Can you go 50 rounds with Call of Duty? Here’s your guide to the Exo Survival mode

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As much fun as it is to get trounced by 12-year-olds with ninja skills, sometimes it’s better to kick back with some friends and work out your frustrations on AI hordes. That’s where Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s Exo Survival mode comes in.

Related: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review

Exo Survival lets you form a team of four soldiers tasked with surviving wave after wave of futuristic foes. And while the first few waves shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge, this mode can get very hard, very fast. That’s why we’ve compiled some starter tips (including how to unlock a hidden Zombies mode!) to give you the upper hand.

Picking your class

Unlike Survival modes in previous installments, Exo Survival begins by letting you select a class. There are three to choose from (Light, Specialist and Heavy), and each determines your available weapons and mobility.

Playing as the Light class gives you access to all of your boost abilities (air-dashes and the like) and the fastest run speed. Light also has access to the most flexible weapons, in SMGs and assault rifles. The downside is that you also have the least amount of armor. For its Scorestreak — every class has one — the Light class is able to call in UAVs.

The Specialist class is a study in extremes. You focus either on long range (sniper rifles) or raw stopping power up close (shotguns) and you still have some mobility options, but they’re slightly limited compared to the Light class. You have more armor, though, so at least there’s that. For its Scorestreak, the Specialist class is able to drop down a sentry gun.

Related: Excel in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s campaign with our handy guide to what’s new

The Heavy is, predictably, the big boy of the bunch. Heavy machine guns and laser rifles make up the bulk of the Heavy’s arsenal, and he comes with a ton of armor. Unfortunately, your mobility is severely limited. You can still double jump, but air-dashing is out of the question. For its Scorestreak, the Heavy class is able to call in a Goliath Exo Suit.

It’s always a good idea to have a mix of classes in your team, but if you’re just starting out, stick with the Heavy. It’s a damage-dealing tank that’s more about brute force than technique, so it’s easier to get the hang of. The Light class really can’t take a lot of fire due to its low armor and the Specialist is more purpose-focused, better on defense than attack.

What to upgrade

As you complete waves, you’re able to upgrade your character at stations scattered throughout the map using upgrade points you’ve earned. These upgrade points are crucial to your survival, so make sure you spend them wisely.

It may seem like it’d be a good idea to boost your Scorestreaks, but it’s generally safer to spend points on passive upgrades to your class. The Weapon Proficiency upgrade that unlocks at the Exo station (under Exo Stats) on wave 5 is very handy. Dropping points in proficiency increases the damage and accuracy of your weapon — whatever you have equipped — so it has long-term benefits.

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Armor can also be improved once you hit wave 10. This is another important stat, since it keeps you alive for longer and is a boon to your team (since constantly having to revive buddies is no fun at all).

Beyond those two upgrades, it’s really dependent on your playstyle. If you’re more of a run-and-gunner, you can might want to unlock one of the better SMGs once they’re available. If you’re more of a turtler, drop some points instead on the Trophy System Exo Suit upgrade, which you can activate to protect against incoming grenades.

Most important of all, stay close to your buddies and remain in constant communication. Talking saves your life.

Objective rounds

While most of the waves that you face in Exo Survival simply require that you kill all enemies while staying alive, there are also Objective Rounds to deal with.

Objective Rounds have you completing various tasks around the map. For example, you might have to run around collecting dog tags that are scattered about. Or you might defend a specific location for a certain amount of time. Many of the objectives mirror similar tasks found in Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer mode. Completing these objectives and surviving the wave rewards you with Upgrade Points.

Related: Fresh but familiar, Advanced Warfare is the best Call of Duty in years (review)

More importantly, if you fail an Objective Round, bad things happen. Your primary weapon might deactivate for a chunk of the next round or you may have your entire HUD corrupted by a System Hack. In short, it’s not good. Complete those objectives, people.

Supply drops

To aid you in your quest to rid the world of futuristic super soldiers, the gods bestow supply drops upon you from time to time. A blue bar located beneath the minimap indicates how close you are to the next supply drop. Once it fills,  you’re be able to call in a drop.

Drops involve several pods falling from the sky near your position. These pods contain Scorestreak rewards and perks, and they can be opened by anyone on your team (or by one single, solitary jerk).

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There’s even a unique perk that can only be found in Exo Survival. Called Weapons Free, it allows any class to equip any type of gun. Suddenly you’ve got Light guys running around with heavy machine guns and the world starts to get a lot more fun. Tailor your perk selections to your chosen class; the Heavy, for example, gets a huge boost from Unlimited Sprint.

Supply drops are crucial for surviving into the deeper waves, so make sure you’re strategic in how and when you use them, and in which perks you pick. A wasted supply drop could mean a very early end.

How to unlock zombies

While there isn’t a full Zombies map in the launch version of Advanced Warfare, you can get a peek at some Zombies gameplay if you play a bunch of Exo Survival.

Unlocking new maps in Survival requires that you play a certain amount of waves in each of the map tiers. Complete 50 waves on Tier 1 to unlock Tier 2 maps, and 75 waves on Tier 2 to unlock Tier 3 maps. After 100 waves on Tier 3 maps, the final map, Riot, unlocks. Don’t worry, you don’t need to complete all of these waves in one session. The count carries over from game to game so every wave you finish adds to your total.

Once you unlock the final map, all you have to do is survive on Riot until an EMP goes off. This EMP briefly shuts down your Exo Suit’s abilities, but it also signals the arrival of the Zombies. Pro tip: Kill them. They’re not friendly.

After a few waves of Zombies, you’ll have to escape in a nearby chopper; simply get to the evac point and you’ll be treated to a teaser cutscene that sets the stage for more Zombies. Congrats, you saved the day! Sorta!

That should be enough to get you started in Exo Survival. Once you’ve mastered this mode and you think you’re ready for true PvP, be sure to check out our Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer guide! Those 12-year-old ninjas won’t know what hit ’em!