LOS ANGELES » The inaugural "Call of Duty XP" convention more closely resembled Disneyland than an actual battleground as the two-day event celebrating the shoot-’em-up video game franchise took flight Friday at an old airfield in Los Angeles.
More than 6,000 fans lined up for game previews, real-world recreations of "Call of Duty" levels and facetime with developers at the first-ever gaming extravaganza.
"It kind of sucks to have to wait in lines, but I think we’ll get a chance to do everything," said Daniel Gonzalez of Imperial County, Calif. Gonzalez, 18, said he was most looking forward to blasting zombies at one of the hundreds of gaming stations erected inside a mammoth hangar on the 12-acre compound where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose.
"Call of Duty" devotees joined snaking lines for everything from hands-on time with "Modern Warfare 3" to grilled hamburgers from an eatery resembling the game’s fictitious Burger Town fast food chain. Attendees also waited anxiously for a chance to spar on paintball courses modeled after "Modern Warfare 2" levels and glide over the event on a zipline.
"It was perfect — not too fast and not scary," said Ray Usoro, who drove up with two friends from San Diego to attend "Call of Duty XP," after braving the zipline. Usoro, 27, said his $150 ticket to the event was worth it because it included a special edition of "Modern Warfare 3" and the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see ‘Call of Duty’ brought to life."
The sold-out event honoring the Activision Blizzard Inc. franchise kicked off Friday with the unveiling of the multiplayer mode of the upcoming "Modern Warfare 3." The developers promised a more balanced online experience, adding the ability to upgrade weapons, eliminating shotguns as secondary weapons and giving the infamous "killstreak" feature an overhaul.
Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, said the game publisher organized the immersive event to thank hardcore fans and build hype for "Modern Warfare 3" and the new "Elite" online service. He said all proceeds from ticket sales would go to the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit organization that Activision founded to assist military veterans.
A mention that Kanye West would be performing at the convention Saturday night by Robert Bowling, the creative strategist at "Modern Warfare" developer Infinity Ward, elicited several boos from the crowd. Hirshberg called the notoriously spontaneous rapper "one of greatest performers in the world" and said he wasn’t fearful of any of West’s antics.
"When you hire Kanye, you hire Kanye," said Hirshberg.
For those who can’t attend "Call of Duty XP" but still want in on the action, Activision enlisted supermodel Marisa Miller to host streaming videos from the event. Miller, who will make her film debut in the upcoming supernatural thriller "R.I.P.D." with Jeff Bridges, said she’s no stranger to "Call of Duty." Her father and husband are both die-hard players.
"The way we play is my husband will show me what’s up in the specific map that we’re going to play through and then he’ll give me the controller, and I’ll have a go at it," said Miller. "My husband is really intense about it. He’s really good. I’m just the type of player who likes to sit behind the wall with my sniper rifle and pick people off that way."
For the past four years, the action-packed "Call of Duty" franchise has enjoyed unprecedented success. The latest title, "Black Ops," has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide since its launch last November, and more than seven million people play online every day. The upcoming globe-trotting "Modern Warfare 3" edition is scheduled for release Nov. 8.
Other activities at "Call of Duty XP" include sumo duels inside puffy suits resembling the game’s "juggernaut" bomb diffusion uniforms, an armory showcasing gear and art from the "Call of Duty" franchise, a performance by the punk-rock band Dropkick Murphys, and several game tournaments, including matches pitting basketball players against U.S. soldiers.