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Hands-On With Activision’s Elite Call Of Duty Social Network

by Phil Kollar on May 31, 2011 at 03:00 AM

Last week, I provided my first impressions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but one major element of the game was missing in action: an online strategy. Analysts and Activision executives have been waxing philosophical about a possible subscription service for the massive shooter franchise for years, but it’s finally coming. Call of Duty Elite will provide all CoD players with stat-keeping, skill improvement tips, and social networking across all future Call of Duty titles. I tried the service out for myself two weeks ago; here’s all the details.

The core Call of Duty Elite experience is split into four distinct areas: Career, Connect, Compete, and Improve. Let’s take a look at each individually.

Career

The Career page, which you can set to default to any supported Call of Duty game, will include a summary of your overall stats across all games as well as specific player cards for each title. Player cards include a ton of data, such as your current level and prestige, number of hours played, and, of course, the ever-important kill-death ratio. If you want to be able to point to specific numbers as you brag to your friends about how much better you are, you’ll be able to easily pull up other players’ profiles and compare to your own.

Digging in deeper, you’ll be able to look at specific stats from each match you’ve played recently, right down to looking at a heat map that shows every kill and death, allowing you to pinpoint specific chokepoints on maps where you have trouble or tend to dominate. Career will even track your stats with each individual weapon and perk, allowing you to quickly flip through and see which custom classes you perform best with.

Connect

In addition to the stat-tracking, Elite seeks to give Call of Duty players a deep social networking experience that revolves around the game they love. The Connect section of the service will be focused on this aspect.

You’ll be able to create and join groups based on mutual interests, locations, and more. For example, you could create a group for a specific sports team you like or just join the “#basketball” group to find other CoD players who love basketball. I might join a "#Minneapolis" group to find other CoD players in this area, and I fully expect Game Informer readers to create an "#overblood" group. Each group will have a comments section allowing you to banter with new-found friends and coordinate for playing games online.

Also included in the Connect section is a theater where you can look at screenshots you’ve grabbed from your games as well as videos you’ve created. You’ll be able to connect your CoD Elite account with your YouTube account to automatically upload videos you’ve created in-game to the Internet. Other players will have the option to tag you in their media, so like Facebook, any screens or videos you’ve been tagged in will show up on your Connect page.

UP NEXT: Compete, Improve, and more!

Compete

By far the most interesting and potential-packed part of Elite is the Compete section. Here players will be able to check out what Activision is calling a “Program Guide” – a list of events and operations that players will be able to compete in. From screenshot contests to “lone wolf” solo challenges to clan vs. clan tournaments, there will be a constantly updated list of events to keep players engaged in Call of Duty’s various multiplayer activities.

Perhaps more importantly, skilled players will be able to win prizes for taking the top spots in these contests. Many of the contests and tournaments will just award virtual badges to display on your Elite profile, but some will dole out real and very desirable gifts to the winners. Example prizes shown during the demo included an iPad and a Call of Duty-branded Jeep.

Improve

As I watched the Call of Duty Elite presentation, I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of these features, as cool as they are, exist only for the hardcore community. After all, does a mediocre CoD player like myself need even more reminders that I’m not as good as 75 percent of the rest of the community? That’s where the Improve section comes into play.

Improve will give players access to in-depth maps that break down spawn points in every game mode, weapon and perk guides written by experts, and video guides created by some of the top Call of Duty players. As with improvement in most things, it’s still going to require a lot of work and practice on the part of the player to up their skills, but Activision is giving you virtually all the tools you could ask for.

Other Important Stuff


Call of Duty Elite’s full slate of features will be available on the web, in-game from CoD titles, and also on various mobile and tablet apps. It will launch this year on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC with Modern Warfare 3, which is being built from the ground up to support Elite in every way. Elite will also have a lesser level of support for last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, which players will be able to test it with in a public beta this summer.

As for cost, Activision was quick to point out that general access to some of Elite’s features, such as groups, will be 100% free. Likewise, using Call of Duty multiplayer will remain totally free. A premium Elite membership that gives access to the full service will have a minor cost, but all Activision is saying so far is that it will be “less than any comparable online service.” Activision is also promising a focus on continued service, adding in frequent new features to improve the Elite experience for subscribers.

Also worth noting, premium Elite subscribers will receive all future map pack releases for Call of Duty games for as long as they subscribe. Map packs will also continue to be sold separately, so you won’t need to subscribe just to download them.

I got to toy around with Elite’s offerings after playing two rounds of team deathmatch in Black Ops. While that didn’t provide a ton of data to pull from, I was definitely impressed by the sheer amount of information at my fingertips and the slick, easy-to-navigate interface that Activision’s new Beachhead studio has cooked up.

It’s clear that Call of Duty Elite is being built for truly hardcore CoD players, not casual/occasional fans like me. That said, for the type of person who spends the majority of his or her gaming time going head-to-head in Modern Warfare or Black Ops, it seems like a no-brainer, especially given the inclusion of map packs. I’ll be able to make a more informed decision on the service when Activision reveals the pricing and more of the features that will tie it to Modern Warfare 3.

In the mean time, you can check out Elite in action through a light-hearted reveal trailer right here on GI.