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Ranking Activision’s ‘Call of Duty’ Series

With so many outings in Activision’s insanely popular Call of Duty series, found out which titles Screen Critics thought were the best.

Activision’s war franchise has certainly come a long way over the years. From a Medal of Honor competitor, its branched out and managed to assert itself as one of gaming’s most popular outings. But as always, some are better than others. We decided to take a stroll down memory lane and rank our favorite to least favorite Call of Duty games. As always, this is an opinion of ours – yours may vary. Let us know how you rank the series!

 

13. Call of Duty: Ghosts – By this point it was clear that Activision had all but abandoned the pretense of creating new and innovative experiences with the franchise. The single player was hilariously docile (Something about a Middle Eastern oil crisis and South America countries being angry) while the multiplayer felt like a re-hash of the previous years outings – failing to deliver a satisfying new experience. There are some great set-pieces dotted throughout the campaign, but there’s nothing that even comes close to the series high points. It also didn’t help the PC version landed with a number of issues that rendered the game almost unplayable on all but the highest end of devices. When pointing to a bad Call of Duty experience; many will find themselves wheeling out the Ghosts game.

12. Call of Duty 3 – Call of Duty 3 is the series last flirtation with console only status – and it’s a badge it wears with great hon our. Appearing on everything from Wii to Xbox 360, the game suffers from some obvious attempts at scale-ability. Because of this,  Call of Duty 3 feels more like a retreat of the previous games outing – just done in a less exciting way. The over-use of QTE’s quickly brings the experience down while the lack of polish around the edges ultimately affects the quality of the package. It was very clear this wasn’t the same beast as Call of Duty 2 and is easily Treyarch’s worst CoD game.

11. Call of Duty – It’s fair to say that in order to get the most out of Call of Duty these days, you need a pair of rose-tinted glasses. The game hasn’t aged all that well, hampered by some poorly aged graphics and an unforgiving checkpoint system that will punish you time after time. That being said, upon its release it was heralded as a huge achievement – challenging Medal of Honor for the mantle of best war game and managing to lay down the market for the series to come. That being said, unless you’re the biggest fan of the series – it’s not worth coming back to check this one out.

10. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Black Ops 2 earns plenty of points for trying something entirely new. The time-travelling campaign mode was hugely enthralling and managed to bring a heap of new ideas to the franchise at a time when things were getting a bit too samey. That being said, it’s also the series first major dive into futuristic warfare – and things get slightly silly when it comes to the campaign. Multiplayer mode was widely considered the pinnacle of the games offering – unlike Zombies mode which suffered some awkward growing issues along the way. It’s not a bad outing for the series, it’s probably where the rot set in and the point at which fans began to suspect they weren’t seeing the innovation in game play that was expected for an annual series.

9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – The finale for the third (and final!) Modern Warfare game doesn’t quite match the heady heights its fore-bearers hits. Part of the reason for this is the games troubled development – this being Infinity Ward’s first game since its founders very public spat with Activision. The result is a single player campaign that jumps all over the place in terms of tone, trying its best to tie together all the loose threads from previous ways while delivering the series trademark set-pieces. The real gem for this game came in its multiplayer mode; which was expansive and well supported long after the game hit the market.

8. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Sledgehammer Games freshman outing as a Call of Duty developer feels every bit the solid game that its sister outings were. The addition of exo suits added a completely new layer to the games mechanics and fundamentally changed the core experience for weary seasoned veterans of the franchise. The single player is mostly fine, if slightly unremarkable, while the multiplayer was ultimately more of the same. Advanced Warfare is a solid outing for sure – suffering slightly from being all too unremarkable.

7. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – Is Infinite Warfare a bad game? Not really -in fact I’d go as far as to say its hugely competent at what it does. The problem is that the risks it takes are so small and so predictable that it’s hard to get truly excited. Perhaps the best thing to say about Infinite Warfare is that it could have been a lot worse. The campaign is huge in scope, interesting and well presented; but lacks the dynamic heart that makes the series top stories click. The multiplayer is hugely varied however – which is a bonus.

6. Call of Duty: World at War – I remember when World at War touched down in the shadow of Modern Warfare, many were sceptical of the games World War 2 setting. Luckily Treyarch had learned from their previous outing, and delivered a fresh experience that more than stood up to that games legacy. The 4-player co-op was a huge boost for gamers, the first game in the series to offer such a feature and combined with a hugely polished campaign – there was plenty for gamers to enjoy. Perhaps the games greatest legacy though came in the form of the Zombies mode, a new multiplayer mode that captured the imagination of fans and delivered a fresh new experience that has since gone on to become a staple of series. World at War is one of the series more balanced outings and well worth a second glance.

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – It was never going to be easy following up the original Modern Warfare – although Modern Warfare 2 gives it a good shot. With a more comprehensive multiplayer component that expands upon the originals ideas (and introduced numerous features that would become series staples) there’s plenty for the Call of Duty fan to love. Spec-Ops mode also delivered a fun slice of co-op fun for those who ventured in. Yet it’s the single player where things wobble ever so slightly. While the original Modern Warfare had its feet firmly planted in a more realistic footing – the globetrotting nature of Modern Warfare 2’s campaign left a feeling of lack of focus. On top of this, the central conflict between the USA and Russia was awkwardly ham-fisted; only slightly beating out the games villain for sheer cheesiness. It’s a hugely fun ride, but compared to what came before – it’s hard to not feel slightly let down.

4. Call of Duty 2 – Taking the blueprints laid down by the original game, Call of Duty 2 pushed the boundaries of the series and expanded them heavily to bring the series kicking and screaming into the seventh generation of consoles. It’s mixture of high-octane excitement mixed with creative flair helps the single player to remain memorable, while the well-designed online component meant that the series was making huge strides forward. While not much to look at by modern standards, it was a hugely important step for the series and laid the framework for the games to follow.

3. Call of Duty: Black Ops – The original Black Ops caught the attention of gamers for being one of the more brutal outings the series had delivered. Developer Treyarch branched out into their own series of games – with great results. The single player is a complete mind-fuck, featuring one of gaming’s more memorable twists while the multiplayer was a refined, well thought out package that married together the Infinity Ward established brand of matchmaking with a new wager system that intensified online rivalries. Add in the return of the Zombies mode – fleshed out and refined to a tee as well as the first appearance of the much-loved Nuketown map – and gamers had a lot to love in the original Black Ops.

2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 – Packing all the trademark features, Black Ops 3 was a triumphant return to form for the series at a time when fans were beginning to question its direction. The game throws in a hugely competent multiplayer component, feature rich single player campaign on top of the best Zombies mode to date. It was clear from the off that Treyarch had listened to fans feedback, and gone about delivering one of the series most solid outings as a result.

1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – When the original Modern Warfare touched down, few could have predicted the waves it would make in the gaming industry. The game surprised everyone, delivering not only the best Call of Duty experience (An experience the series has tried over and over to emulate) but one of the best games to emerge from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. The game achieves this through a richly thought out, well executed story mode that layers multiple story strands together into one satisfying experience. With a series of twists and turns, as well as liberal use of flashbacks, the game manages to create a concise and effective single player campaign that the series has yet to top.

But the fun doesn’t end here. Multiplayer was a game-changer across the board. Setting the standard for console shooters and creating the template for every Call of Duty game that followed. The ease of jumping in and out of games may seem trivial now, but Call of Duty was one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences – with a huge roster of much-loved levels that just worked. Overall, Modern Warfare 1 is without question the series high-tide and probably one of the most important first person shooters released in the last decade. The fact gamers are more excited for it being remade than the upcoming Call of Duty speaks volumes about the legacy of the title.

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