Ken Allsop finds a heart-pounding survival horror... lurking deep within the biggest, brashest First-Person Shooter on the market.
Starved of ammo, I take a chance and dart the short distance down the deserted street into the nearest building. Scurrying upstairs, making sure not to be spotted through the windows, I lie as flat and still as I can among the furniture.
I take this opportunity to check the map. This leaves me vulnerable but also holds the key to my survival – the current positions of every infected are visible to me. I let out a deep breath I didn't know I was holding. They appear to be moving away from the house. A quick count suggests their numbers have swelled to eight or nine. I know that with no rounds left in my M16, there's no chance I could take even one of them on by myself... despite their size, the infected move near-silently and are capable of striking a man down in one fell swoop.
My fellow survivor has not been so lucky. Caught up in Seatown's back alleys, he has had to see refuge in a one-story building with only two real exit routes. Suddenly I notice the infected around him begin to close in: one of them has caught sight of him through a window, and now his safe house has become a deathtrap. I watch, helpless, as they swarm through the doors and cut him down as he attempts to flee through a window. Just a few minutes ago he had helped me to bring one of them down – but that was when we had bullets, and their numbers were small. Now he is one of them, and at last I am alone. Suddenly it dawns on me.
He knows. Just as I knew where he was when he fell, he must have seen where I had fled. My position is no longer available to him, but now my hiding spot is compromised. But my revelation comes too late: under his guidance, three of them are already around the house. Suddenly I realise one is climbing up to the second-floor window behind me. Downstairs is not an option – another infected is lumbering in from below. I have to move now, or there is no hope...
Abandoning stealth, I spring from my hiding spot and smash a window out, scrambling through and falling into the marketplace. The landing rattles me, but I know I have to keep running. I sprint forward, knowing there are three or four behind me... If I could just make it to that arch... at that moment, another rounds the stall in front of me and cuts me off. Damn. Without pause for thought, I turn and dash down the nearest side alley.
Too late, I glance at the mini-map. The infected I hadn't checked for steps out in front of me. I attempt a desperate and futile dash past him, but with one swing he knocks me to the ground... It's finally over...
“Damn it, I didn't see you coming!” I shout to my friend across the headset. The scene in question was not one from your traditional horror games, but rather in the somewhat unexpected territory of blockbuster mega-shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Lurking among the private match options are some of the Wager match variants returning from Black Ops, such as “Gun Game” and “One in the Chamber”. But the real winner has been the “Infection” mode, which will be familiar to many as the custom game type from Halo 2 which was made into an official playlist for Halo 3.
The concept is simple. At the start of the match, one player is infected at random. Anyone they manage to kill becomes infected. Slowly the numbers swing from being in favour of the survivors to turning against them, until the last few have to hold off as long as possible against the hordes of respawning infected players until they succumb. The standard setup appears to be a shotgun for the survivors and a knife (perhaps with throwing knife) for the infected. At first, the infected players struggle – with small numbers, getting close to shotgun-wielding opponents is a dangerous game to play. But as more and more players become infected, the slow fire rate of the SPAS-12 or Model 1887 makes it increasingly harder to survive being rushed by three or four players simultaneously.
Among the group I was playing with, however, we found after some experimentation that our favourite way to play was with the odds stacked against the survivors. In particular, making the infected into “Juggernauts” (with their very high health) meant that survival early-on relied on cooperation, and late-game became near-impossible. The game I described earlier pitted the players with M16s with two spare magazines against Juggernauts who only had their mêlée attack. Survivors were given increased sprint distance by Extreme Conditioning and could see Juggernauts on the map, but the Juggernauts had Dead Silence, making them near-impossible to hear coming.
Another later variant gave the survivors MP5 sub-machine guns (almost useless against the Juggernaut infected), pitting them against RPGs. This led to a tense situation in which I fired off a couple of rounds to alert a nearby infected to my position, allowing a friend to sneak slowly and quietly below the walkway he was standing on and away to (temporary) safety.
Over the course of a couple of hours, Infection quickly won a place in the hearts of our friend group. And we are far from alone. It has never been unusual to receive private game invites from recent players in the Call of Duty series, but predominantly in the past these have been “quickscoping lobbies” and the like. Now it seems almost every invite is letting you know that the sender is running an Infection session and to join if you want to play along. And you know what? Next time you receive such an invite, I seriously suggest considering doing so, although I would also note that the fun is exponentially increased with people you know – so if you have that option, go for it.
Just as a brief background, Call of Duty is one of my main fall-back games – my friends and I will often return to play it whenever there is a lull in new releases we are checking out. The online competitive multiplayer remains as easy to pick up, fast, and exciting as ever, plus the other multiplayer game types offer another fun, repeatable experience. We have in the past spent a number of hours on the Zombie modes present in the Treyarch-made releases, but at a point where a game of Zombies can last for well over an hour, Infection offers a very short, but even more tense and frantic, alternative.