Call of Duty: Tips for playing like a Pro
Call of Duty is often associated with young pubescent teens throwing verbal insults at each other and also viewed as a “simple” game with no depth. Despite this common perception, Call of Duty is one of the many games with professional players, often vying for tournament prizes worth $1million.
While the single player version of the game is fun but sometimes frustrating, the multiplayer game can lead to some rage inducing moments. You can easily find yourself falling very quickly into a horrible downwards spiral of spawning and dying within seconds, which eventually leads to the classic online rage quit. It's a common scenario in online “social” playing, but if you ever want to join the ranks of the massively growing sector of gamers who play “competitively,” you will have to play a completely different style. It’s a long road however, and I am going to impart some small pearls of wisdom given to me from well established players and coaches in competitive Call of Duty.
Communication & Map Knowledge
First and foremost on the list is communication and map knowledge. Both go hand in hand, just like any other team sport. Call of Duty is a very fast game and it is often difficult to spot people. Online you cannot point at your screen and say “he’s hiding there,” so you must communicate effectively. Forget how strange it might sound to suddenly shout out thinks like “One absolute, middle Owens” because with those simple four words you have informed your teammates of the exact location, number of enemies and their current state of health (absolute means absolute minimum health, so one bullet to kill.)
The more you communicate useful information, the easier you will find making your way around the map without getting killed by surprise. The pros have developed a “call-out” system for the five competitive maps that will easily allow them to communicate the exact location of an enemy. At first these locations can be difficult to grasp, but when you slow down to think about what you’re saying it’s really an easy affair. On one particular map which is placed inside a factory there a two catwalk areas. One is blue and the other is yellow, so simply looking at where you are shot from and calling that description will get you 70% of the way to learning call out locations. For example, if we take the above locations and say “on yellow catwalk” or “below yellow catwalk” those are actually two of the communally accepted map call outs. It’s all kept as simple as possible.
Remember Call of Duty maps are purposely designed to be small and quickly learned, so you will quickly develop knowledge of call out locations and start being able to predict the “traffic” route of most players. Before you know it you will be able to run through a map blindfolded (not recommended.) If team members communicate and follow even a basic plan, you should be able to quickly overrun and outsmart the opposition even with an “average” gun skill.
Despite the game's simple modes and small maps, the strategies used vary wildly and each game mode and map requires a different strategy. It is a subject that you can literally write a whole book about, but in order to keep it straightforward, a simple way to approach strategies is to make tactics clear before each round, thus avoiding the team running around like headless chickens and getting their rears handed to them.
Remember that simple or grand plans are great, but the opposing team will have their own strategies too and will employ and adapt them to counter yours. Your team must be prepared to have a plan B , C and probably D. If one strategy no longer works your team can quickly switch to another.
If you are playing with regular friends or team mates, then using strategies will be alot easier, but don't be afraid to take the leader role if it’s needed. At worst, be the one to ask “anyone have a plan lads?” Employ your strategies to the best of your abilities and you will be able to at least take on top players, as most pro gamers don’t have insanely better skills than other players and die just like you do. What is different is the in-game techniques and strategies they employ to be a pro gamer, strategies which you must learn. Find out what is useful and adapt it to your own playing style.
In a nutshell, organisation is paramount in Call of Duty. It prevents situations from spiralling out of control and matches being lost very quickly.
While this sounds like an obvious “tip” you would be surprised at the amount of players and teams who lack even the most basic concept of solid teamwork. To be an effective team member you must know your role and stick to it to the best of your ability.
Ensuring that your team is well structured gives balance to each of your match rounds and allows your team to adapt and react to the various situations in the game, which happen in the blink of an eye. An example of a competitive game mode that requires seriously good teamwork and communication is "Search and Destroy" where matches can be lost quickly by simple mistakes, as once you are killed you cannot play again until the next round. Defending the player with the bomb properly is crucial, just as it's important to help support someone diffusing it. The best teams in the world are flexible, with every player proficient at all game types of Call of Duty multiplayer.
As your knowledge grows from communications and call out locations, you will find yourself having more awareness of where enemies are likely to be hiding or moving through, which can lead to a crucial kill and suddenly swing the odds back in your team's favour. As I said earlier, it is very easy to get very wound up when playing Call of Duty online but when you’re playing competitively it is of the utmost importance you keep a cool, calm head and communicate and play as part of the team. Ensure you don’t go on tilt and go running around looking for revenge when you should be holding your position and doing your job.
Patience and Aim
Another obvious one, but a common mistake among many players, is that they shoot way too early when they see an enemy, allowing them to get behind cover and survive. Showing a bit of patience and assuming no one can see you waiting another two to three seconds will usually result in your target being more exposed. With no cover, you will pick up the kill easier, assuming of course your aim is on target. Playing competitively means you have to play smart. You need to be as aggressive as possible but at all times ensuring it is controlled aggression and finding that balance can be tricky. But when you do find that balance, you will intimidate your enemies by controlling when and where you shoot which means less reloading, more accuracy and allot less time getting caught with your pants down in the middle of reloading (always a face palm moment.)
When you have learned to control your in-game patience, your aim will naturally improve. This is the most valuable key skill as COD at its core is a simple 1v1 gun combat situation 95% of the time. This of course means that if you miss nine times out of ten, when it comes down to the crunch you're dead. A good way to improve your aim and practice “warming up” is to play private matches against “bots” on their highest difficulty setting, which will essentially mean they never miss. Soon you will be not missing a shot and even ten minutes of this type of warm up before each game session can massively improve your aim and get you a little bit closer to being a possible pro.
Finally, remember your in-game sensitivity settings, which you can have as low as one (VERY slow and unresponsive turning) or as high as 20 (better to try turning it up to 20 rather than me describe it.) Experiment with your sensitivity settings and find the one that's right for you. There is no right or wrong settings and most of the pros have wildly different sensitivity settings.
Becoming a Pro
Once you have put all of the above in to practice, with your own spin on things, and are making strides towards becoming a Pro gamer, you will need to know the rules inside and out. Rules do tend to vary by website, organisation and country but increasingly everyone is adopting the MLG rule set (even if some are slow to do so.) You will need to learn your weapons and perks inside out and being able to play well under any set of rules and with any weapon. Generally being a well-rounded player will mean, more often than not, you and your team will take home the win and be one step closer to being a Pro.
Now, comes the hard work where you new mantra becomes “grind, grind and grind,” as becoming a Pro player doesn't happen overnight. You need to put in countless hours every day to make it to the top and even more hours to stay there.
On your way to being a Pro make sure to always market yourself and don’t burn bridges. If you talk trash to Pros they will not play against you for practice. If you want to have any hopes of becoming a Pro, try and talk to other Pros on Twitter, as the more you interact with Pros and players in the community the more your name will be seen and you want your name to be seen under a positive light.
Finally, attend any event you possibly can whether it be locals or majors. Locals may not be seen as a prominent place to be, since a lot of Pros don't attend, but they are an invaluable place for a new competitive gamer to learn the ropes and if you win and take home some money you are well on your way to gaining support and being picked up by a Semi-Pro or Pro team.
Damien Gill, esports.ie