Call of Duty has proven to be one of the most culturally significant – not just video game – media franchises to ever see the light of day. Back in 2014, the series passed $10 billion in revenue, and with sales continuing for each of their releases, the mammoth 2019 Modern Warfare racking up $600 million in just three days, it’s safe to assume that this worldwide phenomenon is much-nearer to the £20 billion mark. Call of Duty is da bomb (no pun intended).
The intrinsic values of COD are the following: memorable campaigns, meticulous multiplayer marathons, and lobbies populated by screaming 12-year-old kids that think puberty is the evolved form of Jigglypuff. The latter aspect is the divisive issue that has plagued COD for many years now, but the game’s themselves are tutorials in how to make a compelling shooter with majestically refined mechanics. So let’s excessively gulp some Monster, inhale a fresh puff of Dorito dust, and tuck into our official ranking of the Call of Duty games.
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10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
After the series stumbled with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Advanced Warfare looked to shake things up a bit. I think we’d all like to take a revisionist approach towards Advanced Warfare, due to the actions implicated in Kevin Spacey’s past. But we’re not here for that – allegations aside – this game had a stellar campaign. Using the likenesses of Kevin Spacey and renowned video game voice actor – Troy Baker – the game really benefited from a touch of class.
But for once, this was sadly the only thing that stood out to me. I remember not playing the online for very long as it had bad spawns, unimaginative maps, and the gameplay shifted towards mid-air skirmishes – due to the new Exo Suits introduced into the game. This would also signal the era of aerial warfare for the next 3 years.
9. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Now before you start pelting me with homemade semtex, no, I did not like the gameplay. This, and Black Ops 3, are the irremovable stains on the franchise’s glossy walk of fame. The online was godawful and unplayable, and the thematic shift towards futuristic gameplay still hurts my bowels now.
A BIG however, the campaign is arguably the most underrated in COD history. The story of Reyes resonated with me so much more than other campaigns. His partnership with Ethan, the war with Kit Harrington’s, Admiral Kotch etc. I was more than happy to forego the game’s best attempts to make everyone play like Boba Fett. This was emotional and I was genuinely impacted by the narrative and its representation of sacrifice and kinship. Furthermore, the original zombie level was quite fun too. I enjoyed fighting alongside David Hasselhoff whilst riding rollercoasters.
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Only no. 8 for one of the Modern Warfare games?! ‘Fraid so. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with this entry in the ever-popular Modern Warfare aspect of COD, this was the moment when I started to feel “COD fatigue”. That is a recognized medical condition in which the patient becomes numb to the Hollywood theatrics and larger-than-life nature of COD games. Although, the spectacle of the legendary Eiffel Tower crumbling more than the Croatian defense in the 2018 World Cup Final was special.
The campaign is still a blast to play, the online is still fun, and the survival mode is…there, I guess. I’ll reiterate, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this game, but the game felt stifled creatively and this is further supported by the shift away from Modern Warfare after this release.
7. Call of Duty: WWII
Boots on ground!
Sledgehammer took a more…grounded approach to proceedings as they drastically u-turned from the disastrous jet-packs of previous years. We had officially come full circle and became entrenched in…trenches once more. The characteristics and tropes of the story are familiar, as with most WWII games, but I enjoyed the harmony of your squad, and also the emotional unraveling of Sgt. Pierson.
The removal of health regeneration was also a huge plus for the game as it rekindled the love for classic FPS games that demanded patience and precision, instead of hiding behind a tree for 10 seconds waiting for your skin to reform. The online featured some good maps and, as always, had some Nazi Zombie action to partake in. The change in direction also proved to be an overwhelming success as the game made $1 billion in sales within a month.
Call of Duty: WW2 is currently one of the Playstation Plus games for June, so you’d better ready up soldier!
6. Call of Duty
When this came out in 2003, I was already knee-deep in the incredible Medal of Honor franchise. It would be nearly 7 years until I got my hands on the series’s initiation, when it got a HD upscaling – Call of Duty Classic. My goodness me, this game has lots of fun levels. Despite being 26, I constantly hark back to the good ol’ days where you actually had to find health. It’s tougher, and games – in general – have gotten easier. Plus, a dedicated focus to making the best single-player experience imaginable should always be at the forefront of game development, not an afterthought. Or omitting the single-player completely.
Whether it was the Dam, Pavlov’s House, the Battleship, the Prison Camp, or a whole host of other levels; this is a fantastic game. It got the series off on the right foot, proving to be a viable alternative to the untouchable Medal of Honor games along the way. Plus, getting the platinum for this game was an excruciating test of patience. Brutal. Satisfying.
Now onto the cream of the crop…this is where things get really difficult.
5. Call of Duty: World At War
It was always going to be a tough endeavor to follow the groundbreaking Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Offering their first slice of action since Call of Duty 3, Treyarch stuck with what they knew best, the World Wars. The campaign did provide some variety and followed COD4’s formula of multiple, controllable protagonists. The campaign is a fun, slow-burner, that really fires towards an epic finale. The third-act ramps up the intensity and storming the Reichstag makes for a scintillating climax. It’s a great homage to one of the most important moments in human history.
The online was a great extension of the template laid down by Infinity Ward. To this day, I still get nightmares about bouncing betty’s spring-loading themselves straight into my face and turning my avatar into mushy peas. The crowning achievement for World At War has to be the sleeper-success of Nazi Zombies. Whilst it’s admittedly rather basic and not as contrived as some of the later iterations that give Inception a run for its money, it’s still a great time to have with friends.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
If you wrote down the time period of COD games onto a chart, there would be no disparities, it would be one, flowing wavelength. We went from World War, to Modern, to futuristic, to World War, to Modern again. Now is the time to break that chain and NOT go down the future route. Anyway, the reboot of Modern Warfare was the right move. After getting the train back onto the track with WW2, it barely reached the next station, before it immediately derailed hard with Black Ops 4.
Thankfully Modern Warfare more than made amends with a top-tier campaign, the return of some familiar faces, and a harsh visualization of the grim world that surrounds us. The pre-release material cited disturbing events that players would see, and to be fair, the game lived up to this, without being too distasteful. I was worried that it would preach the horrors of terrorism, akin to the infamous “No Russian”, without any real purpose. But the realism of the game is captivating. From clearing out buildings using authentic military methods, to bearing witness to a chemical weapons attack, the campaign is memorable.
It’s also backed up by a juicy online mode. Gunfight is a fabulous addition that should remain from now on. The game is constantly receiving new additions, particularly with the popular battle-royale mode – Warzone – and also brings back Spec-Ops missions, although it’s not a patch on the previous Spec-Ops mode.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops
“The numbers Mason, what do they mean?!”
Almost Usual Suspects in the way it clutches its great mystery tightly until the very end. Black Ops is a sumptuous package of variety, excellence, and longevity. We ventured into the broken mind of Alex Mason, during the Cold War, and the controversial nature of his past…that he can’t remember. The exploration of his fractured psyche, combined with the stunning performance of Gary Oldman as Viktor Reznov is why this ranks so highly.
Furthermore, the game also has the memorable “Five” Nazi Zombies map, located inside the Pentagon, and a cast of political icons such as John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. The online also featured some of my favourite maps including Array, Firing Range, Hanoi, and everyone’s favourite, Nuketown. If THAT wasn’t enough, tucked away in its pockets is an immensely fun, top-down arcade game called Dead Ops. Seriously, WHY have we never had more of this??
If ever another Call of Duty game needed a full remaster, this would secretly be mine.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
When you release one of the greatest FPS games ever created, what do you do? Why, you do the same thing, and amp it up, of course!
That’s exactly what Modern Warfare 2 did. It took everything that COD4 did, and injected it with adrenaline and steroids to go full balls-to-the-wall. The campaign continues on from the events of COD4, and introduces some key figures in General Shepherd (bastard) and Ghost. The story battles with political war, a heartbreaking betrayal, and a myriad of set-pieces designed to induce your fight of flight response at every opportunity – looking at you favela. Soap is now a Captain, and Captain Price is still the toughest SOB walking. The campaign is easily in the Top 3 in the series. I’m also a big supporter of the aforementioned No Russian mission, too. Despite gaining notoriety and worldwide criticism for its depiction of terrorism in an airport, it’s a scenario that sadly wouldn’t look out of place in this century.
The online, again, picks up from COD4 and introduces a whole toy chest of new killstreaks, guns, and locations to shoot on. The nuke killstreak made for YouTube folklore and Rust is a meme that still lives and breaths today. The persuading influence in making this the number two entry on this list, however, is Spec-Ops. I wasted so many hours in this mode. Getting all the stars was a tough task that I’d do again happily, and each scenario was worthy of being included. Similarly with Dead Ops, it baffles me to this day that we haven’t had this in any subsequent games.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
There just wasn’t any other choice for me really. This is not only the definitive Call of Duty game, but also the greatest first-person shooter game in history. Full-stop. It’s simply perfect in every conceivable way. This was just something we hadn’t seen before. Until COD4, we’d mainly just had World War 1/2 shooters. It was overplayed, overdone, and had run its course. This was fresh, it was exciting, and paced better than any Tarantino film, and I love me some Quentin.
From perfecting the assault course, to All Ghillied Up/One Shot, One Kill, to the harrowing nuclear explosion sequence, to even the epilogue. When you manage to make a frickin epilogue mission that’s as much fun as any mission in the game’s history – you’re doing something right. The campaign is spectacular, endlessly replayable, and introduced us to some of the series’s finest characters: Soap, Gaz, and of course, Captain Price.
And of course…the online portion of the game. Barring Wet Work, I genuinely love them all – even the DLC ones. Whereas later games would try and offer seemingly limitless customization options, COD4 kept things more refined and simple. Fixed killstreaks, simple attachments, and camos etc. Even though it was released many years ago now, it still feels like the most complete and streamlined online experience.
Was it any wonder that COD4 got the remaster treatment first?