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Infinity Ward takes on Treyarch at its own game with its Zombies-inspired mode, Surival...
Following the Modern Warfare leak earlier this year, the symbiotic relationship between Activision and gaming media outlets became damaged, as the publisher's carefully planned strategy of timed promotion was ruined in one fell swoop. A whole bundle of information surrounding the game was released on a well known gaming blog, and therefore it came as little surprise when it was 'announced' that Modern Warfare would include a new mode called Survival.
Fortunately for Activision, it will take a great deal more than a premature assets leak to dissipate the hype surrounding this year's Call of Duty release, something that is now nothing less than a gaming tradition. Infinity Ward's first title since its mass exodus of staff members in the wake of Vince/Zampella-gate will be under the intense scrutiny of the gaming media's microscope, as well as of consumers in general. It's surely important then, that Modern Warfare 3 is every bit as good as its predecessors and that it retains the series' notoriously tight online play.
One such feature in Modern Warfare 2 was the largely heralded Spec Ops mode, allowing both individual and co-operative tactical play through a sequence of scripted scenarios. Not one to shy away from adding ever more content, Infinity Ward has supplemented Spec Ops with an all-new Survival mode.
The mode was playable at E3, and we were able to see what it was like first-hand. It essentially focuses around the increasingly common concept of defending against waves of enemies, as the power and frequency of the bad guys rises with each round (it's the Zombies mode from Treyarch's Call of Duty games effectively, except without zombies). The initial waves of shotgun-toting idiots are satisfyingly easy, and cash is bestowed upon players as they shoot each one down. This accumulated credit can be spent to unlock new areas of the map, an essential act if the most secure areas are to be accessed.
In some of these newly-acquired spaces, chests of equipment can be reached. By selecting these boxes, players can replenish their ammunition and grenade supplies, as well as purchase new upgrades and weapons. The usual suspects are all there and Call of Duty veterans will be able to choose from all of their favourites from the previous COD games. As ever, only two main weapons can be held at a time, so players must remain vigilant if they decide to buy a rocket launcher or other specialised guns.
The chests also grant the option to equip a perk. These mostly familiar attributes will help players progress through the waves more efficiently; from classics such as Last Stand to new ones like the ability to call upon Delta Force allies to assist in the dispatching of enemies. Also available are perishable and permanent items that can aid in destroying the endless charge of bad guys. This means that players can not only add a red dot to their AK47, but they can set up sentry guns to block off blind spots and weak areas, or just deploy it to help on the front lines of whatever corner of the map they have chosen to hole up in. The crates are split into two different types as well (guns/perks & grenades/equipment), so a constant spatial awareness as to where the local resources are is essential to survival.
The more difficult waves set in once the rounds reach double digits, with helicopters, dogs and later Juggernauts joining in the mission to take you down. These fearsome monsters from Modern Warfare 2 are dropped off by helicopters in a plume of smoke and take hundreds of bullets to kill - a co-ordinated attack will stand a much better chance of success than a solo attempt.
Teamwork is an important element in Survival. While the mode can be played alone, it is certainly designed with 2 players in mind. Gamers can team up both via online or split-screen to try and survive as long as they can, and if either one of them becomes incapacitated by a stray shot or ferocious dog bite, then the other has a small window of time available to revive their fallen ally before they bleed out.
An independent levelling system will be included with Survival mode so that guns and equipment are slowly unlocked for purchase as players earn experience points and climb the rankings. Full details of the levelling system, as well as the map's inherent difficulties or potential difficulty settings are yet to be determined.
The parallels with Treyarch's Call of Duty zombie mode are very strong, and even if everything on offer here has already been seen in some form or other before, it is still a welcome addition to the maturing Call of Duty series. The firmly entrenched CoD engine is both fluid and refined, and throwing another game mode into the mix can never be a bad thing. It's a shame that almost everything included in Survival mode could have easily been guessed by anyone with any Call of Duty experience, yet a focus on risk-free quality over experimental innovation has set the franchise in good stead this far, and there appears to be little chance of a change of stance at this stage. Similarly to Spec Ops last time round, Survival is a modest but fun distraction from the main event, and a welcome addition to the Call of Duty experience.