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Call of Duty: Elite: Elite Intel

Company: Activision

Call of Duty: Elite was announced earlier this year to mixed reactions. Although we got a few details about the Call of Duty-focused social network at E3 2011, details were sketchy. This weekend, at the inaugural run of the game's fan fest -- Call of Duty XP 2011 -- Activision finally made details of the service official.

Elite is built around four pillars - Career, Connect, Compete and Improve. Each section, which appears as a tab on the main interface, supports various social networking and stat-tracking services. As reported during E3 2011, Elite is available in both free and premium versions. Although both will share a core set of tools, premium subscribers will have access to special features.

A premium subscription runs $50 a year, or $10 less than year's worth of map pack purchases ($15 per pack). The distinction is important since, as a premium member, all DLC is available for free. Not only that, but rather than waiting for quarterly updates, paid members will receive monthly DLC updates. These include new multiplayer maps, new missions for Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops Mode and other, unannounced add-ons.

Premium membership includes access to "Elite TV," a channel featuring original content developed specifically for Call of Duty fans. Among the shows in development are a series of training videos starring the world's best Call of Duty players. Each video focuses on various aspects of multiplayer, including weapon analysis and map strategies. The channel will also host series created by Hollywood talent who just happen to be Call of Duty fans.

"Friday Night Fight," created by Tony and Ridley Scott, features real world rivals facing off in Call of Duty grudge matches. No specifics were given, though you can expect to see episodes like "Police vs. Fireman" or "Democrats vs. Republicans." Shows may also include matches between celebrity rivals. Another currently in development show, "Nood Toob," spotlights player submitted videos with smack talk provided by Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.

Both shows use Modern Warefare 3 and will debut a few months after the game ships in November.

Videos are part of the Connect section in Elite. Everyone can upload videos, though paid members have access to more space (about eight times the amount). The service will also tag all players in the video.

Another function of the Connect section is to to fix what developers see as a common problem in multiplayer games - the lack of player interaction. Spend any amount of time in a lobby and you'll notice a distinct lack of discussion between players. In the Connect section, players will be able to join groups of like-minded people. For example, players in Baton Rouge can join "#BatonRouge_Elite" and find local players. Other examples include sports teams, schools or fans of certain play styles (#NoCampers, for instance). Once in a group, players can see how they stack up on their group's leaderboard.

Competition is a major aspect of Elite. Players can take on daily challenges, such as uploading specific videos or completing in-game feats in matches. In the beta, one challenge asks players to upload a video that they feel best exemplifies the "Domination" match type. By completing challenges, players will earn special badges or other decorative bits, like camo patterns.

The premium service includes a number of other goodies for players, such as real world prizes. Competitions will be held daily through the service, with players winning prizes like iPads or, presumably, CoD-branded goodies like shirts. Players can also earn competition-specific patches to display on their CoD: Elite profile page. Human referees will moderate the competitions, though Activision is understandably remaining tight-lipped on just how they'll monitor player's in-game behaviors.

The Career section houses all of the service's stat-tracking elements. In addition to checking their career stats, players can also check out a map with heat signatures showing where they, and opponents, died. After-action reports are available almost immediately after the match ends.

Another cool feature is a level calculator displaying the player's current level and how long it will take them to level based on how much time they put into matches.

The final section, Improve, is an in-game FAQ detailing the various weapons, perks and attachments available to players. The idea is to help make weaker players better by explaining when to use certain equipment or showing map data.

All CoD: Elite members will be able to access the service via an in-game app as well as through the Cod: Elite website. Mobile and tablet apps are also being developed. Not much is known about what the mobile apps will offer, though one example included checking out other player's loadouts and changing your own through the app.

After spending some time with the CoD: Elite beta, the service looks like it could be something players, both paying and non-paying, will enjoy. The service launches on November 8 alongside Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. An annual subscription costs $50, though anyone who buys the "Hardened Edition" will receive a free year of premium service.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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