Striking that balance of emotional impact and tension in video games is no easy task. For one, video games aren't real, so I generally don't concern myself much when I run over a virtual pedestrian or cut off an AI driver in the final lap. I don't care if I'm a jerk in a video game.
But there's something about watching some thug shoot an innocent virtual person in the face, directly in front of me, that really ticks me off. As Sledgehammer Games community manager Guy Beahm and I ran through the Spec Ops DLC coming to Modern Warfare 3 Elite subscribers tomorrow, and as part of Content Collection #1, I genuinely felt lousy when I was seconds from saving a hostage. I really wanted to save these people.
There are two separate missions here: Black Ice and Negotiator. Black Ice starts off mid-snowmobile chase, with one player driving and the other handling dual-SMG duty on the back. You shoot some guys, blow up some snowmobiles, then you dismount and carefully assault a mine. Nothing really exciting here (relatively speaking).
Negotiator was the real standout. You start separated, one player about to be executed -- the other sneaks up to a guard, grabs his gun, then has to quickly take out two guys then move to save his partner in another building. From there, it's a race to reach each room and group of survivors to kill their would-be executioners.
It's disappointing to see the number drop, especially when you're just milliseconds away. There's a crippling sense of defeat when you see a hostage limply fall to the ground because you took that extra second to pick up some gun or took too long to clear a house. It's quite tense, and pros are going to get a kick out of how tough it is to get through without losing a single life. It seems impossible.
You have to act in the moment. We failed the mission a few times -- again, you really have to be quick here -- before eventually passing, and Beahm read my disappointment. There was simply no way we'd be able to save everyone without a little practice.
That's the only downside to the mission: it's an exercise in memorization. Eventually there are no surprises and every enemy spawn and encounter comes down to muscle memory, trying to react faster and waste no time. Which is a shame become with some randomized elements, I could sip on this potent cocktail of panic and fear forever.