E3 2011: 10 Thoughts on… Call of Duty: Elite

It seems like an odd choice to host a press video for an online stat-tracking service, but then, Call of Duty: Elite isn’t your typical stat tracking service. From its initial announcement, sparks have been flying in all different directions regarding the service, mostly due the announcement that somewhere in the whole deal there will be money changing hands, which has a lot of people riled up, and with good reason. While some of the more outlandish theories, such as the online play entirely being a paid service, weren’t really likely to begin with, charging for the service in the first place, without even knowing what is and isn’t offered with it, seems a bit silly for a stat-tracking application. As such, what would have likely been something I’d have passed up without a second thought became something I immediately felt obligated to investigate, and so, I stopped in at Activision’s booth to find out just what was up with Call of Duty: Elite.

1.) The major basis of the service, as was introduced at several points, was a three-tiered mantra: Connect, Compete, and Improve. The idea here is that you can connect to the service, track stats, compete in challenges, and improve your play style, all through the Call of Duty: Elite experience. While that’s a bit ambitious, it’s not a bad idea in theory, though we won’t know how it will come together for a while yet for sure.

2.) At this point, the big clarification is made: Call of Duty: Elite is, by default, FREE, and while there WILL be a premium service available, the service itself won’t change anything about the Call of Duty experience. There will be nothing taken away from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 because of this; the point is to add free content, not to charge, or so the presentation explains. They do note that there will, again, be a premium service available at cost, and while they can’t talk about that at this point (since everything in it ties to Modern Warfare 3), the point is that everything in, say, Black Ops will be the same, and they’re only talking about what will be added at no cost.

3.) At this point, we get the “Legend Of Karl” video, and having not seen it before, WOW, that was… something. It’s an amusing setpiece, to be sure, and it’s at the top of the piece if you haven’t seen it yet, but… well, I wasn’t ready for a Double Rainbow reference in a Call of Duty piece, let’s say that. Anyway, the video more or less sums up the basics of how Elite works, but the presentation promised to go into more detail beyond this video’s introduction to things.

4.) The presentation then goes onto how you can join groups that cater to your interests and allows you to post videos, watch training videos, and earn prizes through competitions across all platforms. It’s also noted that, yes, there will be apps available for smartphones using Android and Apple platforms, though it isn’t stated whether Windows Mobile or Blackberry will be supported; it’s a smart assumption that they will be, though.

5.) We go on to looking over the career of his player tag to evaluate his stats in online play, which he points out are… not so good. He notes that his KDR (kill-death ratio) is likely low because he spends a lot of time playing Domination, where his scores are a lot better… to which we all just kind of nodded knowingly, I think. Anyway, he points out that there’s a Prestige calculator that allows you to figure out how long it will take to get to your next Prestige, based on hours played and an overall evaluation of your stats, which told him that if he played twelve hours a day (… what.) he’d reach that in 1.8 days, which… even he acknowledged was a bit much. We then jump to comparing stats by comparing his stats to one of the Treyarch folks on his friend lists, which are… significantly better (because he has no life, apparently). We also highlight the idea of customizable leaderboards here, pointing out that normal leaderboards are useless unless you’re top-tier, so you can add several people to a custom leaderboard to track yourself against your friends and enemies for bragging rights.

6.) We then move over to something interesting; you can customize your loadouts from the Elite system. The presentation notes that you might see a loadout you want to experiment with online, and you can then jump in and tweak a loadout from the website before you get home and jump into the game, for example. In theory, this seems like an odd thing to add, because you can easily just change loadouts from the game itself, but in practice, thinking up a loadout while you’re at work only to forget the specifics once you get home… probably has happened to a few of us, I’d wager. Thus, the idea, while not likely to appeal to everyone, is neat enough that it’s a worthwhile inclusion for the people who would use it, especially since you can do it from your phone or what have you.

7.) We then go into the Connect side of things, addressing how players can join groups that cater to their interests, say, in Karate Sleepovers (seriously), as well as locales or movies or whatever. This can also be used to create clans, which will create deeper integration into the system, allowing you to know when clan members are online and to customize clan colors and such. Call of Duty has been using clan tags for a while, so the idea of making full clans through the system is probably an appealing one to many, and is a good thing to add.

8.) At this point we go into the Compete section, which will be competitions players can go head to head in for prizes. The system will display constant contests for people to go at it in, such as getting the best kills in a specific match type or getting the best screenshot in a particular scenario, which will update constantly. There will also be situations where clans can compete in tournaments set up in the Compete section of the site, again, for bragging rights and prizes, with the intention of rewarding players for their performance and for being the best in various capacities.

9.) Finally, we move into the Improve category, which, as implied, is meant as a training system to allow players to improve. The section offers maps of the different locations to study, detailed specs about the weapons, video guides for weapons, perks and such, so that you can learn up on what you want or need to improve in. We then wrap-up by noting that you can also tie this into your various social networking and gaming sites, such as Steam, Facebook, and PSN/XBLA, before finally wrapping up by noting that this will all be free. There will be a premium section which will have a cost associated, which will include all released DLC as perks, though what else will be offered is, at this point, unknown.

10.) Call of Duty: Elite comes across as a very good idea that was a long time in coming, and while it’s either going to come across as “awesome” or “about time” to fans, now that it’s been clarified as to what the service, it’s safe to say it’ll be a great addition to the franchise. At this point, assuming everything that’s been said ends up being representative of the actual final product, this will be great for fans who want to step up their game, but we’ll know shortly, as Activision has promised me a beta invite, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated once I’ve got that going.

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