If there was one spot in the Los Angeles Convention Center's South Hall that drew constant crowds on the first day of E3, it was Activision. The game company's temporary headquarters were unadorned in comparison to some of the whimsical booths that surround it, but they had what appeared to be the hottest video game property in the in the exhibit hall, Call of Duty, and one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
A trailer for MW3 played at regular intervals throughout the day. When we caught it, at around 4 p.m., the booth was packed. We stood with our necks craned and eyes darting across the space as it played on the upper periphery of the booth. The trailer felt longer and a bit more suspenseful than the one that had been uploaded to the Call of Duty YouTube channel last month, but worked around the same images. The U.S., U.K., France and Germany are left in nightmarish states of devastation, which is implied to be the work of one person.
Earlier that day, we headed to a preview session for Call of Duty Elite, which appeared to have much longer lines than any of Activision's other forthcoming releases. The group screening session, led by Activision producer Jason Ades, seemed intent upon quelling fan anger over the recent announcement of the subscription-based Elite, which is going into beta.
Ades stressed that the goal is to give fans “more than you've ever had before with Call of Duty, not taking anything away.”
Elite works with the three-part mantra “Connect, compete, improve.” It will be integrated with Modern Warfare 3, with more features than what will be featured on the beta.
Amongst the highlights of Elite are the social networking features. Users have the option to form groups or clans based on virtually any interest. Group competitions will become part of Elite, giving players the change to compete at various different levels for prizes, apparently tangible prizes. There's a theater mode, where users can upload and share video. You'll also be able to keep tabs on your stats, as well as those of your friends. Eventually, users will be able to merge game play with social networking sites like Facebook.
Probably the most intriguing thing about Elite, though, is the “Improve” set of functions. Because you can check your stats, you can better understand your abilities in the game, see where you need to make improvements. Elite will have video guides for a variety of weapons you will use. From what we saw in the preview, this seems like a good way to help users figure out which options work best for their playing style. The game's social networking features give users the opportunity to seek advice from other players as well.
E3 wasn't it for Call of Duty fans, though. There are more announcements to expect later this summer.
Also at the Activision booth, we got to check out the pre-alpha version of Prototype 2. The game takes place fourteen months after the first installment in the series, in New York Zero. The city has been divided into sections. There's the Red Zone, which was Manhattan, and is the center of the virus outbreak. Then there is the Yellow Zone, a quarantine and triage area. The Green Zone is a Black Watch military zone.
New to the game is the Blacknet, which is a source of Black Watch communication that users can hack in order to gain info necessary for the game. There's also a “hunting” option, which will help players spot their targets. Once the target is caught, players can gain new information for the missions. Users will also be able to customize characters. Prototype 2 is anticipated as a 2012 release.