A Spotlight on Call of Duty

Scarred within the ever-evolving game market is the infamous first-person shooter franchise Call of Duty. Trying to keep up with the trends of other industry top-dogs, this series has recently lagged behind in terms of success. Unique to this franchise, three developers take turns creating yearly entries, each with its own take on warfare.

One of the oldest (and most successful) developers of the franchise, Infinity Ward entries are typically the most anticipated. As the developer of the Modern Warfare trilogy and the classic styling of the WWII series of games, many key improvements were made that the series still implements today. Unfortunately, the franchise’s popularity has suffered since Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. This is likely due to a loss of quality storytelling paired with bland futuristic warfare, instead of the gritty reality of previous installments.

Second to take the reins of the ever-living franchise is Treyarch. Founding one of the most consistently good titles, this developer took the new age of Call of Duty and was the first to introduce Nazi Zombies to the mix. Best-known for its work on the Black Ops series, Treyarch always releases an enjoyable game.

Lastly is the newest developer to join the standard rotation: Sledgehammer Games. Getting its start within the co-development of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Its first main title release, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, was an adequate experience overall. Pushing the franchise as a whole in the new age of futuristic warfare, many were turned off. However, a light appears at the end of the tunnel with the return to form game of Call of Duty: World War II.

Ranking the best 3 game series of this colossal franchise is not too difficult, considering the major flaws presented as the series progressed. That being noted, this list is not designed to rank the Call of Duty franchise or the developers, but to shine a light on what Call of Duty: WWII needs to strive for and what players can expect from the inevitable next installments.

3. The World War 2 Arc

Premiering on the Quake III Arena engine and mostly developed by Infinity Ward (the 3rd installment was handled by Treyarch) comes the sprawling era of World War II, which trailed into the beginnings of the Modern Warfare Arc.

Call of Duty introduced players to the brilliance of squad-based patrol with reactionary AI, forcing players to stick with their soldiers or risk death. Splitting off into 3 separate storylines within the war, focusing on the sides of the British, Americans and Soviets. A lost feature within modern entries, this is a unique interpretation of life during war.

Adding the regenerative health system that the first game desperately cried out for, Call of Duty II is an admirable sequel. It fixes the main issues in the first while enhancing the established mechanics and story. Multiplayer was added to the series, which spiraled future installments into the competitive-natured player-vs.player (PvP) instead of the story.

Call of Duty III added a more solidified campaign while still exploring the perspectives of multiple soldiers and wove them into a cohesive campaign. This drift in storytelling further pushed the franchise as a whole away from the mission system of the previous two titles to have a more prominent, singular campaign. While not necessarily a detriment to the game’s overall experience, it would be nice to see a layered campaign with multiple perspectives within newer installments.

2. The Black Ops Arc

Developed exclusively by Treyarch, the Black Ops arc is the last great installment of the franchise, evolving the series further into the competitiveness of multiplayer while teetering on the edge of an enjoyable story experience.

Continuing in the path of WWII as a setting, Call of Duty: World at War debuts as the first in this collection. Perspective-hopping within the campaign returns in the darkest delve into war the series has experienced. Additive features such as split-screen co-op for the multiplayer and new modes, including the rise of the original Nazi Zombies Survival mode, made this one of the best games to play with friends or online. Narratively, this game carried this entire arc.

Though lacking the impact of the story presented within the first, Call of Duty: Black Ops does not fail to deliver. Further enhancing and solidifying key mechanics of gameplay found today, examples being gaining unlocks from COD points. The dawn of recordings was brought forth allowing all to revel in top plays. A tried and true, perfect multiplayer experience.

Branching through the promising, yet undeniably detrimental, futuristic warfare technology introduced to the franchise is Call of Duty: Black Ops II. This entry offered multiple endings within the same campaign, all while weaving together two storylines. Sadly, the storytelling aspect of the previous installments starts to dwindle from this point, creating a greater focus on multiplayer. The Zombies mode even presented a storyline instead of the varying run-and-gun survival of the previous two installments. Though not a bad game, this game’s focus felt muddled.

Though a good game in terms of gameplay experience, the story aspect that drove the Black Ops arc was lost in Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Moving further toward the future, as movement-based versatility was added, much of this game hits a sour note in the minds of fans—a falling of a giant within the franchise. The focus on multiplayer further detached the fanbase that adored the dark, woven stories.

1. The Modern Warfare Arc

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare introduced the most prominent change within the entire franchise—and a realistic, relatable campaign trilogy set in a distant future setting (now alternate past) on the verge of World War III. Developed by Infinity Ward, and later helped by Sledgehammer games for the 3rd installment, this arc laid down the multiplayer foundation the series follows to this day.

Starring the beginning of a well-crafted trilogy, Modern Warfare represents what a Call of Duty game should be. With many installments introduced, and mechanics being tweaked and removed, this entry introduced the leveling and prestige systems that keep fans invested. This arc solidified Call of Duty‘s multiplayer blueprint.

Its sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 follows the foundations from the first, while further optimizing the narrative side of the game. Although not directly changing anything significant in terms of mechanics, it implemented the first instance of objective-based cooperative missions known as Spec Ops. Shining in this game is the magnificent story, with the main character of the first taking a back seat as the commander of the new character’s squad.

Directly following the story and progressions of the last installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a spectacular icing on the Modern Warfare cake. Ending the trilogy beautifully and further enhancing the multiplayer. To rival the popular zombie game mode in World at War, MW3 implemented a survival mode simply called “Survival.” Altering the formula of the first for a more tactful approach to a co-op Survival mode. Killstreaks were further optimized, opting for a point-based system over a kill-based system. However, unique to the new age entries of the series, this trilogy of games was played more for the story than the actual multiplayer.