Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 introduces a new twist to the co-op-focused Spec Ops mode with Survival. It's a wave-based endurance trial in which you must take down groups of different enemy types as they appear in increasingly difficult combinations. A Survival match only ends when all human players -- the game allows for either one or two -- are dead. Basically, it's the Modern Warfare 3 take on Zombies from the Treyarch Duty games. (Check out our guide to Modern Warfare's Mission co-op levels right here.)
Anyone can jump into a Survival match and feel like an unstoppable army of one for a few rounds. It doesn't last long though, since without careful planning you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed by superior forces even in the early rounds. This guide won't give you any surefire strategies, mostly because there really aren't any thanks to Survival's frequently unpredictable AI, but it'll help you prepare. So read on.
Growing Your Arsenal
A few things to note about the structure of Spec Ops mode. Whether you're playing Missions or Survival, the points you earn count toward your overall Spec Ops level progression, which is completely separate from MW3's multiplayer. As you rise through the 50 levels, you'll unlock an array of tools -- weapons, equipment, air support and even perks -- for use in Survival mode.
No need to avoid Survival until you hit level 50, but it's a good idea to at least give the 16 Spec Ops Missions a playthrough to get yourself going. It's much easier to rack up your early levels doing those and then take what you've earned as a starting point for Survival.
All of those items you unlock can be purchased as a Survival match unfolds. There's nothing for you during the first round; the second, third and fourth rounds will see shopping stations unlocked for weapons, equipment and air support, respectively. Money is earned as you kill enemies, with bonuses awarded for killing multiple enemies in quick succession or racking up a no-damage killstreak.
Survival mode is a little bit like multiplayer in that snap-to aiming isn't active. You'll have to manually line up your shots before you take them. More importantly, the enemies that swarm you do so intelligently. It's more than just them spawning in all corners of the map, though they'll do that too.
Enemies will often cluster into groups before moving in for an attack on your position. They'll also split up into smaller groups and execute flanking maneuvers, from two, three and more directions. You can take off running and get a group to follow behind you, but as soon as you slow and try to defend a position, the enemy will respond accordingly and break off pursuit to prepare a coordinated strike.
All of these factors mean two things. First, that Survival makes an excellent training ground for live multiplayer. Your AI-controlled enemy is easier to kill than your average human player, but the group tactics coupled with the lack of snap-to aiming help balance this out.
More importantly, these factors force Survival mode players to really keep moving around the maps. It's tempting to set up in a fixed position, call in a sentry turret or two and some Delta Squad support. Tactics like that will even serve you well in the early rounds. You need to be prepared to abandon your position though and beat a tactical retreat until you can regain your footing.
Variety Is The Spice Of Death
The thing that pushes Survival to be extra challenging is the abundance of enemy types you'll encounter. Standard soldiers. Armored soldiers. Juggernauts. Suicide bombers. Suicide dogs. Attack choppers. Claymore specialists. Bio-warfare specialists. Take your pick. They'll use more powerful weapons too as you climb to higher rounds.
The 16 Survival maps are broken into four groups, based on their difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard and Insane. Take careful note of each map's description; this is where you'll find all of the information you might need on what kinds of enemies you'll be facing on that map. Plan accordingly.
Choppers go down quickly under sustained fire from a light machine gun. Juggernauts are susceptible to flashbangs, but they're even more susceptible to Predator missiles. Make sure you buy the right tools for the right job by knowing what that job will be on your chosen map.
Tools Of The Trade
Self-Revive is a fairly early unlock and a vitally important one to have, especially if you're going solo on Survival. It's an extra life, a "get out of death" free card. If you go down, you'll pop back to your feet after a few seconds. Body Armor is useful too; you'll always start with it, but you can buy more at the equipment station.
An important thing to note about any AI-controlled equipment you can buy: they'll earn you points. Sentry turrets, grenade sentry turrets, Delta Squad and Riot Shield Squad. Place one or call one it, and any kills they score count as money in the bank for you. Also good to know: these items are all ridiculously useful.
Sadly, one of the most useful unlocks -- the Sleight of Hand perk -- doesn't become available until you reach level 50. Use the tips above though and it hopefully shouldn't take you too long!