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Call of Duty XP Debrief

Company: Activision
Product: Call of Duty XP 2011

If the flurry of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 stories wasn't an indication, I had the opportunity to attend Call of Duty XP 2011, Activision's first ever fan celebration of everything Call of Duty. The event, which took place over two days in Los Angeles, featured tournaments based around the Call of Duty series; a series of CoD themed real world events; and the worldwide reveal of Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer mode, as well as the first details on Elite.

The event took place in a large hanger that, according to the locals, was where the Spruce Goose was built. The inside of the hanger housed hundreds of Xbox 360s running multiplayer modes in Modern Warfare 3, as well as Black Ops and, in a blast from the past, Modern Warfare 2. Lines were the order of the day for most of the terminals - especially for those waiting for a chance at MW3 -- though show runners did a great job of pushing crowds through the stations without rushing them.

Modern Warfare 3's showing was split into two sections, one showcasing Spec Ops Mode and the other featuring the new multiplayer game type, Kill Confirmed (or, as it was known on the show floor, "Dog Tags"). Spec Ops games challenged teams of two (sometimes teams of complete strangers) to tackle the mode's multiple enemy waves and survive as long as they could. As with other game-based events, a running leaderboard was displayed above the Spec Ops section, challenging players to earn a top spot.

For more information on Spec Ops Mode, check out our link below.

The game's multiplayer component took place in an event dubbed "The Gauntlet." This was, at least in my opinion, one of the coolest game setups at the show. As players entered the area they were stationed at a bank of consoles and placed in games of 4-on-4 Team Deathmatch. After taking time to get a feel for the new Perks and Strike Packages (which you can read about below), players went head-to-head in one round matches. The losers had to leave the area (or get back in line) while victors were invited to move up to another section and challenge another winning team in a round of Capture the Flag. After the match, the winners entered the final two stations for a "Champions" round of Kill Confirmed.

Although the setup allowed only a few players the opportunity to check out the new mode, it was a cool carrot dangling on the stick. It also served another purpose; it got people talking to one another.

I have to admit, my expectations of the people I would meet at the event were off by a lot. Going solely by the mouthy players I sometimes come across in Call of Duty matches, I expected a complete Alpha Male convention with CoD fans doing their best to out-"Dudebro" each other. This wasn't the case. Instead, I found a group of incredible players - both male and female - who were more interested in swapping digital war stories than trying to prove how great a player they are.

Though I can't say for sure if it was a planned outcome, I liked the sense of community the mixed tournaments fostered. I ended up hanging out with a group of people I had never met, from completely different cities and joining them in other match types, such as a four-player run through Black Ops's Zombie Map, "Moon," as well as the four-player Black Ops Gauntlet.

The other side of the hanger featured a large stage, which hosted the opening day announcements and press conference, as well as concerts by Dropkick Murphys and Kanye West. During the day, the stage also showcased a set of two "Pro vs. G.I.Joe" tournaments. "Pros vs. G.I.Joe" is a really cool organization that helps soldiers overseas stay connected with their families as well as giving them a taste of home by pitting them in tournaments against athletes.

There was also a series of four live panels focusing on different aspects of Call of Duty, such as clan support in CoD: Elite or the evolution of the incredibly popular Zombies Mode. If I came away from the convention with one disappointment, it was the panels. I enjoyed the ones shown, but being a panel-going type of person, would have enjoyed a chance to hear developers discuss the series' development. Another, panel-specific venue would have been nice since the constant foot traffic was a distraction.

Outside the event, players could check out a series of real-life events referred to, as least by fans, as the "Call of Duty Experience." At the center of the outdoor portion sat a replica of "Burger Town." Based on the usually long lines, the shops offerings were a bit of a hit. While not dining on burgers, fans could also take a ride down a zipline or jump into a jeep for a rocky, incredibly well done jeep ride along. Of the outdoor events, the jeep was my favorite, if only because of the test track styled terrain.

In an effort to bring a bit of the game into the real world, the outdoor section included a scale replica of "The Pit," the training course from Modern Warfare 2. A replica of the "Scrapyard" map was also recreated for paintball matches. Lines were usually long for the paintball, but it was also a major thrill once inside the play area. Just to add to the experience, giant speakers surrounded the open-air area, booming sound effects and music from the games, adding just a little more atmosphere to the event.

Another neat "game" surrounding the entire event was the ability to earn patches. Fans were rewarded with patches for completing events at the convention. For example, a trip down the zipline or through Scrapyard earned fans a special "Zipline" or "Scrapyard" patch. As an added bonus, some stations offered the opportunity to earn a special "Prestige" badge by outperforming other players or reaching a certain goal. For example, teams that made it past Wave 18 in Spec Ops were given a gold Prestige badge, while the individual with the highest score at the end of Zombies was also awarded a badge.

Beyond the chance to check out MW3 and connect with fans, one of the absolute best parts of CoD XP 2011 was the chance to show support for the men and women of the US Military. CoD XP 2011 was held as a way to support the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit group started by Activision to help soldiers find jobs when they return from active duty. I suppose I've had my head in the mud on the topic, but after talking to representatives and hearing what they had to say, it is a great cause and one I encourage more people to get involved with (the same goes for Pro vs. G.I. Joe). I think one of the most poignant moments of the show involved watching groups of CoD players shake the hands and thank the service people in attendance.

Plus, the military are great teammates when you need that extra boost during Zombies Mode.

Overall, I'd call my first experience at Call of Duty XP a success. Even with the few bumps involved in running a show of its scale, the event was a great way for fans to meet up and share in the sense of community not found during matches.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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