Listening to the Call of Duty

[A Special Editorial of Sorts]

Today, I am going to take it upon myself to “properly” and ultimately with a ton of bias, sort the existing ten Call of Duty games from my favorite to least favorite. This will not take into account my personal scores whatsoever, though I will include those for reference. Instead, I will focus on lasting replay value, storyline, overall quality, goofy gimmicks that caught my attention, and any other factors that kept me interested in the game well past its yearly expiration date (aka the release of the next year’s title in the series).

So let’s start with my “least favorite” game in the series. See, it’s actually very hard to say any of these are my least favorite- and I don’t mean it in a bad way, as each game is well-made and enjoyable. Rather, I mean to say I spent the least time with this game, or simply didn’t really enjoy it as much as the others. (And I apologize in advance for the absence of pictures to split up the walls of text throughout this blog, but Google and other sites aren’t being very friendly to my computer right now.)

10] Call of Duty 3 | Score Then: 8.0 / Score Now: 7.0- Call of Duty 3 hasn’t really aged that well. While I have played both the Xbox and Xbox 360 copies, as well as the special Big Red One and other editions, I’ve never particularly enjoyed this CoD title. Sure, the story had its moments, and it was a good warmup for Treyarch before doing pretty well with World at War, but it is still definitely a low point in the series. I never really liked the shortness of the campaign, the multiplayer maps, or much at all about the game to be honest, and it is one of the least memorable Call of Duty experiences I’ve had to date. Then again, I guess that’s what contributed to making Modern Warfare seem all that much better after such a setback with CoD 3.

09] Call of Duty: Ghosts | Score: 7.5- Ghosts just released not long ago, and I’ll admit it has done some good things and is a small step in the right direction, however it is far from a “next generation” game in many respects. Now, I wasn’t expecting what was left of Infinity Ward to shake things up and completely turn the series on its head gameplay wise, but a little more difference in something other than simple story (cliches, cliches) would have really gone a long way. I enjoyed the single player campaign, but it was so short and dull of overly convoluted plot points that even it couldn’t possibly be as good as the Black Ops arc of even the Modern Warfare arc. Sure, the whole sequel business is truly interesting, but I only hope they change a bit more up if they do a Ghosts 2 or whatnot. Multiplayer had some tweaks, but wasn’t nearly as game changing as they led us to believe. Many old issues still remain, and even with a “new coat of paint” the game is still ultimately the same in terms of mechanics, which are becoming less and less polished with each title. Extinction is a great blend of cooperative action and survival- sort of melding Zombies and Survival, but even it cannot carry the entire experience with so few maps and support. Ultimately, Ghosts is interesting but merely an interesting distraction than a truly great sequel.

08] Call of Duty 1 | Score Then: 8.0 / Score Now: 7.5- The first three games in the series haven’t really aged too well, but at least the very first can go a long way based purely upon nostalgia and some good set piece moments. Obviously the multiplayer (what little there really was) is now obsolete except in gated PC multiplayer communities, but the single player still has some tense moments- storming bunkers, exploring eerie forests in the dead of night, and sniper missions behind enemy lines are just a few examples. It may be the first of its kind, and may have introduced the concept of calling duty, however it is far from the best game in the series, and not without its own flaws as well. I’m equally thankful and horrified that it introduced the world gaming pandemic that is Call of Duty, but only time will tell how long this terrible/great reign will last…

07] Call of Duty: World at War | Score Then: 8.75 / Score Now: 8.5- World at War was a pretty good start by Treyarch, and it constructed a pretty solid foundation that they were able to build upon (not just with story) for the Black Ops saga as well. It took many of the successful elements of Modern Warfare and returned to the conflicts of the most recent World War with what it had learned. Perks and killstreaks mingled in a much darker, gorier experience, and not only was the single player pretty good, but the multiplayer and newly minted Zombies modes were a pretty solid offering as well. While the game lacked a little bit in the quality and polish departments due to glitches and odd occurrences, it was a solid package and is still fun to play cooperatively today, six years later.

06] Call of Duty 2 | Score Then: 8.5 / Score Now: 8.0- Call of Duty 2 only just barely beats World at War’s firm package out, and that is mostly because before the Modern Warfare trilogy and Black Ops duo, it was the game I’d played the most in the series. Yes- even more than WaW’s plethora of modes. Call of Duty 2 is the first game in the series for me that really got my attention and pulled me in. The multiplayer was more refined, and while many of the same pains existed in the single and multi player modes, they were more forgiving and manageable than the previous entry’s. I grew to enjoy the challenge of the single player battles, the classic moments such as the assault on Normandy and moments throughout Market Garden, as well as the shifting perspectives of many unnamed soldiers and valorous actions they performed. Linear still by today’s standards, it was broader and more far-reaching than its predecessor, and a step up in every way.

05] Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | Score Then: 8.5 / Score Now: 7.75- Modern Warfare 3 is not nearly as terrible as everyone has let on. Yes, it has its fair share of issues- thanks mostly to internal troubles at the time with Infinity Ward, and the loss of several bright developmental minds there. However, that does not let them completely off the hook. What is sad is, even in the single player campaign the startling difference between the first acts and the last is apparent, as is the quality concern of multiplayer. Acts One and Two are almost a different game than the final moments, which is quite strange indeed, and the multiplayer has some serious flaws- despite still otherwise being pretty solid and action packed. Whereas the first two acts are strong and continue the frenetic story of the Modern Warfare saga, the third is shorter and less polished- despite still carrying a kick all the way up to the epic final showdown. As for multiplayer, erratic and crappy spawn locations, terrible connection, constant lag (if your connection isn’t 110% perfect), and the fact that many glitches show up at random (enough to be annoying, but less than enough to warrant a patch) make it a poorer experience than the previous three titles. It is still a good game overall, but definitely shows the downward spiral in the series, and where the flaws became much more prevalent and were able to rock the boat a little more. I still play it, but mainly because I don’t enjoy Ghosts as much, and I have a broken copy of Black Ops and Black Ops II (both of which need to be remedied).

04] Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare | Score Then: 9.75 / Score Now: 9.25- The Modern Warfare story may have ended (for now) with a whimper, but there’s no denying that it began with a bang. This is the game that revolutionized the multiplayer approach (for good or bad), and put the series on the map for the first time- making it a multiplayer and sales figure juggernaut. The story, though still as linear as ever, was excellently paced through each act, the villain marvelously portrayed, the good guys heroically expendable and well aware of it, and the impending doom all too real. The mechanics are still some of the best today, only built upon in the next sequel, and have served as the baseline for each subsequent game. What it lacked in alternative modes it made up for in its multiplayer which was the most realistic to date, set in the modern times (or post-modern near-future), and jam packed with some excellent map and weapon/equipment content as well. Truly, Modern Warfare remains the highlight of the series, only matched (in my mind and those of many others) by its direct sequel in quality, story, and replayability.

03] Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 | Score Then: 8.0 / Score Now: 8.0- I really enjoyed Black Ops 2’s more open attempt at a single player campaign, and though it too was not without it’s own issues, it has certainly been a bigger mix-up of the same old same old than Ghosts’ attempts. There are a few things that certainly could’ve gone smoother in both the single player and multiplayer, but the downloadable content offerings and the broader Zombies modes certainly make up for that. It’s hard to believe it’s barely scratched one and a half years, because the game is still pretty fresh in my mind- as are its more interesting and harder to get story-related achievements and scenarios. This is the first game to feel truly ‘different’ with each playthrough, for obvious reasons. I liked the continuation of the story arc, as well as the World at War tie ins that continued through the first Black Ops to now. The multiplayer maps started off as not too shabby, but got better with each map pack- granting, of course that there were still some weak ones. The modes were mostly finer tuned than in MW3, and there weren’t nearly as many glitches for the most part. While Black Ops 1 is still Treyarch’s best game in the series to date, this was certainly a worthwhile sequel.

02] Call of Duty: Black Ops | Score Then: 9.25 / Score Now: 9.25- The Treyarch games from WaW on have always been darker in content than their Modern Warfare counterparts, however, they aren’t just typical gore-fests without a solid story arc. Black Ops 1’s established characters are some of the most interesting in the series, as is the Cold War setting they explore with each mission and revelation. The story itself has some very interesting diversions and moments, and though it lacks in more of the ‘over the top’ set pieces of the WW3 setting of the Modern Warfare series, it isn’t without its satisfying interrogations and escape sequences. The multiplayer and Zombies modes show Treyarch at the height of their reign, and though expanded well upon in Black Ops 2, are still some of the best maps and offerings for the two modes to date. I’ll never stop playing Moon as long as the game still plays, so it’s definitely a highly replayable offering as well. The story, the DLC, and the revelations in the end- along with the hints they bring, make for a very enjoyable game and my second favorite in the year to year series.

01] Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 | Score Then: 9.75 / Score Now: 9.5- Sure, by now, this has become one of the most hacked games, and therefore you never really know quite what to expect when it comes to opening up the old multiplayer channels and playing. However, this game in its prime back in 2009 was definitely the best the series has seen. The continued story was the best thus far, the multiplayer was upgraded and included some great new items and ideas, and the addition of a great Special Operations offering cemented the mode as a go-to cooperative getaway from the stress of multiplayer and single player. There were some truly heart wrenching moments in the story, which was truly memorable and surprising, and the multiplayer maps are still some of the best to date- even warranting updated versions for Modern Warfare 3 in certain cases. Truly, this has been my most favorite game in the series, and therefore it is such a shame that it is hard to stomach the multiplayer now due to hackers and odd happenings. Live long and prosper MW2.

Now, that’s my decently lengthy little list. As always, feel free to let me know your specific opinions and sound off in the comments. I’m sure we can all agree that, once you look past the linear gameplay and cheap deaths at times, each game is mostly respectable in its own right, and obviously Activision has catered to fans in some right way in order to receive the sales figures they do. (Sure, I still don’t understand why people buy the games every year, as even I am not a true ‘fan’ of it. But I do give credit where it is at least marginally do, as it is mostly here.)

EDIT: I’ve transcribed this blog to my blog as well, with pictures and the whole shabang included. If you want to, check it out here.

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