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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Survival Mode Hands-On GamesCom 2011 Preview

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 juggernaut charges ever closer to its November release and you can imagine other developers quaking in their place to find a safe camping spot to avoid its cash-fuelled assault rifle. But with ever growing dissent among gamers about expensive DLC, short single player and the Elite minefield, can Modern Warfare 3 still defeat all of its FPS competition?

At this year’s GamesCom we were given the opportunity to get a hands-on with the recently announced co-operative “Survival Mode”. It seems like a contractual obligation for every multiplayer game released to have some form of “Horde” option and Modern Warfare 3 has certainly jumped on the bandwagon. In this mode, between one and two players work together to fight off increasingly difficult waves of enemies either online or in local split-screen.

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In a surprising, but welcome, decision this co-operative mode will be playable on any of the game’s maps. This has been confirmed to include any future DLC maps, which is clearly designed to add more value to the controversially priced packs that have been released for the last few instalments. In a departure from the Nazi Zombies mode, the enemies are dynamically spawned, rather than at fixed locations, that are dependent on the players’ current positions. This will presumably adds challenge as the waves increase in difficulty, but in our short time it didn’t really seem to have too much impact on the gameplay. Enemies seemed to take a long time to appear and it was very easy to find a good camping spot with your partner to wait out the baddies.

As the game began you start with simple pistols, but earn in-game money that can be used to purchase a range of upgrades and new weapons. Cash is earned through kills and actions that help your partner, such as revising them when they are downed. It’s a very formulaic approach to a horde mode and seems to have borrowed a lot of ideas from Killing Floor, although it lacks the same low-budget charm. Your options for where to spend your dollars are divided between weapons, equipment and support laptops each of which has a multitude of options.

We mainly focused our early efforts on the weapons laptop to get a good load-out established. Choosing a decent assault rifle and shotgun, both of which could be upgraded progressively we were well placed to swiftly eliminate the early waves of foes. The assault rifle options included better sights and underslung grenade launcher and shotgun attachments. There was a good range of options available to cater for a range of different tactics although the majority of our cash went into more ammunition for our primary weapons.

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At later stages we managed to save up for some more exciting support options including a support helicopter, which made a wave a complete breeze and a turret that could cover one flank for us easily. It was a bit strange seeing a turret, which did vaguely resemble those seen in the forthcoming Gears of War 3, in a Modern Warfare game. The general tone of Survival Mode didn’t seem as serious and realistic as the single player elements of the series, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The progressively more difficult waves were certainly varied and had a wide range of enemy types to keep you on your toes. To begin with the enemies were lightly armoured and had the most basic weapons. However soon we found ourselves facing attack dogs, suicide bombers (enemies with explosives strapped to their chests) and even the heavily armoured Juggernaut enemies from Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops Mode. Although it never felt too challenging and hopefully a range of difficulty modes will help to keep the mode fresh and difficult.

The biggest problem with Modern Warfare 3’s Survival Mode is how familiar it all feels. There was very little about it that felt fresh or different. The most cynical would argue that it was the result of a developer meeting to crowbar in extra modes and contents for a sequel. A straightforward way to do this would be the fusion of Spec Ops and Nazi Zombies, resulting in Survival Mode. With so many other games doing variations on Horde Mode, it’s difficult to see this standing out, aside from having the Call of Duty branding stuck on it.

Survival Mode wasn’t anything particularly different and we felt that it was a bit dull. Occasionally it was fun, when you had to work together to take down a Juggernaut or were trying to shoot down a chopper with a pistol. Otherwise, gunning down wave after wave of enemies felt a little stale and it was difficult to escape the feeling of cynicism at the inclusion of this game mode. It feels like a check box somewhere, that it was only present for another bullet point on the back of the packaging to help compete with the increased competition that will be facing Modern Warfare 3.

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However, in saying that Survival Mode did seem to offer many of the features of its competitors although whether it will have the same degree of popularity and replayability as Nazi Zombies did is a much more difficult question. Playing this with friends would surely add an extra degree of enjoyment and could help to elevate this above a cash-in on a popular gaming craze. Only time will tell, but whether or not fans will see this as a great new feature or as an anxious move by Activision to try and add more value to their Call of Duty experience.

evilgiraffeman | 1st September, 2011

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