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Hands on with the next Call of Duty content drop

If you are already a Call of Duty Elite premium member, then you are flush with new maps. You are swimming in it, while the rest of the world stares at you jealously. Of the four maps that will be released to the public (the Xbox public, that is—PS3 and PC users still have a month wait ahead of them), three have already been in heavy rotation, and the fourth will be released tomorrow.

I had the chance to check out the newest multiplayer map, as well as the two Spec Ops missions last week at GDC. To sum up the entire meeting, the representative had to politely tap me on the shoulder and let me know that I was late for another appointment. When I mumbled something about “research” as I aggressively ignored them, they were forced to shut the system down.

Black Box

The multiplayer map is set in the ruins of a Southern Californian suburb, which Air Force One fell on. The shattered remains of the giant plane create a central focal point, as well as multiple pathways. Houses offer some cover, but the damaged walls make them a risky proposition to make a stand in, and a construction lot to the side gives a decent vantage point of the majority of the map, but at the cost of some cover.

The wreck of Air Force One itself also gave a slightly stealthy option, but “Black Box” is a small map–one of the smallest maps in MW3–so it would be easy to lay a trap for anyone advancing through the body of the plane. The demo I was part of showed off the survival aspect of the map, but it isn’t hard to see how it will play out in competitive play. The map will be frantic and offer plenty of close quarters combat. SMGs and the like will be at home, as will shotguns, but the open areas you need to traverse will give ranged weapons a chance. There will be some sniper opportunities, but speed and knowing the corners will be a bigger advantage than holding up in one easy to reach and hard to defend location.

The size of the map will make for some interesting—and potentially frustrating–games of Domination and Headquarters as a rain of grenades flies down to ruin your day, but faster paced games like Kill Confirmed and Free-For-All will be addictive. Capture the Flag will be hit or miss, as will Team Defender. Search and Destroy could be intense though.

As for survival, it is mixed. There are areas you can defend, but if you need to flee to regroup, you may be in trouble. I personally loved that style, but others might not.

Black Ice

The first of the two Spec Ops missions was a fast-paced action movie come to life. You begin on a snowmobile as either the driver or the gunner hanging onto the back, as swarms of enemies chase you. Shooting the enemy driver is a two-for-one, and once you break through the lines, you stop by a mine shaft. After a heated battle into the mine, you set an explosive, fight your way out, and then survive until your ride comes for you.

It was a fun, action packed mission that will take just a few minutes on the easier settings, but will require precision and skill on the higher difficulties. It is fun regardless, and is a good example of integrated co-op play.

Negotiator

The newest mission in Spec Ops “Negotiator,” offers one of the most intense missions in the Spec Ops retinue. From the very beginning you are in the thick of it. One of you begins in a small room somewhere in an Indian city, on your knees and preparing to be executed. When the guards turn his back for a moment, you need to grab his gun, take him out, take out the other guard in front of you that is preparing to execute a hostage, then make it over to the second player that is seconds away from being executed.

As you progress through the city, you are tasked with saving as many hostages as possible, many of which are seconds from death. To save as many as possible, you will need to combine speed with memorization. Some enemies will be on the other side of a breached door, which gives you a momentary slow-mo advantage, while others are going to require you to shoot straight and avoid hostages being used as a human shield.

At about three-fourths the way in you will reach a choke point where you can quickly take out five enemies with one grenade, or die by a dozen different directions. After that lies another courtyard filled with enemies and hostages. You don’t need to save every, or even most of the hostages to succeed, but if you want to best possible ranking you have a tough road ahead of you. Memorizing the locations of hostages and enemies and perfecting your timing are going to be key to earning the max stars.

For those on the Elite premium plan, the maps will be a fun new diversion to go along with the other content drops, but for those that will get it all at once, you are actually in for a treat. Four new multiplayer maps—both competitive and survival—and two new Spec Ops missions is a lot of content. For those considering purchasing the content collection on March 20 (or presumably April 20-ish for PC and PS3), you may want to take a day or two off work.