Is it even possible to get excited by a wave-based survival mode in 2011? Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward clearly seem to think so, offering up this Survival mode as part of Modern Warfare 3's returning two-player Spec Ops package.
Survival will use Modern Warfare 3's competitive multiplayer maps, though it is currently undecided if the mode will support all of them or a select few - it doesn't really make sense to incorporate the larger maps in a mode which thrives in close-quarters combat, after all.
The map I got to play on was called Dome, which had the same claustrophobic sense of maps like Rust or Nuketown. An Activision representative was unable to tell me whether this was the full breadth of the level or whether Survival mode only uses a cross-section of the map.
Scattered around each map will be three key locations, each housing a particular resupply crate. Equipment crates allow you to buy grenades and other handy tools, Weapon crates let you purchase, upgrade and resupply your arsenal, and Support crates provide the kind of tools only usually seen in killstreaks, such as sentry guns and air strikes.
All of these items are purchased with in-game currency, which accrues based on a player's kills and general performance. Cash can also be transferred between the two players if they're feeling philanthropic. The game keeps scores for each player, and displays their respective performance upon completing each wave of combat.
While the bulk of the mode will be shooting endless drones of regular infantry, various other enemies are dropped in every few rounds to mix things up a bit. At the moment this means either attack dogs, enemy helicopters or heavily armoured Juggernauts. The latter arrives in a plume of smoke and spectacle just before the tenth wave and managed to kill both me and my partner.
As with Modern Warfare 2, the trick (which I forgot, admittedly) is to stun the Juggernaut with a flashbang. This means you'd be wise to keep at least one on hand at all times.
Some enemies (including dogs) also pack C4 vests, which trigger upon their death. The radius of the resulting explosion is significant.
While you'll be able to level up in Survival, these statistics will be separate from your multiplayer rank. It's also unclear what hoovering up experience points actually does, though my guess will be that some purchasable items (all of which are available in this current pre-alpha build) will be locked until you reach certain prerequisites.
Corpses pile up thick and fast in the heat of action, and former enemies quickly become amusing ragdoll distractions to giggle at. At one point in my run about fifteen enemies were attempting to run through a bottleneck, before an explosion caused them to fly through the air like human confetti.
There's a thirty-second gap after successfully repelling a wave, which gives you time to stock up on gear and grab a vantage point before enemy forces return, though the countdown can be skipped if both players agree.
Horde-style modes are now so established in the shooter genre that they're on par with buzz cuts and the colour brown, so it's hard to really get excited about Modern Warfare 3's Survival mode in terms of plain innovation. But in terms of fun? My finger instinctively jabbed the restart button at the end of the game, and that's certainly the first time that's happened for a wave-based survival mode in a very, very long time.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on November 8.