COD XP: Our Experience
Films get red carpet premieres and apparently games get million dollar tournaments, sumo wrestling, zip-lining and paintball. Activision threw one helluva party in L.A. this weekend to help launch Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 about two months early. For $150 fans got a chance to play the latest build of the multiplayer and Spec Ops modes of the new game as well as participate in a number of events both on and off the console.
The Microsoft supported event, Call Of Duty XP, took place inside a massive sound stage in Playa Vista, as well as the surrounding outdoor areas. Inside, one half of the sound stage that once housed the herculean Spruce Goose was dedicated to performances and personalities. Special guests conducted discussions on everything from the socialization for CoD gamers to Q&A sessions with the voice talents of the series and talks with the developers themselves happened throughout the day. As night fell, The Dropkick Murphys took over on Friday and Kanye West on Saturday, the latter arriving over an hour and a half late to a less then interested audience. Seriously, everyone I spoke to couldn’t understand how military-shooter-video-game-fans translated to Kanye-West-fans. Most would have preferred a repeat of Friday’s performance.
The other half was all about gaming. From one end to another, hundreds of stations were setup for competition play in Call of Duty Black Ops, Modern Warfare 2 and, of course, Modern Warfare 3. Zombie mode, team deathmatch, free-for-all and a million dollar tourney for clans to clash over. The final match was an international one, pitting Los Angeles based OpTic Gaming against U.K.-based Til Infinity. Local boys took the prize in a final Search and Destroy match, splitting $400,000 equally and allegedly paying off a few debts in the process.
Outside, those that were willing to give more than their thumbs a workout had plenty to test their mettle against. The only thing without an hour long wait or more was Burger Town, the fictional fast food restaurant found in-game, recreated to sell overpriced hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. Most people paid a hundred and fifty bucks to get in and a bottle of water still cost 4 bucks. Fortunately, everything else was free.
Likely the biggest draw was The Scrapyard, CoD XP’s live battle experience. Activision had one of Modern Warfare 2’s most popular multiplayer maps recreated (mostly) in real life. From the outside, the resemblance is obvious, but once inside with your flak jacket and M16 (paintball) rifle, the 7 minute domination match quickly blurred any similarities. Don’t misunderstand, I think they did a great scaled down job, but it was just a bit over hyped.
Next up, The Pit, another paintball version of a map from the game, but this time it’s just you against the clock. Run the gauntlet as quickly as possible while taking out as many as 50 targets in your path. A bit of a rush, but not the best of resemblances to its digital counterpart.
Across the street, The Jeep Drive Experience took those possessing strong hearts off-roading on a simulated incursion mission to retrieve a laptop being held by terrorists. Guests were taken by Jeep four-bys through a mock battlefield, over steep inclines, through flooded areas and to a bombed out building where a firefight takes place before being chauffeured back to the event. It was kinda like riding through a Jeep Super Bowl commercial.
Back inside, between all the button mashers, guests could square off as military juggernauts (a new class of soldier found in MW3) in ring. Strapping on inflatable sumo suits, flak jackets and helmets, participants did their best to stumble around a helipad trying to push each other out. In true, sumo style. Uh huh.
The centerpiece to all this camouflaged craziness was the zipline, a 60 foot descent overlooking all of the event’s activities. Four stories high, guests were strapped into a nylon harness and clipped to a tensile steel line and sent flying across the tarmac.
At first, the ticket price seemed a bit overwhelming for a video game launch, but after experiencing it all you realize that these kind of activities are usually reserved for vacation packages. Two headliner concerts, zip-lining, paintball, a free game and all the proceeds going to the Call Of Duty Endowment charity? Pretty decent value if you ask me. CODE is a non-profit organization that seeks to help employ veterans transitioning from military service to civilian employment. See, now don’t you feel better about blowing your allowance?