There are 16 Spec Ops missions to choose from in Modern Warfare 3, compared to MW2's 23. While there are some that feel like they're pulled straight from campaign scenarios (because they are) and some that feel a bit too straightforward, most of the new missions offer unique co-op play opportunities that you can't experience in other parts of the game. Here's a rundown of what you'll find.
STAY SHARP: Remember The Pit from Modern Warfare 2? The training course you could run through? Stay Sharp is MW3's take on that obstacle course. Pro tip: lose the assault rifle and double up on semi-automatic pistols. Quicker to reload and swap between. Also, watch out for the cardboard dogs!
MILEHIGH JACK: This second Spec Ops mission lets you play through one of the major MW3 story moments from the perspective of Makarov's flunkies. Try to swap your pistol for one of the AA-12 shotties that the first group of bad guys drops. It's useful in these tight confines. Also, when you get to the breach moment at the very end, the person on the right should take note of two things: don't shoot the President and watch out for the shooter immediately to your right.
OVER REACTOR: Here you get to replay a slightly tweaked version of the campaign's "storming the Russian submarine" moment. Fight your way in the reactor, shut it down and then get topside to the extraction point. Straightforward MW3 mission. Take care during the final leg to stick together. Time it so that you always have a flashbang on the ground and don't dawdle, as enemies will be spawning behind you as well.
HIT AND RUN: This one's fun. The host starts with a sniper rifle. Stick to the balcony starting point and use that sniper rifle to take out the the mission objective target in the building immediately in front of you; at the start of the mission, you can move a little to the right and have a clean shot at him through the second story window. Also, at the end, make sure you don't take cover in the cargo container containing the hostages. A stray bullet hits one and it's Mission Failed.
TOXIC PARADISE: Time to wear some juggernaut suits! Work your way slowly through the level, clearing out resistance until enemy re-spawns slow to a trickle. Finding the right path can be a little confusing, since it might look sometimes like you're passing an objective marker as you work your way toward it. Just remember that it's a twisty path through this Modern Warfare 3 mission, but a linear one.
FIREWALL: My personal favorite of the new Modern Warfare 3 missions. This one's co-op only. One player is a soldier on the ground, working through a series of warehouse rooms and shipping port locations as enemy foot soldiers and attack choppers swarm from all sides. The other player controls a series of remote turrets. Cooperation is necessary here; the turret player should clear out any visible resistance so that the soldier player can move forward to the next objective point, which is a hackable laptop that opens up a new set of turret vantage points for the non-soldier to make use of. The turret player should always watch and listen for choppers once the action moves outside. For the last bit, have the soldier hide out in one of the concrete cylinders while the turret does most of the killing.
FATAL EXTRACTION: Very straightforward campaign-ish moment. Kill enemies to make intel appear on the battlefield. Move slowly and carefully. Check each building, all windows and rooftops. Gun-toting soldiers and hyenas will attack you from multiple directions. Patience is your greatest virtue here.
HOSTAGE TAKER: Another MW3 campaign moment, and an absolutely killer stealth mission. Move as a pair in co-op, as quickly as you can. Try to take out the various groups of enemies before they can shoot their hostages; you'll come upon scenes like this several times. Also note that you can shoot out the chopper's spotlight. Take great care in the final moment to not shoot the President's daughter; her captor moves around a lot!
CHARGES SET: Another obstacle course. Very simple stuff here. You'll breach doors in two locations. There are many more civilians to watch out for this time, but your snap-to aim is good about not targeting them. Bring pistols and move quickly.
RESISTANCE MOVEMENT: Another fun stealth-ish mission. You're playing in a familiar location from the campaign, but under very different circumstances. Blowing your cover isn't as big of a problem here as it is in the Spec Ops mode's other stealth mission. Just try not to shoot the rebels you're rescuing.
LITTLE BROS: You'll want two players for this. One does most of the on-the-ground work, the other provides air support from the side door of a chopper. The chopper player is using standard weapons, nothing mounted, so reloading will be necessary. Communication is key, since the chopper player can get a better sense of what's approaching the ground player in the shattered skyscrapers you'll be flying next to.
INVISIBLE THREAT: You can solo or co-op this one, but it's best with two players. One player is on the ground in a juggernaut suit defusing bombs while the other provides overwatch from a balcony high above. In MW3 co-op, the overwatch player gets a sniper rifle and a constantly reloading Predator missile. Access the Predator immediately when the mission starts to make the objective markers appear; you'll probably have to do this more than once. In solo matches, the juggernaut player gets the Predator. Same deal as far as revealing your objectives goes. In co-op, the sniper should provide constant ground support while listening for approaching attack choppers. Use the sniper rifle to take those down; a couple shots is all you'll need.
SERVER CRASH: This is a very enjoyable yet straightforward mission. Make your way to an underground hideout and hack a server there to get sensitive information, then escape. It's similar in some ways to one of the later missions in MW2. One thing to note as far as the hideout goes: there are claymores and various weapons there for you to use. Set yourself up to defend that area before you start the hack. Trust me, it helps.
SMACK TOWN: Another mission that works best in co-op, though it's not necessary. The action starts out with both players in a chopper. Shoot everything. Eventually the chopper will come to a hover and one player will be forced to exit while the other is given the option of staying on board. Don't. Both should go down to the ground. If one of you happens to go down, at least the MW3 mission won't end. Take note of the weapons waiting for you after you drop out of the chopper. Make sure someone grabs the sniper rifle; VERY handy here.
FLOOD THE MARKET: This is basically a rehash of the first mission, with the added responsibility of having to find and collect items at three objective points once you reach the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Watch your angles in there; enemies will be coming at you from all sides. The approach is as you remember it from the campaign, so be sure to advance slowly and use your XM25 'nade launcher.
FIRE MISSION: The final Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops mission is co-op only, with one player providing fire support from the safe confines of an AC-130. There are no mysteries to this one: both players need to communicate and act quickly, since this is a timed exercise and you don't have much to work with. The AC-130 should do almost all of the killing here. Quickly. That's the operative word.
Adam Rosenberg is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, NY and living at the whims of his lovable chow, Loki. You can find his work plastered all over the Internet, or just follow him on Twitter @geminibros