Activision’s Call of Duty XP 2016: eSports, Fandom and Military Might

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From the Forum in Los Angles I had four days of trying out the new Call of Duty multiplayers, the Call of Duty fan experience, and the world championships at Call of Duty XP 2016. It began with the press day and first day of the World League championship on Thursday Sep 1st. During the day I got to play the multiplayer for Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered, test my skills in the VR Jackal Assault Mission, and live Nuketown in Nuketown paintball. Friday and Saturday I spent experiencing all that XP offered to get the full experience and learn as much about the games as possible.

The Infinite Warfare tent.
The Infinite Warfare tent.

Both Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered are set to release on November 4th, with the Modern Warfare Remastered available with the Infinite Warfare Legacy, Legacy Pro, and Digital Deluxe editions. The beta will start October 14th. Both games plus the Zombies in Spaceland and Terminal map are available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

A military vehicle
A military vehicle

Let’s begin with the games. First and foremost this event was about the games, having the live action experiences were bonuses, it was being able to test drive the new multiplayers that were stars of the XP event. Besides Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered, I was also able to get a first hand look at the recently released Call of Duty Black Ops III DLC Salvation on Saturday. The first game we tried was Infinite Warfare multiplayer. A good trailer can make an incredible first impression and wanting to play a game.

Activision put together a trailer for Infinite Warfare multiplayer that left me all tingly and amazed. All I could think was “WOW, this is going to be amazing.” Hyped up with the reveal I was so excited to play the multiplayer. It plays like Black Ops III and Advanced Warfare, which are good, especially for those more experienced with those games. Taking from Black Ops III’s Specialists Infinite Warfare adds upon this and allows players to choose combat rigs. The six combat rigs come with choice of three payloads and three traits. The combat rigs are Warfighter, FTL, Synaptic, Merc, Phantom, and Stryker.

Breakout map with FTL, Synaptic, and Warfighter.
Breakout map with FTL, Synaptic, and Warfighter.

In my first games I tried out three of the combat rigs. The first rig was the FTL, which I choose only because it looked cool and I wanted speed and a rig for close combat. The FTL had available the eraser and FTL jump payloads. Eraser is an experimental energy based handgun and FTL jump is a short burst of speed. I choose FTL jump, again for the speed. The payloads become available after a kill streak, similar to the specialist abilities in Black Ops III. For traits we did get three, and FTL had supercharge, perception, and power slide. Perception causes the HUD to pulse yellow when enemies out of view are targeted, supercharge drops payload cool down packs for your team, and power slide increases sliding distance. I choose the power slide.

There was one choice of combat weapon, and mine I choose was the eRad. The eRad is a rapid response full auto energy firearm with a wide dispersion muzzle. Players also get choice of optics, secondary weapons, and lethals and tacticals. I went with Trojan sight to outline enemies, and the combat knife. For lethals and tacticals my favorite is the seeker grenade that seeks out a target and attaches itself to that target. The black hole generator is cool but will suck in everything, including you if not careful. As far as score streaks go probably the best one is the RC-8, a massive robot you can call to defend. I got to see one of these and it was the best part of the infinite warfare multiplayer.

Another combat rig was the Synaptic. Here is one that was also built for speed and close combat. I did try both payloads for this one, the reaper and equalizer. The reaper is a drone that looks like a robotic dog that a player controls and uses melee for close quarter attacks. Equalizer gives a player two machine gun arm attachments for multiple kills. No matter how much I loved the reaper I got more kills with the equalizer. This rig was a good choice for the Frost map with open areas and indoor areas for mid-range and close combat. Even though I liked the eRad energy weapon I soon found myself after the first game switching to a ballistic weapon, the NV4 assault rife. In the end I preferred playing with warfighter because it’s a mid range combat rig and does well with an assault weapon and as a defensive player it works out well.

The maps played were Frost, Frontier, Throwback, and Breakout. Modes were Domination, Team deathmatch, and Defender. The best maps I thought were Frost and Frontier. Frost is an asteroid mining colony on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Frontier was on a space station. I liked Frontier because it’s a small map with plenty of areas for cover. It also has lower gravity, which gives a challenge but makes for easier wall runs. Throwback was an interesting map because it was essentially designed to look like a 1950’s main street in an orbital space station. For more information on the different combat rigs, weapons, and maps check out the Call of Duty Infinite Warfare site.

When we first entered the Infinite Warfare tent as with all the other multiplayer tents the set up was for team play. Everyone in each row was on a team and you played the team of players opposite of your team. This was my first experience with this type of team play where I knew the people on my team. A staff member who also communicated which side to choose started each game. As PlayStation brought the event to us we all played on a PlayStation 4. Headsets were provided and we sat close to monitors. Although two to three games at a time was not enough it was still a great experience to play the game and see if it is worth the price. When you include Modern Warfare Remastered and a new and exciting campaign with Infinite Warfare, in my opinion it is.

With new locations and a story that from what I saw looks more on the lines with Modern Warfare or Advance Warfare.  The creators and developers at Infinity Ward  worked hard to make it as realistic as possible, taking inspiration from NASA and modern day naval ships.   Infinite Warfare appears to be what the Call of Duty franchise needs. Yes it is the future and we get to experience space battles and boots on the ground missions on Mars and Europa. However, the developers took what we have today, our knowledge of how a real space craft would work, gave characters and sets a rustic look while keeping with a militaristic style and set it to a future combat story.  They did not want to go too science fiction, so with the help of NASA engineers created space vehicles that not only had militaristic and unrefined aesthetics but also could actually be a real life spacecraft or colony on Mars with terraforming. The Jackal fighter needs atmosphere to launch but has thrusters to maneuver in space, similar to the space shuttle.  For the enemy in Infinite Warfare the SDF, the look is rugged and industrial as they are off Earth miners. The Marines have a Marine look, space and combat suits are beefy and made for military use.

Personally I felt going the more realistic look and taking the appeal of the modern military and enhancing it for the future of space combat and exploration was a good choice.  How the game actually plays we will have to wait till November 4th but I think they did an excellent job getting NASA involved for realism.

Modern Warfare Remastered tent.
Modern Warfare Remastered tent.

Let’s move on to the multiplayer I was most excited about, Modern Warfare Remastered. Modern Warfare was one of the best Call of Duty’s made and the whole series was excellent. Modern Warfare 3 was by far my favorite multiplayer but I did like the campaigns of all the Modern Warfares and it was Modern Warfare that got me into playing Call of Duty. I also really liked Ghosts, though the campaign could have been longer and Advanced Warfare had a decent campaign and multiplayer. Advanced Warfare had the Exosuits, which were pretty cool and fun. From attending panels and listening to the creators and developers, there is a passion for the series to make a good game, with a good story, memorable characters, and evolve the story and multiplayer but some games are so classic that the only real thing you can do is provide a remastered version.

This is what Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered brings to fans, the classic story with an updated look. Not updated as in change the vision, characters, and story; those stay the same, it’s updated as in old game with a fresh look.

The developers went and remodeled everything in the game even down to adding actual calibers to each bullet. In some of the slow motion footage you can see the rounds going in and the individual casings going out. It was amazing. The warzones look like warzones with burned out buildings, scorch marks, and rubble. With additions to the landscape just to give more realism to the maps it turned out very realistic. The color has also been enhanced along with audio. Every sound from the gears on tanks to crunching of glass can be heard. Characters have been remodeled. Captain Price now looks like he has been through Hell and back with an older rugged face that shows his years of experience and a story to tell. Its amazing and fans are going to be happy with the outcome. All multiplayer maps, UI, and weapons have gotten a fresh look to them. Again you play in maps that look and feel like warzones.

I entered the  Modern Warfare Remastered tent first day just with press but Friday I stood in line with the fans. This line was the longest of any of the multiplayers and you could feel the eagerness of fans to replay classic maps and use modern day weapons. All the gaming tents and activities were in the expansive outdoor area. Because the area was so large the event did not seem very crowded, though lines were long it was the perfect venue to have the event and it was in LA, with nice weather all weekend.

Zipline
Zip line

Coming off of just playing Infinite Warfare playing Modern Warfare felt different. With the slower pace, no thrust jumps or wall runs, slide is now melee, and no crazy drones chasing you it took a bit to get use to. Here skill and taking advantage of cover win matches. I didn’t play some of the favorite maps like Shipment, but Backlot was fun. In Backlot there is a machine gun on a top floor that can be used to take out enemies. I kept going to it and got shots in before noticed. In Modern Warfare some players like to camp but its not recommended, besides everyone knows all the campsites. Other maps I played were ambush, and overgrown. When the game comes out you get the first 10 maps in November than the last 6 in December. The maps are:

  • Ambush
  • Backlot
  • Bloc
  • Bog
  • Countdown
  • Crash
  • Crossfire
  • District
  • Downpour
  • Overgrown
  • Pipeline
  • Shipment
  • Showdown
  • Strike
  • Vacant
  • Wetwork

Playing this game brought back the memories, and of course I went with my old staples, the SAW, M4, MP5, and claymores. Claymores are good to set up for defense. My favorite perks are the martyrdom, which drops a grenade when you die and last stand. The game gives 4 perks and one is a choice of grenades. The multiplayer has the killstreaks with UAV, Airstrikes, and Attack Helicopter. It’s limited compared to the newest games but its fun. The sides I played were the Marines, OpFor, and Spetsnaz. During the games your commentator to say, “We’re winning” or “losing this fight”, and “enemy UAV spotted” was voiced to reflect which side you are on. So as Spetsnaz the voice has a Russian accent, and Marines American. OpFor were a Middle Eastern group lead by khaled Al-Asad and all players are modeled after the campaign characters. It’s good to know your enemy and allies.   Modern Warfare Remastered is the game I am looking most to playing again and seeing how well they redid the graphics, animation, audio, and maps.

Call of Duty Blacks Ops III Salvation is 4 new maps that recently became available. Not much to say about them but they are probably the best maps in Black Ops III. The best one is Micro where you are very small and have to battle among giant food items. Outlaw is also fun as it’s an Old Western town. They are fun maps that add new character to Black Ops III multiplayer. If you like Black Ops III this DLC is worth getting. There is also revelations a zombies origin map.

The other game I played was the VR Jackal Assault experience.  This was exclusive to the XP event. Using the PlayStation VR for the first time I was impressed at the technology and graphic display.  First players are put into a conex with the VR headsets, a little unnerving with doors shut.  A staff member put the VR headset and headphones so we were immersed in the experience.

It did feel like I was flying in space and was in control of a space fighter. The Jackal mission is playable in the campaign but not as VR. VR takes the mission to a whole other level.  One take away from using the PlayStation VR is that it relies on both head movements and controller. When you move your head a player can target enemy ships and than with the controller fire missiles and ballistics. It took the second try to get the targeting down and gain full control of the ship. When looking around, everywhere there was detail from inside the hangar before launch, to having a full body, the entire cockpit controls, ships and planet below. Amazing how real it felt. If PlayStation has enough games to support the VR it would be worth buying.

Nuketown paintball
Nuketown paintball

That was an overview of the gaming experience but that was not the whole event. Call of Duty XP offered up other experiences and fun times. There was the zip line, which looked fun and Zombie laser tag. Juggernaut wrestling was fun to watch with fans dressed in the mock-ups of the suits worn by the Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal soldiers.

Juggernut wrestling
Juggernut wrestling

What did I participate in? Nuketown Paintball. This was my first paintball experience and I hope not to be my last.  Activision did an outstanding job setting up the course to look like Black Ops Nuketown. It was a capture the Flag mode. Players had eight minutes before the nuke hit, and when hit players had to go back to the home base and respawn. This is what Call of Duty is like for real. My team won the match, quickly capturing the flag and defending while pinning in the opposite team. I defended from cover, getting kills but also respawning about four times. It was a lot of fun and a highlight of the event. Players did have to wear a helmet and vest for safety and coveralls to protect clothing.

Recreation of Nuketown.

Around the outside area there was a collection of Military vehicles and displays with Call of Duty props. There were also two guys in Advanced Warfare exosuits. There was something for every fan at the Call of Duty XP.

It all ended on Sunday with the Call of Duty World League Championships where Team EnVyUs of North America beat the European team Splyce to take home $800,000 and the title Call of Duty Champions. All followed by a concert from Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifia.

Collection of Military Vehicles.
Collection of Military Vehicles.

 

Treyarch props
Treyarch props
Sledgehammer props
Sledgehammer props

 

 

 

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