Under surveillance at E3 was the Spec Ops mode, Survival, for Modern Warfare 3 ? and Keith Stuart likes what he sees
The "Spec Ops" option was Modern Warfare 2's nice little surprise ? a range of challenging, self-contained co-op missions based around maps from the campaign.
It looks as though MW3 is going to build on that recipe, and at E3, Infinity Ward and Sledge Hammer were showing off a new Spec Ops mode, "Survival" ? a sort of Horde variant in which a duo of players must survive through wave after wave of enemy attacks.
The map I tried (there are apparently a range of Survival environments to test yourself against) is called Dome, and it's set in and around a ? yes ? dome-like satellite station. On one side of the map, there's garage-like building dug into the hillside, and the other a slowly rising incline.
In the middle are various meagre cover points and a few little cul-de-sacs where you can hunker down and scope out the bad guys, who will spawn from several areas, including inside the sat-base.
Each wave is themed, and they get progressively more challenging. At first, it's just one or two grunt soldiers coming at you. Then they come with dogs (who seem to spawn from separate areas, just to confuse you).
Later, you have tricky spetsnaz forces, who'll roll and dive about the place attempting to sneak up on you, and even helicopter attacks where you and your friend will need to shoot down two choppers, carefully listening out for the telltale whirring noise that lets you know they're about to strafe the bejesus out of you with twin miniguns.
My favourite wave involved soldiers strapped with C4 who would explode when shot. Well, I thought that would be my favourite until the next level, which added dogs strapped with C4 explosives. You want to shoot those guys from a distance if you can.
Fortunately, there is an escalating response to all this. Though you start out with a basic handgun, every kill earns you cash which can be spent at the armoury; you can either buy new weapons, drawn from the entire MW selection, or upgrade the models you're already carrying (I'm advised by my Activision co-op instructor to go for the ACR 6.8 ? a good fast weapon for this compact map).
Alternatively, there's an equipment store where you can buy armour, gun sights and tasty treats such as automatic gun turrets. Each player earns a separate pile of cash, but it's possible to swap money between the two of you, so the more proficient killer can help out his friend. This altruism extends to the revive feature that lets you save your downed partner ? though if you're both killed, it's game over.
In the background, the development team has added a persistent ranking feature to the mode, so you can earn experience points, rank up and earn cool new stuff as you go, just like in multiplayer. But actually, this is all separate from your multiplayer rank, so you'll have two numbers on your player card ? another reason to give Specs Ops some serious attention.
The main reason though, is that it's an absolute blast. Although the Dome map is very small, there's a huge range of tactical approaches, and it's enormously fun to start working out how to divide up each wave between you and your partner, and how to use the familiar weapons and equipment of the MW multiplayer experience in a very different scenario. I'm really interested to see the other maps ? co-op survival mayhem on the streets of London would be a highly welcome addition.
? Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be released for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 on 8 November