Modern Warfare 3's downloadable maps have taken Elite subscribers to the top of skyscrapers, New York tourist hot spots and picturesque coastal villages. Things turn rather frosty in the next batch of DLC, as players hit the snow to infiltrate a militarised diamond mine, before heading back to the sunshine for some seriously messy hostage negotiations. It all leads to a multiplayer battle in suburban California amongst the wreckage and rubble of presidential people carrier Air Force One.
Consisting of two new Spec Ops missions and one multiplayer map, the upcoming DLC is available to Xbox 360 Elite subscribers from March 13, before being released to the wider public as part of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Collection #1 pack on March 20.
Black Ice - snowmobiles and diamond mines
Black Ice is one of two new Spec Ops missions. Its focus is on fast paced, adrenaline-fuelled action, as players attempt to infiltrate a militarised diamond mine on the back of a snowmobile. The James Bond-esque opening sees one player steer, while the other shoots trailing enemies. Player one also has the opportunity to fire off a few rounds, but - what with driving and all - has limited scope for accuracy. Having said that, hitting the odd head shot, all the while avoiding vertical drops and trigger happy soldiers, is more than a little satisfying.
The trail leading up to the mine features lots of sweet jumping spots, which provide ample opportunity for some spectacular airborne executions. Flanking the snowy trail, meanwhile, is an ominous cliff edge, which is a danger to both the player and the enemy. Narrow check points and winding tunnels add even more danger, while the disorientating effects of dismounting your snowmobile can lead to a cheap death or two.
While no less difficult, the second half of Black Ice is a little more straightforward, tasking players with a seek and destroy mission through a couple of heavily populated and keenly guarded interiors. With the self destruct sequence activated, it's a straight up race against the clock, not to mention tens of panicked enemies, to escape the mine and reach extraction. With half of the soldiers running and half fighting, it's bullet-laden and bloody, leading to one or two agonising deaths in the face of imminent safety.
Negotiate - survive an execution
Negotiate is a much more cerebral map, requiring a little extra tact and a lot more restraint. It begins with one player waiting to be executed, while the other attempts to make the save. Whether captive or not, it's a fantastic opener, as you have little or no idea how your teammate is getting on. If they do burst through the door before the enemy pulls the trigger, expect a classic Call Of Duty slow-mo sequence and some Hollywood-inspired gun catching action.
Assuming things do work out for the best, the remainder of the level sees players try to save as many hostages as possible. This requires eagle eyes and a steady trigger finger. Some hostages will plummet to their death from upper balconies, while others await their fate behind closed doors - in moments that mirror the opening stages. Either way, the mission contains lots of door-to-door shooting sequences, in and around buildings, stairways and alleys.
It all ends with a big shootout in the central square, before players attempt to storm an official building. It's in stark contrast to the opening stages, which are just as tense but a lot less chaotic. Look out for some hardcore weaponry in the thick of the action, which should guarantee you make it through the square unscathed, but not necessarily to the end of the level. It's certainly one of the more difficult Spec Ops missions we've played, especially when you throw civilians into the mix.
Black Box - the new multiplayer map
Air Force One has crashed in suburban California! The once peaceful living area has been reduced to rubble, alongside the charred remains of the presidential aircraft. Tragic? Sure. The perfect battleground? Most definitely. Black Box is a sizeable map, constantly surprising players with newly discovered nooks and crannies. The terrain is varied, offering plenty of cover within the crumbling walls of abandoned homes, as well as elevated sniping spots in second floor windows and behind surprisingly well maintained garden walls.
The downed remains of Air Force One adds another dynamic to the gameplay. Much like the destroyed aircraft in Left 4 Dead 2's Swamp Fever mission, players can fend off waves of oncoming enemies by standing on its wings. While this leaves players vulnerable to return fire, especially in multiplayer battles, it offers the most extensive and unspoiled view of the battlefield. The aircraft interior, meanwhile, adds some all-important cover from sniper fire, while campers can be flushed out with some well placed flash grenades and a little teamwork.
Black Box is definitely one of the more visually appealing maps in the game, bringing war to an everyday suburban setting, albeit one with an extraordinary twist. Replacing the usual grey and grimy war-torn housing projects with a brighter, more contemporary location is an inspired twist, complementing Modern Warfare 3's domestic locales nicely.
So far, all of Modern Warfare 3's additional maps are unique and interesting, offering varied aesthetics, while presenting countless individual gameplay opportunities. With so much diversity contained within the early bout of DLC, it's hard to imagine what tricks the developers have up their sleeves for future updates. One thing's for certain, however, the new maps should go down a storm with first-person shooter fans over the coming weeks.
'Black Ice', Black Box' and 'Negotiate' will be available to download for Xbox 360 Elite subscribers from March 13. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Collection #1 releases for Xbox Live on March 20. PC and PlayStation 3 availability will be announced at a later date.