The massive Call of Duty franchise is also a growing esport, check out our guide to start following along.

Has Call of Duty: World War 2 brought you back to the franchise you loved growing up? Well, a massive esport has formed while you were gone, with players competing for millions of dollars in prize money. No, you probably are not good enough to compete, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time watching! Competitive Call of Duty is faster than most esports, and rarely resembles the popular game we know, making it hard for newcomers to follow along. Worry not, we are here to get you prepared for what is shaping up to be the most exciting Call of Duty season yet.

Where’s the rest of the team?

Like most first person shooters these days, Call of Duty is a 6v6 game for those of us who play for fun. However, competitive CoD shrinks team sizes down to 4v4, known as 8s. The smaller team sizes result in a more tactical experience, with more space in the map for teams to defend and plan their attacks.

As far as team composition goes, don’t expect the level of role planning that goes into a game like Overwatch or CS:GO. In a fast, gun skill focused game like Call of Duty, players can find themselves playing the objective or slaying at any given moment, making traditional roles hard to identify. While some teams have designated objective players or slayers, the more common way to identify team roles is the weapons they use, breaking down into “AR” or “SMG” categories. AR players use longer ranged assault rifles to hold down lanes from a distance, while SMG players are more mobile and engage closer. Fans of lighting fast SMG action should watch Scump of OpTic Gaming, while JKap of Luminosity is worth keeping an eye on for cerebral AR play.

The Game Modes

If you play Call of Duty, you probably rarely leave the Team Deathmatch playlist. TDM has always been the star of CoD, with millions of players pouring countless hours into the popular mode. You would be surprised to find out then, that Deathmatch is not a part of Competitive Call of Duty. Comp CoD is instead made up of objective play only, with Hardpoint, Capture the Flag (sometimes Gridiron) and Search & Destroy being the modes of choice.

Hardpoint and CTF are known as respawn modes, since a player will respawn when they die in a match. Search & Destroy, commonly known as S&D or just Search, does not have respawns. You might see pro CoD teams referred to as Search specialists or Respawn specialists, because being great in both styles of play is extremely difficult.

A pro match is a best of 5 series, played on each mode and a variety of maps. For Call of Duty: World War 2, Map 1 will be Hardpoint, Map 2 will be Search & Destroy, Map 3 will be Capture the Flag, Map 4 is Hardpoint again and Map 5 is Search & Destroy again. The first team to win 3 maps wins the match!

Search & Destroy

This game mode features two bomb sites, with one team defending those sites and the other team needing to plant a bomb in either site. This mode closely resembles CS:GO, so fans of that esport should be able to pick up S&D quickly. The attacking team can win a round by planting and detonating the bomb, or by eliminating every player on the defending team. The defending team can win by defusing the bomb, by eliminating every player on the attacking team, or if time runs out without the bomb going down. The first team to win 6 rounds will win the map.

Hardpoint

Hardpoint might be the most confusing mode for newcomers, featuring crazy speeds, lots of shooting and a scoreboard that isn’t very intuitive. Once you understand what is going on, Hardpoint is easy to follow, with loads of action, constant excitement and potential for drama.

At the start of the game, a small part of the map will be highlighted – known as a Hardpoint. A team will get 1 point for every second they have a player inside of the Hardpoint uncontested. If players for both teams are inside the Hardpoint, it is contested, and neither team will be scoring. If no one is inside the Hardpoint, neither team will score points and the game timer will count down. After 60 seconds, the Hardpoint will rotate to a new location. The Hardpoint locations and order are predetermined, allowing teams to tactically rotate and plan out the next objective. AR players are especially important on a Hardpoint rotation if they can set up down a lane in advance.

A team will win by scoring 250 points, or by leading whenever the game timer runs out. The game timer will not run while a team is in a Hardpoint, making for wild comebacks and thrilling finishes. OpTic Gaming is known as the Green Wall because of their dominating Hardpoint play.

Capture the Flag

CoD esports featured a basketball-ish game mode called Uplink as the Map 3 mode, but the return to boots on the ground gameplay with WW2 no longer fit the Uplink style. Call of Duty remade Uplink as Gridiron, specifically for WW2, but it was met with disapproval from the pro community. While Gridiron might make an appearance in competitive CoD at some point this season, Capture the Flag is its replacement for now.

The CoD version of Capture the Flag is no different from the game you may have played outside as a kid, or played in any other FPS video game. Each team has a flag in their home base. To score a point, you must bring the enemy team’s flag to your home base while your own flag is still there. Capture the Flag favors teamwork and coordinated attacks over gunskill, making it the map that has the most potential for unexpected upsets. Since it is always Map 3, CTF plays a pivotal role for a series that enters tied 1-1 in map count. Rise Nation was one of the better Uplink teams, and they probably have something up their sleeves for CTF this season.

Watching a Match

Competitive Call of Duty can be found on Twitch or YouTube, but the major events and matches will be on MLG.TV. Much like other esports, there are Casters that provide commentary and switch between the POVs of all 8 players. This rapid switching can be confusing at first, since Casters will try to keep constant action on the screen. Learn the names of the rosters before a match, or even simply the colors of the teams playing, and you will be able to keep up in no time.

A typical broadcast also involves features to help you follow along. For instance, the mini map in the top left of the screen is much larger that usual, and constantly shows every player as an arrow, so you can even tell which direction they are facing. The players playing the game can’t see this information of course, but it will help you follow how a team rotates in Hardpoint, or how they defend a bomb site in Search. Additionally, player outlines are highlighted so viewers can see them, even if they aren’t visible to the actual player POV the Caster is showing.

The CWL

The CWL, short for Call of Duty World League, is the organizing league for Call of Duty esports. Every year starts with online tournaments called 2Ks, named because the winner gets 2,000 CWL points. There are three regions in Call of Duty, North America (NA), European Union (EU), and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ). England is still a member of the EU, as far as Call of Duty is concerned! Each region has their own 2K tournaments. After three 2Ks in each region, CWL point totals are added up. The top 10 NA teams in CWL points automatically qualify for pool play in the first major LAN tournament, along with the Top 5 EU teams and the Top ANZ team.

The major LAN events involve all three regions and are usually titled by “CWL City Name.” For example, CWL Dallas is this weekend, December 8th, and CWL New Orleans is in January. Teams will also earn CWL points based on how they finish in these events, with CWL points calculated to determine pools before every major LAN.

In addition to these one-off tournaments, the CWL also has a Pro League, which is the closest CoD esports has to a traditional sports league. The top 16 teams in the world (10 from NA, 5 from EU, 1 from NZ), will be split up into two divisions, playing regular season matches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday over the course of 8 weeks. The top 4 teams in each division will advance to a playoff, and the bottom two teams from each division will be removed from the league. Stage 1 of the CWL Pro League starts on January 23rd, while Stage 2 begins on May 22nd.

Finally, the CWL Championship is the biggest event of the year, taking place at the end of the season. The top 32 teams in CWL points are invited to compete for 1.5 million dollars. The exact location and date of CWL Champs is yet to be revealed, but it will be in August.

Now you have the beginnings of what you need to become a CoD esports fan! Pick a favorite team, follow some players on Twitter and stay tuned to GAW’s CWL coverage all season long.

About The Author

Vince G
Esports Staff Writer

Vincent is a washed up former college volleyball player who prefers video games now, since they don't hurt his surprisingly old knees. His all time favorite games are Bioshock, Mirror's Edge and Catherine. Vincent is currently playing and covering all things competitive Call of Duty. He is a Diamond in WW2 ranked play, and doesn't care that it was probably a glitch that placed him there.