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Call Of Duty: Worst To Best

David Lynch

Features


Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 is nearly here, but what's the best Call Of Duty in the series? Which game does Treyarch have to beat?

Published on Oct 22, 2012



8. Call Of Duty 3

Call Of Duty 3 is the runt of the litter. After an immensely strong opening level, Treyarch’s game goes quickly to pot. Following a set of characters in a single location, repetition quickly creeps in as the brownish/green of wartime Europe becomes mired in a slew of bad game design and decidedly average gameplay.

Forcing in QTEs and taking players through some the series’ most by-the-numbers levels, Call Of Duty 3 is a rehash of the second game and nowhere near as good. Even the multiplayer fails to capture the same magic as the second game, though Treyarch does attempt to shake things up by including tanks and jeeps and bigger levels to use them on.

Ultimately, Call Of Duty 3 felt rushed in almost every regard and doesn’t have anywhere near the same highs as the series has gone onto hit.    

7. Call Of Duty: World At War

The supposed prequel to Black Ops, the only real connecting thread you have between the two games are a handful of characters (or, Gary Oldman). World At War presented the darker side of WWII with the Pacific theatre of war coming into stark focus. World At War also focused on the Russia’s revenge on the Nazis in Berlin and though it has some of the series’ most violent gameplay, it feels shallow and, ironically, a bit childish. 

Treyarch made some strong innovations, though, bringing in the new Zombies mode and a focus on vehicles in multiplayer to the forefront of design. World At War still lacks the focus and slick design the series has become known for and though it was the last COD to set itself in WWII, it felt like it wasted the opportunity to present a mature game set in the dark moments before the war’s end.

6. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3 had a troubled time in development and though it features towards the bottom half of this list, it can still be considered as one of COD’s better games. But it’s also the series’ most derivative entry. Much of Modern Warfare 3 has been seen before and though it does smooth over some rough edges in both single-player and multiplayer, it’s hard to get that excited about a game that’s repeating the beats of previous titles.

Modern Warfare 3 has a shocking controversial moment, high-speed set pieces and a nonsensical plot that further descends into farce the further in you get. Though it does draw to a conclusion the narrative arc that was started in Call Of Duty 4, it’s hard to understand or care when the game limps to its inevitable conclusion. Multiplayer fares better, but again suffers from the same issues, leaving Treyarch’s Black Ops to do much of the innovating and growing.

A good game, Modern Warfare 3 is just one you will have already played.

5. Call Of Duty

The original Call Of Duty arrived on PC to compete with Medal Of Honor and it went straight for the throat. Presenting a cinematic style that had yet to take-off, Call Of Duty’s WWII shooting felt like a breath of fresh air. Looking back at Infinity Ward’s original game, the framework for the modern COD is seemingly intact. The run-and-gun gameplay, improvised cover, those all important big moments; what Call Of Duty would become is right here in the original game’s code.

It hasn’t aged particularly well, though. As an XBLA game Call Of Duty is for nostalgic fans only, but it’s fascinating to see where the series has come from and why it’s grown into the super franchise we see before us today. Even its multiplayer shows signs of its addictive, slick and compelling gunplay.

On PC, Call Of Duty was a firm LAN party favourite with its WWII levels and weapons creating easy to understand gameplay, that in some ways, has dictated every game in the series since.

4. Call Of Duty: Black Ops

Call Of Duty: Black Ops was Treyarch’s chance to compete with Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series and it left nothing to chance. Black Ops’ story of Sixties’ spies, Vietnam, WWII mysteries and sleeper cells brought Call Of Duty into totally new territory. Not all of it worked, in fact a lot of it felt forced and a bit weird, but Black Ops had tons of style.

Treyarch’s game did suffer from a number of technical issues and it could be argued its ambitious nature crippled some of the gameplay, but much of that was forgotten when players jumped into the multiplayer. Black Ops multiplayer added tons of new innovations to Infinity Ward’s template and kept players engaged on a whole new level.

With new modes, customisation and a whole lot of content, Black Ops’ multiplayer is its best feature and something to look forward to in its sequel.  

3. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 was the first Call Of Duty to pick up where the previous game’s narrative left off (we’re not counting Black Ops in this) and it evolved its predecessor’s story into a nightmare scenario – the invasion of the US. The USA is particularly proud of the fact that no foreign army has ever put boots on the ground in America and Modern Warfare played on this fear while presenting some the series’ most explosive and exciting set pieces; even if much of it felt like a Bond film pastiche. Though its story was eventually lost under a mire of military nonsense, the action came thick and fast.  

Everything was bigger and better in Modern Warfare 2, but much of what Infinity Ward created was overshadowed by two prominent elements – multiplayer and ‘No Russian’. The controversial level pushed Call Of Duty’s storytelling credentials and the boundaries of morality in gaming, but even the shocking airport level paled in comparison to the incredible popularity of Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer.    

 2. Call Of Duty 2

One of the greatest WWII shooters ever produced, Call Of Duty 2 was the launch game for the Xbox 360. Taking players across the European and North African theatres of war and presenting some stunning battles, Call Of Duty 2 gave gamers the chance to experience WWII like never before.

With Infinity Ward’s highly cinematic style and sprawling, multi-tiered levels, the scope to Call Of Duty 2 was like nothing that came before. Recreating the US Pointe du Hoc battle, as soldiers climbed a sheer cliff face to attack the Nazis holding up in the bunkers above, it remains as a series high. Call Of Duty may have moved beyond WWII, but COD 2 will be remembered as the modern, definitive shooter of the genre. 

And that’s before we consider the multiplayer. Though it got off to a shaky start, once it was patched it offered a glimpse into the future and the juggernaut it would become.

 1. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The original Modern Warfare presented a creative double-whammy when it was released in 2007. Not only did its campaign contain some of the most evocative and striking imagery for a videogame in a post-Iraq war world, but its gameplay and set pieces were remarkably original. It’s multiplayer also stands out as among the series’ best, establishing much of what we now consider staple mechanics of the genre.

With a storyline that managed to keep one foot firmly planted in believable territory (at least until the nuke went off), Modern Warfare’s set pieces kept players in the thick of the action. So much of Modern Warfare has been borrowed by other games it can feel like it’s one big cliché, but it was the first to cement the cinematic COD formula that has become the template for every game in the series since.

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