With a little dedication, it takes the average player 20-30 hours to Prestige in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. That's something we learned in a darkened tent on top of a multistory carpark in downtown Los Angeles, where the next generation of Call of Duty's impossibly popular multiplayer component was revealed.
Activision was keen to impress right from the outset of this event. Call of Duty remains one of the biggest gaming franchises on the planet, with nine iterations to date selling 100 million copies between them. And CoD's multiplayer community is one of the biggest in the world, collectively racking up 25 billion hours in-game.
To put that in perspective, that's longer than the entirety of human existence. And rather than these numbers declining, as critics have long predicted, each Call of Duty iteration seems to sell even more units than the last. It's almost become more comparable to a sporting league than a game, with its core base happy to compromise on less innovation in return for annually updated content and competition.
Unfortunately, the online CoD community has something of a reputation of not looking favourably upon newcomers to its ranks, so where do all these intimidating numbers and stats leave those looking to jump into CoD's multiplayer for the very first time with Ghosts? Is there any hope for latecomers, or should they just hang up their headsets now?
Encouragingly, Ghosts is a brand new setting for the Call of Duty series, and development studio Infinity Ward is claiming it as the biggest change-up to CoD's multiplayer since the original Modern Warfare. Every single feature, the studio says, has been taken apart and rebuilt to best suit the series and its strengths. As well as a brand new customisation system that will allow players to choose from over 20,000 options and items to personalise their soldier's gear, appearance and - for the first time ever - gender, Call of Duty: Ghosts introduces seven new online game modes, and two of these were playable at the reveal event.
The first, Search and Rescue, sees two competing teams going head-to-head. In Whiteout, the first map we played, one team attempted to plant a bomb while the other team tried to deter and later diffuse the situation. But the twist comes as soon as a player is killed - they'll drop a set of dog tags, and if a friendly picks these up, their fallen comrade will instantly be back in the game. But if an enemy intercepts the tags, they'll keep the owner on the bench until the next round.
"It's a really interesting mode," says Ben 'Benson' Bowe, a professional eSports caster and presenter who commentated on the Call of Duty Championships in April, and on Ghosts' first official match on-stage at the multiplayer reveal alongside co-host Ryan 'Fwiz' Wyatt. "It's like Search and Destroy, but when you die you drop a tag. Now, if your teammate recovers the tag, you spawn back up. So whereas in Search and Destroy you tend to have that player who will flank, right - he'll go all the way around by himself - here, you can't do that, because if you do that, who's going to get your tag? You'd be all by yourself, so you've got to stay together."
Crank it up
In contrast, one of Ghosts' other new modes, Cranked, encourages players to take a less considered approach. A fast and highly aggressive Team Deathmatch variant taking place in small, enclosed maps, Cranked grants players a significant speed boost upon their first kill and every kill thereafter, but after each you'll reset a timer counting down from 30 seconds, and if you're unable to score another hit within that time frame, you explode.