were lucky enough to be able to attend the Call of Duty XP Event in Los Angeles over the past weekend. Here is their coverage of the event:
Heading north from Orange, California, Friday morning traffic was relatively quiet until we got within a half-mile of Jefferson Blvd and South Centinela intersection in Culver City. In the near distance, a huge Call of Duty
banner graced the side of the famed Howard Hughes hanger, where the Spruce Goose was built some 70-odd years earlier, and more recently, while used as a converted sound stage, scenes from such films as Titanic and End of Days were shot. So close to our destination, that banner stayed within our sights for approximately the next two hours as we inched (if we were lucky) forward towards the parking garage and eventually, registration itself.
Long queues were unfortunately to become part of the event experience, beginning with street traffic and weaving through the numerous registration lines prior to having “hi-tech” scannable wrist bands clipped onto our wrists by friendly, COD attired event volunteers.
At almost two hours into the first day’s registration, our slick, folded up field guide and event card were handed to us, devoid of its discrete white envelope since there were not enough assembled prior to the event. With our event literature and wristbands securely fastened, we headed across the street where a security point awaited us, as well as the hanger where the day would kickoff with a keynote address.
We quickly got through security and had our wristbands scanned before proceeding into the darkened interior of the hanger. After our eyes adjusted, the vast expanse of the space should not have been surprising, but walking into the hangar was quite impressive! Down the center of the hanger there were several platforms set up and partitions along each side split the space into three sections. Several large screens hung from the ceiling so that those in the back could have the benefit of seeing those on stage. The vibe of walking through the crowd as we found a space to take in the presentation was akin to Artyom and Kahn walking through the rally of the Reich during the Metro: Last Light
trailer, only less “hails!” and more cheers and applause in approval to various aspects of the Call of Duty
Since we arrived about 15 minutes late, the presentation was already underway with “Operation Kingfish
” being projected onto the screens suspended above the crowd. Interestingly, we were not privy to the video actually being a fan-made film; we had assumed it was a professionally made trailer to promote MW3. It wasn’t until after the showing, when Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg retook to the stage, that he proclaimed his admiration for the fan-made film.
Hirshberg proceeded into what he believed to be the four principles of the Call of Duty
franchise. First, there should be epic realism - a combination of real world authenticity combined with epic “holy shit” moments (and he did say that twice because he could not believe that he could get away with saying it). Second, he believed the game had to create the ultimate adrenaline rush during the gaming experience. The third point was that the game would be easy to play, but hard to master. In other words, a beginner could play, but to master the game would take a lot of playing time. Finally, and a point he really stressed as putting COD MW3 apart from the rest of the FPS video games, was a frame rate of 60 per second in order to have a very smooth visual experience, rather than the typical 24 fps.
With his proclamation of the driving vision of the COD franchise, Hirshberg proceeded to highlight attributes of the forthcoming title. He started off by mentioning the single player and Spec Ops modes of MW3, while mentioning a new mode called Survivor Mode. These modes have a progression system much akin to multiplayer, and things like emblems and badges earned in special ops can be ported over to multiplayer. At this point, Hirshberg transitioned to showcasing the world premier trailer
for the MW3 multiplayer component.
After the trailer, Community Manager Robert Bowling from Infinity Ward and VP/COO Mike Condrey from Sledgehammer Games, took to the stage to highlight and elaborate on the multiplayer, as showcased in the trailer. The duo stressed a new balance being brought to the game, spotlighting the disparity in Modern Warfare 3
between a newbie and an experienced player. They felt there needed to be a refocus on close quarter combat, so the new game would eliminate the concept of the “one man army” – hence, gone were the commando and last stand perks. This change was met with much applause and satisfaction from the attendees.
Bowling and Condrey turned their presentation towards the MW3 Strike Package. This package would revamp the kill streak system to reward different play types, to which they identified as three kinds. The Assault package would be geared for those players who are focused on the kill count, while the Support package would suit objective driven players. The lone wolf player would be interested in the last package, Specialist.
While Assault and Support both have kill streaks in their own right, the specialist eschews the kill streak for cumulatively unlocking perks. In theory, the more you kill, the more perks you unlock in game, and hence are able to kill more instead of relying on kill streaks.
The next aspect introduced was weapon proficiencies, a concept where the weapons level up just like your character does. This leads to weapon perks such as reduced gun sway or recoil, which in turn help bolster your skills as well.
Another concept featured in multiplayer was the ability to create your own private matches with highly customizable settings, which you could then post online for others to utilize as well.
A new game mode was introduced called Kill Confirm. When you kill an opponent, they drop a dog tag. However, for that kill to count, you have to run over and grab said dog tag. If a member of the opposite team grabs the dog tag before you do, the kill is denied.
Before promoting the new Elite service, the duo made sure to mention added functionality due to integrating MW3 with Facebook, as well as hinting at more rewards for Prestiging. With Elite, Activision began by stressing the accessibility of it, with web apps, mobile apps, and in-console apps as well. For example, you could be riding on public transportation, log into Elite on your iPhone, review some match info, watch some player videos, then go and change your character’s load out so that when you arrived home, your character is all ready to go.
Hirshberg then retook the stage to expand on the benefits of Call of Duty Elite
and to put to rest any fears fans may have about the Elite services. He stated that Elite membership had three goals in mind. First, that the membership would not take any established services from the fans that already existed. Second, that membership was meant to heighten and add to the gaming experience. And lastly, the premium membership would raise the bar of what fans expect of the game.
While the premium membership concept is new, Hirshberg stressed that gamers could now expect to buy at least four DLCs during the “DLC season” of nine months. With Elite, subscribers would get more DLC, more often – every month – and for less money. It wasn’t a matter of monetary benefits, however, because the membership would include more maps and more Spec Ops modes to play. There would be daily competitions, both in real life and in-game, and those competitions would have access to referees 24/7. Clans using Elite could level up their own clans for abilities. There would also be eight times more video upload capacity, along with access to high-production-grade videos. In addition, there would also be episodic content made by Hollywood film-makers, with two examples being Friday Night Fights
that pits rivals together (done by Ridley and Tony Scott), and Newbtube
, which would be comedic in nature.
The price tag for the service would be $49.99 a year, which he contrasted to buying DLC for $60.00. At this point, Hirshberg announced that owners of the Hardened Edition of the game would receive a year's membership, and that all those in attendance at CODXP would receive a voucher for this version of the game.
To conclude the keynote address, Hirshberg introduced one final speaker, Chris Ellis, who looked a lot like Reb Brown. Ellis promoted the new real world Jeep Wrangler MW3 edition, based on the Jeep model that is used in the COD games and MW3. Ellis relayed how attendees could win the one parked in the gaming area at the event.
After Ellis had finished, Hirshberg proclaimed the facilities to be open, and for all of us to partake in the various activities the venue had to offer, and there were many! Outside, attendees could experience real world reproductions of scenes from the COD franchise, such as the Scrapyard (for a serious game of paintballing could be had), walk through the Pit, sit in a variety of Jeep ops vehicles, and of course, no CODXP event would be complete without a fully functioning Burger Town – no more in-game lusting for a burger – here was the real deal!
If getting an adrenaline rush from Spec Ops missions was of interest, then one just needed to try out the Zipline or a Jeep ride at Camp Tread.
While outdoors had real simulations of game play, inside was all about gameplay in front of the screen with headphones adjusted and controller tightly in hand. There were numerous gameplay opportunities: whether it was chasing, or being chased by flesh eating zombies, fighting for the King of the Hill bragging rights, Spec Ops missions, the Elite demo area, or the $1 Million Tournament, it was a gaming paradise. And really, wasn’t that why most of us were there for?
Okay, maybe it was for Juggernaut Sumo (also inside) – just kidding!
One of the fun perks of the day was earning patches for visiting various places, such as playing Zombies, doing recon work (you had to receive an email for this one), or visiting the Armory. Progressing though the smaller tournaments yielded Prestige versions of the patches as well. At the merch store, you could pay to customize your own COD shirt with various prints and have the patches you had earned sewn onto them.
Later in the day, we attended the “The Voices of Call of Duty” back in the main portion of the hanger where the keynote address had been held. Finally, we could put a face with the voices that have become familiar to the franchise. Moderated by Keith Arem, who had worked with most, if not all, of the voice actors present, the audience was introduced to Billy Murray (Capt. Pryce), Troy Baker (various voices, especially screens apparently), Nolan North (Richtofen in COD: Zombies), James C. Burns (Frank Woods in Call of Duty: Black Ops
), Michael Rooker (himself in COD: Zombies – Call of the Dead), and William Fichtner (Sandman in the upcoming COD: MW3).
While Fichtner could not really talk about aspects of his role, he was able to relay that his popularity with his nephews had definitely ascended into “cool”. North, a crowd pleaser, couldn’t help but imitate Rooker or his German doctor counterpart. Venerable Billy Murray expressed his awe of fame that has come from lending his voice to Capt. Pryce.
We did not stay for the entertainment, but the Dropkick Murphys were on tap on Friday evening. Having attended all day Friday, we opted out of attending the event on Saturday. Honestly, doing every event (plus the queue) would probably require two days, but since we weren’t, we didn’t. We had a good time though, learning more about MW3 and the COD franchise, and it was fun to see real life reproductions of familiar scenes from the games. The keynote address and the voice actor panel were definitely highlights of our day. More photos from the whole event can be viewed here
Disappointing was the traffic and queue issues, along with all of the litter that generated outside the venue (there were no garbage cans anywhere). We also expected there would be more merchandise for sale, perhaps beyond COD. Since it is an Activision event, perhaps the merch store should have had other related paraphernalia.
That said, with all the ticket monies going to fund the Call of Duty Endowment non-profit organization and all attendees able to expect a voucher for the Hardened Edition this November, the event delivered what it touted.