Confession: I’m crap at Call of Duty multiplayer. Oh, I do well enough against other journalists and love competing at review events, but as soon as that game releases to the general public, I’m finished. I can’t devote hours, days or weeks to mastering every weapon and memorizing every map, but plenty of other folks can, so I’m quickly rendered obsolete and lose all interest.
Call of Duty Elite could change that. Activision representatives dropped by our office earlier this week to demo the service and, despite my cynicism, I immediately recognized how this could make FPS multiplayer fun for me again – and for the countless other average players just like me.
Note: Everything described and shown here is free. Paid “premium” elements of Elite have yet to be announced.
The Call of Duty Elite website is divided into four major areas. The first, Career, is where you track your multiplayer progress: how many hours you’ve played, how much experience you’ve gained, how many matches you’ve won, how much money you’ve earned, how many headshots you’ve pulled off, etc.
What experts will like: Bragging rights are now a visible, tangible thing – Call of Duty Elite treats the player like a virtual athlete, tracking and displaying every statistic with the same importance of a baseball card. If you’re hardcore, you’ve likely devoted a significant chunk of your life to these games and should appreciate seeing all that work celebrated. Much like real sports, you can also compare your record to your competitors’ on a ridiculously granular level.
What novices will love: Okay, so your stats are probably a little depressing, but Elite offers some powerful tools to improve them. The best in the Career section are heat maps, which detail where and when you were killed in recent matches, as well as who killed you and what weapon they killed you. Notice that you died the most while outside? Learn to keep indoors on that map. Notice the M60 is usually the gun that takes you down? Try switching to the M60 yourself. Notice that one particular guy kills you again and again? Study his stats (everyone’s “cards” are searchable) and learn from his successes. Or use this next section of the Elite service to avoid him altogether…
This section consists of two subsections: Group and Theater. The former enables you to create and join communities of like-minded (or like-skilled or like-located) players to compete and chat with. The latter is an extension of the theater mode introduced in Black Ops – pick out a 30 second or less clip of your match and upload it to the Elite service for all to watch.
What experts will like: With custom groups, you suddenly have as many leaderboards to climb and dominate as you choose. Maybe you’re better than all your friends, but how about all your neighborhood? Or all your city? Or all your state? Other baseball fans? Other Game of Thrones fans? Other people named Charlie? And with Theater, you have a public stage to show off your skills – Elite will not only store and occasionally feature your videos in a favorites section, but also automatically tag the players featured within the video so they know you massacred them.
What novices will love: You think you’re alone, but you’re not – use groups to join a community of players with equal skill or equal maturity (I’ll be looking for #GameJournos) and Call of Duty multiplayer will suddenly become much more tolerable and perhaps even enjoyable again. A Facebook connect option also enables you to find real-life friends – ones you might have had no idea played Call of Duty – that are interested in fun, casual matches. What remains to be seen is how these communities affect who you’re paired with during in-game matchmaking. I want to play with my groups easily and instantly, no scheduling or exchange of gamertags necessary. I want available matches filtered so that I only end up in those with members of my community. If such options aren’t included in the full service, this could be nothing but a glorified chat forum.