Activision have lifted the lid on Call of Duty Elite, the supplemental subscription service that has been a long-rumoured element of the forthcoming Modern Warfare 3, the blockbuster sequel to one of the best-selling games of all time. We went hands on at a recent Activision pre-E3 press event. Read on for all the details we’ve got so far and scroll down for the first screenshots of the service.
First, lets put to rest an oft-whispered and universally-feared rumour surrounding the launch of Modern Warfare 3. Online multiplayer will not come at a premium; everyone who buys the Infinity Ward shooter will get to take part in the game’s addictive online competitive arena just as they ever have done. Call of Duty Elite, the subscription service that will ship alongside the massive sequel, is therefore part social network, part advanced match-making service.
“The average Call of Duty player spends 58 minutes per day playing multiplayer. That is more than the average Facebook user spends per day on Facebook. And yet, right now, there are very few tools to unite and super charge that social community,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing.
“Whether it’s allowing you to connect with your friends, or people of a similar skill level, people who live in your city, people who share your favourite passions, join competitive clans or social groups, or upload, view and comment on the incredible mass of player-generated content, or watch and comment on exclusive created content, Call of Duty Elite will give people more ways to connect with fellow players than ever before. Elite will also allow players of every level to improve their game with an intuitive suite of tools, and compete in tournaments for both real and virtual prizes.”
Built by Beachhead Studios specifically with Modern Warfare 3 in mind (though it will also support Call of Duty: Black Ops) Elite integrates directly into Modern Warfare 3, but is also available as a PC web portal, and eventually as an iPhone and iPad app too. To access all of Elite’s features a monthly subscription will be needed, the price of which has yet to be revealed. However, some features of Elite will also be open to all Modern Warfare 3 players for free, though again the details of which elements which will be accessible to all have yet to be confirmed.
Elite is split into three core areas; Connect, Compete and Improve.
Connect allows players to form groups and clans, letting players track down fellow gamers with similar interests, play styles or skill levels. For instance, Elite subscribers can quickly track down all fellow fans of their own football team, and challenge them to private matches, or encourage them to join a team-themed clan. You’ll be able to compare statitistics against these other players in minute detail, from their most favoured weapons through to their kill-to-death ratio.
Compete brings online play in Call of Duty to a whole new level by offering real-world prizes to the players. Tiered tournaments and leagues will run at all times, with players registering to compete not only for kudos, but for gifts too. While these may only be small in-game perks at lower levels such as digital badges and emblems, more difficult tournaments and challenges may yeild prizes such as iPads.
Being top of Elite leaderboards is not always the key to winning prizes either, with Activision catering for those who are less able to commit long periods of time to the game. Therefore there will also be screenshot and video-making challenges (aided by the game’s built-in YouTube video editing suite), with the best efforts rewarded with prizes, as well as player-specific challenges that encourage more personal goals to be reached, such as proficiency with a certain weapon style.
Further aiding the casual player, along with hardcore gamers out to better their frag-skills, is the Improve area, which is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole package. It offers specific statistics regarding your entire Call of Duty career, letting you know what weapons you’re best with, which maps cause you the most trouble and other such details. As it’s an “always on” service, these stats are updated almost instantly. Therefore, ending a match and heading over to the Elite interface, be that in-game or on a PC, will within minutes show you a heat map of your last match played, showing you the areas of a map where you were most vulnerable, or scored your most kills.
In addition, the Improve area will give detailed run-downs on how best to use all the game’s weaponry, as well as player-and-Activision submitted tutorial videos, all designed to level the playing field in an online sphere that can be very intimidating to first-timers.
We had the pleasure of checking out all these features on a PC running the Elite interface. Wrapped in a UI that is clear and easy to navigate, despite the reams of information on offer, Elite is an intriguing prospect for those looking to up their game, or more meaningfully interact with those fellow gamers they usually spend all day popping with headshots.
In terms of content, Call of Duty Elite subscribers will also get a few perks over regular players. All map packs and post-launch DLC for instance will be available first to Elite members at no additional cost.
“Call of Duty Elite has been tailored for Call of Duty’s diverse base of players – hardcore gamers, casual weekend warriors and even beginners,” added Hirshberg.
“Over 7 million gamers play Call of Duty online each day logging hundreds of hours of multiplayer per player per year. Of course, the out of the box Call of Duty multiplayer experience that gamers have come to love and expect will continue as is. However, for those players looking for more, Call of Duty Elite will supercharge their experience.”
It’s a neat idea, which does offer some genuine potential to turn the Modern Warfare gamerbase into a true community, rather than just testosterone-fuelled twitch-gamers all too quick to slag each other off. Of course, price will be a massive factor in the service’s success. The cost of Elite is as-yet unannounced, but the Activision team promise it will cost no more and perhaps even less than comparable online services.
Call of Duty Elite will launch this autumn with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. A public beta this summer for Elite with Call of Duty: Black Ops is also planned. You can find out more by visiting www.callofduty.com.
By Gerald Lynch | May 31st, 2011