Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is still months away, and we don't know that much about what Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games plan to do with the multiplayer in the game. But we do know that Spec Ops is making a comeback, having first appeared in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and at E3, we were able to get our hands on it and see what they've improved this time around. While we were only shown the new "Survival" Spec Ops mode, featuring endless waves of (non-zombie) enemies, it's clear that they want to make some dramatic changes to that co-op experience.
The biggest change for Spec Ops is character progression. It's separate from your progression in multiplayer, but it adds a very simple RPG-style element to the game, and you'll need it to survive. You'll start with only a pistol and your melee knife, and with each mounting kill, you'll gain more experience that gets converted into cash. As you progress, you'll unlock different armories and weapon stashes, and those will show up on your HUD. Head there, and you'll be able to open up a chest and choose a new weapon to purchase or refill your ammo.
Different armories contain different items, and when you see a grenade icon appear on your HUD, it means you've unlocked the Equipment Armory. That's where you pick up grenades, flashbangs, and other types of defensive equipment. We holed up on a map called Dome, which takes place around an abandoned radar installation of some sort in the desert. All of the Spec Ops maps are based on maps that appear in the multiplayer. My partner from the development team and myself took cover near a parked forklift in one of the outside areas, but this map has a lot of verticality to it, with a subterranean bunker you can enter, and stairways you can climb to fire on enemies from above.
Finding a good corner to defend is one of the keys to surviving in Survival mode, but when the dogs and Juggernauts start rolling in, you'll need to go mobile. Luckily, there's an Air Support armory you can unlock, which offers tactical items like an Attack Helicopter, or even a Delta Squad drop-in, where four AI soldiers join and fight alongside you. They can (and will) die, but they're fairly intelligent, will follow you, and are very handy in a firefight. Especially once the suicide bombers start coming in. If they get near you, they'll explode, and if you down them, they'll blink red and then ... explode. But if you think that's bad, just wait until the dogs strapped with C-4 start coming after you. Someone in the Call of Duty world sure hates dogs.
Between the endless waves, you'll see a Progression Screen that charts your kills and progress, and doing well in certain categories will lead to more cash. Additionally, there are Challenges in some waves, giving you the chance to earn extra cash. Those will appear in the lower left-hand area of your screen and will tell you to get five headshots in this wave. Do it, and you'll pocket an extra $500. You'll need that money, not just for weapons and ammo, but to buy things like Last Stand that will allow you to keep fighting. You can revive a downed ally, but Last Stand allows you to get fighting when you've gone down, and if you get a kill, you'll pop right back up. But those aren't unlimited, and you'll need to buy more.
You'll quickly learn that teamwork is key here, even though you can play entirely solo. In later waves, when you have two or three Juggernauts wandering around, if you don't work together, you'll die quickly. Automatic Turrets and Delta Squads (there's even a Riot Shield Squad) are your best bets, and do what you can to protect those AI squads. There is friendly fire in the game, and no one wants a teammate to shoot them in the back. There's even an Automatic Grenade Launcher Turret which really dishes out destruction. But we were told that you really don't want to use it in close-quarters with friendly fire turned on.
We aren't sure what other surprises Spec Ops has in store this time around, but the endless waves of enemies in Survival are a good place to blow off a lot of steam, while still gaining access to a lot of the Killstreaks and extras that you would encounter in Multiplayer. We still haven't seen what they're going to be revealing as far as the normal Multiplayer experience goes, but answerers of the Call of Duty will be very happy with what's here so far.