The year 2003 was quite eventful for the gaming industry, and one of its biggest events was the emergence of the first Call of Duty. This was a busy game, constantly expanding the limits of gaming community to its extremes. And, every new game in the series tried to awe its fan base by pushing these limits even further. Later on, epic cutscenes and stories alongside the trademark multiplayer made Call of Duty into one of the biggest game series in the world.
Even today, despite being constantly attacked by critics and the so-called game connoisseurs, Call of Duty’s huge sales numbers continue to surprise. This is probably the main reason why the games in this highly successful franchise keep coming out on a regular basis, but when you think about it, in comparison to some other bestsellers there’s maybe too many Call of Duty games at this point – eleven games (or twelve, if you consider an upcoming Black Ops 3) in the main series and maybe another twenty or so spin-offs for consoles and portable devices.
That's without considering such titles like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, which was basically the prototype for Call of Duty games developed by the same guys that had founded Infinity Ward, the much praised developer of some of the best titles in the franchise.
Anyway, no matter if you’ve never played a single Call of Duty game or you consider yourself a pro, here are top 3 Call of Duty games for you and some extra thoughts afterwards.
This must be the most divisive and controversial game in the whole series. And, this choice may enrage some of you, but let’s look at Ghosts once again and maybe this time you will find something good in it. That’s why let’s begin with the main issues everybody has with this game – a rehashed story campaign and an underwhelming graphics. In addition to that, if you look at the system requirements, which are extremely demanding, this turns out to be the real problem.
But hold on a second, is it really all about the graphics and system requirements? Probably not, just look at some of the other great games that have been released recently (e.g. Watch Dogs, Shadow of Mordor, Dark Souls 2, etc.). Behind the graphics Call of Duty: Ghosts delivers an entertaining single player campaign, which unites the elements from both the Modern Warfare and Black Ops titles.
The variety and the scale of missions and cutscenes add up to an already epic status of the franchise. The ending must be one of the best, if not the best, endings in all the series. Let’s take the mission in space, for example, which angered a lot of critics who said that shooting in space was impossible. So what? It’s just a game and it should be fun. Of course, it’s illogical, but where is logic in other games or action movies for that matter.
However, Ghosts has one huge downside – the relationships between the characters, specifically the dramatic encounters with Rorke, the game’s main antagonist. This is a completely unnecessary set of events for a CoD game. And, this is not the first time Infinity Ward includes some downright terrible characters in their games. For this sole reason, Ghosts takes only spot #3.
The first Call of Duty game set the vector of development for the whole franchise. But the actual Call of Duty in all its glory arrived only two years later in 2005 in the form of its incredible sequel – Call of Duty 2. It was definitely the number one military shooter of its time. This was also probably the first game that made you really keep your eyes open at all times, as the enemies spawned almost everywhere.
Even if you play it today the action is so tight that you simply have no time to think about anything, even the story. Infinity Ward made everything possible that Call of Duty 2 would reserve all the capacity of your attention. It also broke a few seemingly important rules, such as health bar, which was completely eliminated, and even a single player campaign. It just threw you right in the middle of the shootout and turned all your experience into a brutal roller coaster.
Now, let’s move away from the gameplay and talk about the graphics. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that this game used motion capture, which allowed the actions of soldiers to feel authentic. The rest like facial expressions, gestures, lip movements, animations, etc. – were also way far ahead of its time.
Locations had been designed with so much precision that it was virtually impossible to find any flaws. Houses weren’t just giant matchboxes, using the same types of textures, but each had its own unique characteristics. If you got tired of a certain location you could immediately jump out of the mission and start another completely fresh location, going from city to desert and back. This freedom of choice, which today is considered a usual thing in games, made Call of Duty 2 stand out from the rest of the pack.
Now onto the number one Call of Duty game.
When people talk about Call of Duty they rarely mention the plausibility of the events or the efficiency of an AI mostly because they don’t really matter here. The first thing that comes to mind instead is the scope, the craziness and the setup of an incredibly epic missions and accompanying cutscenes. Of course, it’s a purely individual experience and every gamer has their own favorite, but out of all Call of Duty games only Modern Warfare has missions that leave you in a state of genuine awe: the execution scene, the nuclear explosion, Chernobyl, escape from the ship, etc.
You will say that we’ve seen all this many times lately. And, you will be right, but Modern Warfare was the first game that delivered all this in one package with a solid execution.
Another important thing to mention is that the game has an almost perfect balance of gameplay and cutscenes. They don’t intervene or interrupt each other, but really help keep the flow of the game going. Just think about it, the game was released in 2007 and its elements are still being used today. That’s quite an achievement.
This was also the first Call of Duty game to finally stop the theme of World War 2 and move the action towards modern days, hence the title. The multiplayer was so well thought out that it had eventually spawned thousands of servers. Even today Treyarch, another developer of the Call of Duty series, can’t achieve the heights of game development that have been set by Infinity Ward, but we do hope that one day the breakthrough will eventually happen. And, the upcoming Black Ops 3 will finally offer something that will make us forget about Modern Warfare.
Now let’s look at some of the honorable mentions.
Call of Duty: World at War. This is the best attempt by Treyarch so far and the last World War themed Call of Duty game in the series. It also had a massive success (although not as huge as Black Ops), so why didn’t Treyarch release another one set in the 1940's? It is easy to criticize shooters, but Treyarch managed to give a convincing setting worth of admiration in World at War. The game is full of deep and extensive gameplay with a carefully constructed single player campaign. It is a solid, confident shooter that has much to offer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops. Let’s not get past another example of Treyarch trying to make a good game – the first Black Ops. If Modern Warfare feels somewhat traditional, Black Ops just turns everything upside down. It is a true blockbuster of a game having an almost perfect multiplayer. Well, the plot of a single player campaign is a bit dull, and some missions look like a self-parody, but this is just a small drawback to a really good game.
And, the last game on the roster is the upcoming Black Ops 3 from Treyarch. Let’s see if we can expect any sort of breakthrough for the series once again.
The initial feeling of the new game, which is open for beta testing at this stage, unfortunately hints to the fact that it’s not even trying to be unique, and it looks almost like a mashup of Crysis 2, Advanced Warfare and even Titanfall. Black Ops 3 also feels heavier and slower, the character physics resembles Battlefield Hardline, which at first is quite annoying. You somehow constantly feel that something is wrong.
However, the multiplayer has a few interesting moments, for example, some unique abilities have been added to different classes. This can be a special weapon or a skill, such as the bow with explosive arrows, or an electric gun, a grenade launcher, acceleration, or a teleport. The problem is in the timing, as in order to use all this stuff properly you need some time to prepare, which is impossible amidst the insane action. So, what’s the point?
Black Ops 3 is not a revolution, even if Treyarch really wants to win the hearts of both hardcore players and casual gamers - it just doesn’t seem to click in any special way yet. The answer to this hides in Activision, the publisher of the series, and its shareholders who only think of their profits, thus releasing games without investing enough time and effort into the development process. If this trend keeps going, then we won’t see another really good Call of Duty game for a very long time, or maybe ever.
You can buy most of these games with huge discounts today, which is a good idea if you really want to feel the spirit of the series. However, step-by-step, everything inevitably moves towards the end. Each step is the choice of the direction on the way, and at times leading to a dead end. But sometimes it is possible to realise that you made the wrong move somewhere and overcome the obstacles.
It must be hard for such a huge corporation as Activision to change its direction. They want to play it safe and increase the profit, instead of increasing the quality and actually trying to make their games better or even go against their plans and principles - it’s understandable. So, judging and criticizing them is pretty much meaningless at this point. Black Ops 3 comes out on November 6, 2015 and you can check everything for yourselves.