For Activision, it?s a brave new world of connecting fans of its record-breaking Call of Duty franchise, allowing players to better themselves and to ?enrich their multiplayer experience.? For everyone else, it?s a website.
Call of Duty: Elite
is how the publisher intends to maintain its ecosystem of engrossed war gamers - a social networking service for web browsers that links with your Gamertag (or other online account) and spits out statistics and bar charts of your multiplayer performance.
Finish a match in either Call of Duty: Black Ops
or the upcoming Modern Warfare 3
and your statistics will be sent through to Elite and saved in a web profile, in a similar manner that Bungie.net offers with the Halo
games. Your main home page consists of winning percentages and a roundup of the last game you played. Graphs, bars and heat maps of the battlefield can be accessed to determine where you played best and where you died.
A list of players that you recently rolled with is also available, and you can search for usernames and opt to ?track? them against your profile. This seems less of a ?friend request? in the style of Facebook and more a ?follow? similar to Twitter - you?re essentially pinning a fellow player down as your rival and keeping an eye on his statistics as you grow in skills and confidence.
You can of course make friends in this manner too, and one obvious feature that encourages this sort of pally-pally behaviour is in the Groups page, where you can search for a topic (such as photography) and join matches with like-minded gamers. If a group doesn?t exist, it automatically creates one and sticks you as the leader. Videos can be shared with one another, and a YouTube account can be tied to your Elite service to bring some much-needed eyeballs to your next epic knifethrow kill.
Not everyone will be shit-hot with an AK-47, according to Activision, so its aim is to create an environment where even the casual average joe can join groups and create clans for fun. This is evident in the Events page, where you see a calendar of different challenges that require a varying range of skills.
While some will ask you to be great at multiplayer, others will be self-contained operations, and if you?re more of a video or screenshot nut, there?s even challenges you can participate in there. Winners will end up winning a selection of real prizes, such as iPods and other such technical gadgetry.
To help improve your game, you can explore a wealth of information on every single multiplayer map, mode and weapon in extreme detail. If you keep dying in a specific place with a specific loadout, then this is the part of the website that is invaluable to you. Objectives for each mode are laid out on every map, statistics for weapons efficiency are coupled with adjustments for various attachments and videos detailing tips and tricks help give you an edge over your opponents.
The website is quite nice to explore. Very HTML5 heavy, with dynamic navigation and pages throughout - everything?s tucked into simple categories on the left hand side, while subsections of a page can be clicked over on the right hand side of the page. CoD
fans will love the design and the features within, but for anyone who?s used Bungie?s website for free there?s little here that would attract at this stage.
But the good news is, while it is a subscription-based option for Call of Duty
players, it remains exactly that - an option. Activision has been benevolent enough to avoid charging for multiplayer usage, and the company states that it will never charge for that privilege. For your money however, you get access to the Elite
website as well as access to all future downloadable content for Modern Warfare 3
. Can?t be so bad, if the subscription represents a good deal on the DLC.
I?ve been promised that Elite
will be continuously supported by Activision by an extensive support team that will work in a full-time capacity to think of new ideas, challenges and prizes to keep the experience going. For a premium subscription, that should probably be expected.
Perhaps more interesting than what Elite
will offer at launch is what Activision hope to achieve with the service over the coming months. The philosophy is to get Elite onto the ?four screens? - web, TV, mobile and in-game.
An iPhone App is already in development, and I was told that the launch of Modern Warfare 3
later this year will bring even more exciting features to the service, including Group v Group and Clan v Clan contests along with the ability to ask the community for guidance on various elements of the game.
For now though, Call of Duty Elite
aspires to be a lot of things, but the best way to describe it at the moment is that it?s ?a website.? But, a website with interesting potential.