing IEDs in a heavy juggernaut suit. This one surprised us with just how enemies were thrown our way, but we managed to take our time and fire away at them enough to find all the IEDs on the road. Initially, we made the mistake of trying to do everything ourselves, which got us killed pretty quickly. It wasn't until we let our sniper teammate handle the heavy lifting that we found success.

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And that just about did it for what Activision had on display for Modern Warfare 3. Call of Duty: XP, the new convention dedicated to the blockbuster shooter franchise, is just around the corner, so you can expect to hear even more about Modern Warfare 3 before too long. Expect to see the final product released on store shelves this November.

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