Modern Warfare 3 DLC preview – snowmobiles, hostages and the ruins of Air Force One

Modern Warfare 3’s year, or “season,” of downloadable content continues with tomorrow’s release of an extra map and, more excitingly, two extra Spec Ops missions. Wondering whether they’re worth your time? We’ve played all three – continue reading for our hands-on impressions.

What is it? Starting tomorrow, Call of Duty Elite Premium members on Xbox 360 can download two new Spec Ops missions (Black Ice, Negotiator), plus a new multiplayer map (Black Box), as a part of that subscription. Each highlights a very different setting and gameplay style.

Who is the developer? Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer all contributed to the DLC, just as all three contributed to the making of Modern Warfare 3.

How does it look? Just as big, bright and boldly over-the-top as the scenes from the single-player campaign. Black Ice sees you racing down a bleak Russian mountainside – on a snowmobile, of course – as enemies jostle for position and lethal shooting angles on their own high-speed vehicles. It’s a blood-splattered SSX blur. Negotiator is another kind of race altogether, as you and a buddy run through a colorful Indian village freeing hostages before they’re executed. This mission is purposefully chaotic, and it’s easy to confuse your squadmate for an enemy or vice-versa. Black Box isn’t a Spec Ops mission like the two just described, but still tells a story through mise-en-scene alone: whether competing in multiplayer or partnering for Survival mode, you can’t help but wonder why Air Force One has crashed in the midst of a posh Beverly Hills-esque neighborhood, and why you’re now battling around the wreckage.

How does it play? In Black Ice, one player steers the snowmobile while the other rides back-to-back, taking out enemy vehicles as they pull up behind or sneak to each side. After plenty of frantic speed and daredevil cliff jumps, you end up in a dark and cavernous base, ducking behind crates as you make your way to the end of the mission. This latter half is what separates Black Ice from similar snowmobile Spec Ops missions in Modern Warfare 2.

We found Negotiator, however, the more unique and pulse-pounding of the pair. Sitting together on a snowmobile is a bonding experience, sure, but imagine starting the mission with only seconds to save your buddy from execution. One player is bound and gagged as his captor shoots the surrounding hostages, while the second must sneak up behind an enemy, steal his weapon, then breach a door for a slow-motion rescue. The rest of the mission is like a complex shooting gallery, with bad guys and innocent prisoners popping up on all sides, occasionally even in the balconies above you. The timer does not sympathize, either – if you’re like us, you will need to repeat this several times to succeed.

Finally, Black Box is a map, ready for whatever type of match you want. We tested Survival mode here and found the layout extremely simple to learn and strategize. The ruined fuselage of Air Force One lies in the center of the area, but it’s the circle of half-destroyed houses on the edges that you’ll gravitate towards. We set up a turret on the second floor of one mansion, facing the plane, and then headed downstairs to eliminate any enemies who survived to the front door. Black Box’s buildings are nicely spaced, and the landmarks of the map are inventive enough that we predict it’ll be a popular playlist choice.

When is it out? If you’re a 360 owner and a Premium member of Elite, the new missions and maps are available to you for “free” (after all, you sort of already paid for them) starting tomorrow, Tuesday March 13. Regular 360 players can purchase this package, which will also include the previously released maps Piazza and Liberation, a little later on March 20. Availability on PS3 and PC is still to be determined.

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