Hands On: MW3 Survival ModeBy Kyle Mann | September 3, 2011 | Previews | 10 comments | Share
There’s something compelling about co-op modes, and MW3‘s trying to cash in on the craze with its new Survival Mode. Though it’s similar in some ways to the popular zombie game types, the new Survival experience has lots of cool tricks up its sleeve to make for a fun, rewarding experience with a friend.
A preface: Activision showed the game only on the Xbox 360, and as a PC gamer I have some serious trouble with controllers in my FPS games. That being said, I was paired up with a friendly, knowledgeable teammate who’d been around the Call of Duty block a few times, so I was able to get accustomed to the controls in no time. If you’re already used to Black Ops or any of the other recent Call of Duty games on consoles, you’ll feel right at home as the setup has changed very little.
Jumping into the game, we started out with no cash and just a puny 5-7 pistol to defend ourselves against the first wave of enemies. Holing ourselves up in a building with just two entrances, we dispatched the first onslaught with little trouble and were rewarded for our performance with a small sum of cash. Scattered around the map were supply points at which we were able to purchase new guns, armor, ammo, or special defenses like airstrikes, a support squad, or sentry guns. The economy element, reminiscent of games like Counter-Strike, added a layer of depth to the game: do we go for body armor now or save up for a sentry gun next round? Should I drop $750 to restock my current gun’s ammo, or is it better to try to squeak by with my pistol this round? It’s quite a bit of fun to be forced to frantically make strategic decisions like this before each wave starts.
The waves of hostiles of course get increasingly difficult. At first, a few small squads of soldiers will assault your position; by round four or five, attack dogs and special ops soldiers will make an appearance. By the time they finally overwhelmed us during Wave 19, we had faced choppers, beastly SWAT team “Juggernauts”, suicide bombers with C4 strapped to their chests, and even deadly bomber dogs. The rate of progression feels pretty balanced; there was never a sudden spike in difficulty or a lull in the action.
There are a couple other mechanics ripped from other games and the previous titles in the series: you’re able to revive friends who have fallen, and slapping the Y button will cause your character to yell out for help. Killstreaks and other challenges sit in the lower left corner of the screen, and successful completion of these will grant the player a cash bonus to spend on bigger, louder guns.
While I can’t say how much staying power the game mode has, I can say that the hour I spent with it flew by in what seemed like no time at all. Assuming there are enough maps and content to keep people interested, I can safely say Survival Mode will be a highlight of MW3 for me and others as well.
Graphics & Gameplay
If you haven’t been able to tell from the trailers and other media that have been released, the graphics in MW3 don’t appear any better than Black Ops. The modified Quake III engine is definitely starting to show its age, but on the plus side the art direction always provides clear targets and useful player feedback. While environments were a little on the bland side, character animations Gun sounds are also similar to the level of quality in previous Call of Duty games; I felt some of the gun effects are still a little weak, though they have been improved a touch.
Gun-feel, however, is a different story. I’ve been a little turned off from some of the recent Call of Duty games, but whatever fine-tuning the development teams have done to the shooting mechanics has paid off. Guns feel tight and powerful, and nothing really feels unbalanced (at least in the Survival Mode.) Even the most powerful weapons have their drawbacks, and sentry gun and support bonuses will only help you for so long before a chopper or Juggernaut takes them down.
Worth Keeping an Eye On
Whether you’re disenchanted with the franchise or you’re already frothing at the mouth to give Activision your hard-earned money for MW3, I’d encourage you to at least give Survival Mode a shot, even if just at a buddy’s house when the game comes out. As someone who’s spent hours on Unreal Tournament 2004‘s Onslaught mode, I gotta say I’m looking forward to putting some time into MW3′s Survival Mode come November, regardless of how the rest of the game turns out–though next time, I hope to tackle it with a trusty keyboard and mouse.