Part of the tension in Survival is having to hustle back to a terminal when you’re out of ammo or need a new weapon to take out pesky suicidal, explosive-loaded enemy combatants. Those enemies will come in ever tougher tiers, too: lightning-quick suicide dogs, crackshot snipers, helicopter gunships and the fearsome Juggernauts. The big, tank-like supersoldiers of previous COD games get broken up into different types, too: ones that wield riot shields, ones that are susceptible to explosives or ones that can only be taken out by headshots.
Unlike Horde-style co-op modes in other games, Spec Ops Survival in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 goes on for an infinite amount of levels. Bowling and I got through to wave 9 and even that was a challenge. Bowling’s clearly a COD vet but the randomness of Survival kept him jumping and yelling in surprise, too. You never know where an enemy squad will surface from and the maps are so big that you can easily get separated from each other.
That, of course, just makes it easier to picked off. Survival shows off a rising trend in the shooter category, which is pairing the tower defense mechanic of resource management and deployment with action/shooter elements. Games where you buy and place battlefield assets in the middle of a firefight (or in between rounds) have cropped up a lot this year, with Section 8: Prejudice and Trenched as current examples, with Gears of War 3′s Horde Mode 2.0 on the way as well.
Despite that similarity, MW3 still has all the traits that make COD a powerhouse on an annual basis. The fast action, gritty realism and frantic pacing are all there, just as they have been, and there’s still more to be revealed with regard to multiplayer and the Elite social platform Activision’s currently beta-testing. Check out our interview with Bowling and Schofield and hear them talk about what’s it’s been like to build one of the year’s biggest games.