Just Exactly How Many Mainline Call of Duty Are There?
The Call of Duty series seems like it’s been going on forever. For many people in their mid 20’s, the franchise has been ever-permanent with their yearly releases from the Xbox 360 even to today with Cold War on PS5. But the real question is: how many Call of Duty’s are there?
Call of Duty holds an impressive number of titles for a video game series, most of which a good number of readers out there have played. But the history of Call of Duty goes back to 2003 with…
Call of Duty/Call of Duty Classic
Developer: Infinity Ward
Systems: PC. Rereleased on Mac (Ported to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
The original Call of Duty is responsible for many of the first-person shooter tropes that we know today. Built on the id Tech 3 engine (used in Quake III), developers who left EA after working on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault created a new company named Infinity Ward. Activision was brought on to publish the game to a wider audience.
Using what they learned from working on Medal of Honor, the developers formulated a game that focused less on the solo protagonist style of gameplay and more on a pseudo-team-oriented campaign. The friendly AI would adapt to situations on the battlefield and provide suppressing fire for the player, simulating the focus on cooperation and tactics of an actual warzone, which was one of the crowning achievements for the game. The game also featured three separate campaigns, giving you the option to fight through World War II as the Americans, British, or Soviets.
Call of Duty also introduced the aspect of screen shake and a ringing noise from nearby explosions, which has appeared in every title since. In addition, it was one of the first FPS games to include the ability to aim down the sights of the weapon instead of just hip-firing. However, it also had the classic health point system of older first-person shooters rather than a regenerating health system. The loadout was more in line with FPS games of their generation, with the player holding two main weapons and a sidearm. A year later, Call of Duty received an expansion known as Call of Duty: United Offensive. A port of the game was also made for the now-defunct Nokia N-Gage.
Call of Duty went on to receive multiple Game of the Year awards and paved the path for Infinity Ward to continue to make more titles in the future.
Call of Duty 2
Developer: Infinity Ward
Systems: PC, Xbox 360. Rereleased on Mac.
With the first Call of Duty under their belt, Infinity Ward went back to the drawing board and started work on their next Call of Duty title. Activision announced the game for PC and as a launch title for Xbox 360, which was a big step for the series, previously being PC exclusive. On top of all of this, Call of Duty 2 was the first game in the series to include a multiplayer mode, which would soon become a staple of the series in the coming games.
Call of Duty 2 was also well known for implementing the mainstay mechanics that the game has since become known for, such as a two-weapon arsenal, regenerating health, and the grenade location icon used when the player is near one of the explosives.
The game still takes place in World War II and features the same set of playable factions, with 27 missions in its single-player offerings. As a launch title for the Xbox 360, the game was a critical success, selling 250,000 copies in its first week. Even so, Call of Duty was picking up steam and starting to surpass Medal of Honor as a major FPS title.
However, Call of Duty 2 fell into some controversy, as one of the advertisements for the game was a live-action first-person view of moments from the title. The UK’s Advertising Standard Authority called for bans of the ads under the pretense of “Misleading Advertising.”
Call of Duty 3
Systems: PS3, PS2, Xbox 360, Xbox Original, Wii
Activision revealed that Call of Duty 3 shortly before E3 2006, as well as revealing that they’ve picked up a new developer for the next mainline game in the series, Treyarch. Being relatively new to the scene, Treyarch had only worked on a single game in the series, before that being “Call of Duty 2: Big Red One” for the PlayStation 2, Treyarch was given eight months to work on the game. Surprisingly the game was a console exclusive, being one of the few games in the series that is not available on PC. The game had a smaller campaign, only spanning 17 missions, as well as including another Call of Duty staple, throwing back live grenades.
The multiplayer was vastly different between console generations as well. For Xbox 360 and PS3, the game allowed for two teams of 12, totaling out to 24 players per match, while the previous generations halved that with 6v6 matches. Xbox 360 players were also introduced to Map Packs, which were DLC that held new maps to play in multiplayer.
This would be the last time Call of Duty would have back-to-back World War II entries, as Infinity Ward would step up to the plate to make the next game in the series set in the modern era.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Systems: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3 (Remastered on PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Developer: Infinity Ward
For the previous two years, Infinity Ward had been hard at work making the next mainline game, Modern Warfare, taking place in the present day instead of World War II. Modern Warfare was well known for its campaign featuring one of the most revered single-player stories in the franchise. The story features characters Captain Price, Soap, and the rest of the now-famous SAS crew, fighting not only against an armed militia in the Middle East, but also an emerging civil war in Russia. In the eyes of the FPS community, though, the real crown jewel was its multiplayer mode.
Featuring more modes than the previous titles, Modern Warfare was the first game to introduce leveling up and, in turn, “Create-a-Class,” allowing players to unlock weapons and attachments and use them in custom starting loadouts for multiplayer matches. This, combined with the addition of new maps through DLC and an exclusivity deal with Microsoft, propelled Call of Duty into the must-play FPS series for Xbox, and that steam would continue onto their next game.
Call of Duty: World at War
Systems: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Does not Include Zombies)
Call of Duty’s next title, World at War, takes a step back from previous titles. Being set again in World War II, the game focuses on two separate campaigns, the Americans and the Soviets. However, the campaign would set the seeds in place for Treyarch’s next Call of Duty title, as well as the introduction of celebrities in roles for the game, with Keifer Sutherland voicing the character Corporal Roebuck during the American campaign. The game was the first in the now established two-year dev cycle for Call of Duty. With Treyarch now a main developer, they and Infinity Ward would take turns putting out games every other year.
The notable additions that set World at War apart from the previous World War II entries in the series are the same additions that made Modern Warfare so special. Leveling up, new game modes, custom classes, and the inclusion of vehicles in specific maps allow players to take control of tanks to turn the tides of battle.
World at War was also the first Treyarch game to include the Zombies mode, which has since become a staple in the series. Created after one of the developers pointed out that an on-fire enemy looked like a zombie, Treyarch’s dev team used their spare time working on the game and used it to create a mode where four players fight against endless waves of the undead. Titled “Nazi Zombies” they hid it as a reward for beating the campaign, and it became one of the biggest additions to the series.
The mode would get three new maps, being bundled with the multiplayer map packs, and would include more gameplay elements such as Hellhounds, Perk-a-Colas, and the Pack-a-Punch Machine. They would also start adding more to the game in the final map for World at War, titled “Der Riese,” as well as establishing the four playable characters, an unlikely quartet of Axis and Ally soldiers.
With this Game, Treyarch gained the respect of the community and Activision, and during the release of World at War, Infinity Ward was hard at work on what some consider to be the best game in all of Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Systems: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3 (Campaign Remastered on PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Developer: Infinity Ward
After some debating on whether to title the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or drop the “Call of Duty” from the name entirely, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released to almost universal critical acclaim. Marketing for this game was significantly increased with a six-part comic series introducing the character Ghost, as well as a short prequel fan film “Find Makarov: Operation Kingfish” being shown at the Call of Duty XP conference.
This is also the first time that Call of Duty released multiple versions of the game. With three copies, Standard, Hardened, which featured a steel bookcase and a code for Call of Duty Classic, a remaster of the original title, and the Prestige Edition, which had working night-vision goggles.
The plot was a direct continuation of Modern Warfare, with the crew from the last game, now called “Task Force 141,” attempting to stop a nuclear war by the hands of Makarov, the right-hand man to the previous game’s antagonist. The campaign also included a mission where you play as an undercover agent of the CIA working with Makarov as he commits a terrorist attack against an airport. This mission, infamously known as “No Russian,” is the one mission in the campaign that the game asks you if you want to skip.
Nothing of note is added to this title, however according to fans, the multiplayer in this game is the best out of the whole series. This is proved by the fact that when the game was made backwards compatible on Xbox One in 2018, the game skyrocketed to become the eighth best-selling game in August of 2018, beating out the current Call of Duty in that year.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Systems: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Black Ops, while not a sequel in name, follows the events of World at War, featuring a cast of celebrities playing the main characters, notably Sam Worthington as Alex Mason, Ice Cube as Jason Bowman, and Gary Oldman as Viktor Reznov. The game takes place in an alternate history during the years between the Vietnam and Cold War, with the main cast as a group of black ops soldiers tracking down a chemical weapon known as Nova-6. The cast also meets notable historical figures such as John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Robert McNamara. The title is praised by fans as one of the best campaigns in the series.
The multiplayer brought in a new way to unlock customizations aside from leveling up your character with the introduction of “CoD Points,” not to be mistaken with the digital currency by the same name in current titles. Players can purchase multiple types of customization options for their weapons and characters, as well as upgrade perks in their custom loadouts by using the points earned during matches. Players can also wager their points in Wager matches, which featured fan-favorite game modes “Sticks and Stones” and “One in the Chamber.”
This marked the first proper Zombies mode, as the World at War version was more of a side project. Zombies in Black Ops dropped the “Nazi” from the name and pushed the game mode into the spotlight, giving it two maps, Kino Der Toten, an abandoned theater where the main cast from World at War time-traveled to, and Five. Unlocked after completing the campaign, the player takes control of John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Fidel Castro, and Richard Nixon as they defend The Pentagon from an onslaught of zombies.
Black Ops also got a third game mode titled Dead Ops Arcade, a top-down shooter where players fight zombies and pick up weapons like old arcade titles, which could be unlocked through an easter egg in the main menu.
Marketing was similar to Modern Warfare, with Black Ops entering the mainstream as Activision posted commercials on football games, as well as commissioning a Call of Duty Black Ops Jeep to be sold. The Hardened and Prestige editions of the game were sold similar to Modern Warfare 2, with an RC card modeled after the RC/XD killstreak being available to anyone who purchased the Prestige edition of the game.
Continuing their exclusivity deal with Microsoft, four map packs were sold to players, including a new Zombies map with each one, continuing the story from World at War. One map of note is Call of the Dead, a star-studded map in which Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Robert Englund fighting against the zombified George A. Romero on a frozen island.
This is also the first time that Zombies got its own map pack, with Map Pack #4 entitled “Rezurrection,” featuring remakes of the World at War maps, as well as a new map, Moon. Moon turned to be the end to the zombies’ and our four main characters’ stories as the main quest had the crew blow up the earth. However, those events set in motion the events of the next Zombies mode.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Systems: Windows, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Developers: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, (Treyarch Behind the Wii Version)
Prior to the launch of Modern Warfare 3, the two founders of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella, left IW to start Respawn Entertainment, which is known for not only Titanfall 1 and 2, but also Apex Legends. With the departure of the founders of IW, as well as the firing and subsequent departure of multiple other IW staff members, Activision brought on Sledgehammer games to help work on Modern Warfare 3.
The campaign is a continuation of Modern Warfare 2, as well as being the final Modern Warfare game, putting an end to Captain Price’s story. There was no inclusion of Zombies in Modern Warfare 3; however, players who purchased the game did receive a third mode with Spec-Ops Survival. A wave-based mode taking place in multiplayer maps, where two players could duke it out and fight AI-controlled enemies with the task of surviving for the longest time.
Multiplayer saw the addition of “Kill Confirmed,” “Team Defender,” and “Juggernaut.” As well a total reworking of the Killstreak system, now being labeled as Pointstreaks, players had to work harder to get the killstreaks they wanted in matches, or if they chose to, they could keep their points in-between lives at the cost of only getting to use the point streak once per match.
For DLC, Xbox still had its grip on the exclusivity deal. However, there was a catch, as Modern Warfare 3’s DLC was only available for subscribers of Call of Duty Elite, which was an online web service that Activision started. With a monthly fee, players could gain access to stats, social media integration, and the aforementioned DLC for MW3. There was no Prestige edition of Modern Warfare 3, but Microsoft and Activision released a special MW3 version of the Xbox 360 that played special sounds when turning the console on and opening the disc tray.
Modern Warfare 3 went on to receive generally positive reviews. However, it’s not remembered as fondly as something like Modern Warfare 2.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Systems: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU
Treyarch brought the Call of Duty series into the future with Black Ops 2, which took place in both the 1980s and in the year 2025. This is the only Call of Duty game to feature branching paths in the campaign, with the player’s actions dictating the story of the campaign as you take control of the son of Alex Mason, finishing the job his father set out to do by either capturing or killing the main antagonist Raul Menendez. The campaign also had side missions called Strike Force Missions, which saw the player controlling a squad of player characters and mechs both in first-person and an overhead view similar to a real-time strategy game. These missions also count as canon in the story being mentioned if players either complete or fail them.
The multiplayer also saw the change of the create-a-class to the “Pick 10 System,” giving the player ten slots to use on anything they want in their custom class. This was also the introduction of the weapon XP system, where players who used a specific weapon also gained attachments for said weapon. This also includes the option to prestige a weapon for customization options at the cost of resetting all progress. Multiplayer in BO2 also saw the introduction of the League play, which ranked and pitted players against one another using the same rules as the now-defunct Major League Gaming.
Zombies were also included in this installment, with one map and a new crew. The map “Tranzit” saw Samuel Stuhlinger, Marlton Johnson, Abigal “Misty” Briarton, and Russman fighting through the Washington countryside and surrounding town on a bus operated by a robot driver as Edward Richtofen, one of the previous playable characters, controls the zombies. The Zombies mode takes place after the events of the Moon, with the world in an apocalyptic state, with zombies and creatures alike attacking the cast. While considered to be the biggest map in Zombies history, it’s held back by the limitations of the console, as dense fog and lava lakes separate the smaller contained areas throughout the map, making it difficult for players to traverse without the help of the bus. Zombies also had multiple game modes for players to try out. Greif featured a 4v4 game where two teams attempt to see who survives the longest. Turned, which was added in a DLC, features a 1v3 mode where three players who are zombies attempt to kill a human player to switch places with them; the human player switches guns with every kill, similar to a gun game.
The game also received Hardened and Care Package Editions, with the latter sporting an RC Drone based on one of the Score-streaks, coming in a case that looked like an in-game care package. The game also included a pre-order bonus in the form of the Nuketown 2025 map, as well as its Zombies counterpart, Nuketown Zombies.
The DLC was the first in the series to include DLC weapons, as well as new game modes for Zombies, one of which was another star-studded Zombies crew, this time taking place in Alcatraz. The marketing for these DLC packs was brought to you by “The Replacers,” a group of men in black suits who were sent by mutual friends to replace you so you could play Call of Duty in peace. However, none of the DLC packs for Black Ops 2 were released for the WiiU.
Black Ops 2 was well-received Critically and, as Esports Talk’s own Hunter Grooms firmly believes, is the best Call of Duty of all time.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Systems: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU
Developer: Infinity Ward
With the Modern Warfare Trilogy behind them, Infinity Ward was given the task of not only developing a new game, but a new story as well. After losing the founding members of the franchise, Infinity Ward crafted a new story, describing an elite team of masked soldiers called “ghosts.” Many people who started learning about this game were under the impression that the game would be about the fan-favorite character “Ghost” from Modern Warfare 2. While that misconception was not the downfall of Ghosts, many attribute the lackluster campaign to be one of the reasons ghosts didn’t stand up to previous titles, notably Black Ops 2.
The multiplayer for the game brought the introduction of fully customizable and different character skins, aside from weapons. As well as a more realistic view from a sniper scope, showing the world outside the scope being blurred rather than blacked out. Maps can also be altered by gunfire and explosives. The Killstreak system is changed yet again as the care package can only be received by competing side challenges called field orders, while other streak rewards can be obtained regularly. This also signifies the jump from the Xbox 360 and PS3 to the Xbox One and PS4. As the new console generation began, Activision expected sales to not be as prevalent as the games were now on both platforms. However, Activision pushed for the game to be a lunch title for both the PS4 and Xbox One.
The game also included a third mode, entitled “Extinction.” As Treyarch had been established as the Zombies developer, Infinity Ward threw their hat into the ring with a wholly new PvE game mode, where a group of four players fight ancient creatures known as cryptids. While the game bared some resemblance to mechanics from Treyarch’s Zombies mode, Extinction focused on a clear objective rather than a hidden easter egg that needed to be solved.
The DLC for Ghosts was more than just the map packs, multiple customization packs including new announcer voices for multiplayer (which included Snoop Dogg, and A Grandma, and notable actor R Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket), character skins, and more were added to the game. Activision kept the Microsoft exclusivity deal, keeping map packs a month in advance for Xbox owners. The First DLC pack is notable for its map “Fog,” in which using a care package on the map gives the player a small chance to get the outfit of horror icon Michael Myers, allowing the player to run around the map with an axe as the player emanates the Halloween theme.
Ghosts is considered to be a decent Call of Duty, but not the best for its lack of innovation and understandably lackluster campaign. However, the multiplayer and Extinction modes are remembered fondly.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Systems: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Proud of the work that Sledgehammer did on Modern Warfare 3, Activision let Sledgehammer start work on the next Call of Duty game. While they were working on a game based on the Vietnam war, Sledgehammer opted to shift focus to a wholly futuristic Call of Duty experience.
This would mark not only the beginning of the three developer cycle for Call of Duty but also the beginning of what is known as the “Jetpack CoD” games. With gameplay mechanics being completely overhauled for the new future setting. The HUD for the Game was switched to a diegetic HUD, showing ammo and grenades on the weapon, giving players exo-suits to double jump and dash in the air, and allowing the use of special abilities on the suits to become invisible or increase damage resistance. Pick ten from Black Ops 2 was upgraded into Pick 13 for custom classes, and the introduction of Supply Drops upon leveling up was brought into the forefront of the gameplay loop, allowing players the chance to unlock custom weapon variants that were not available through the custom class system.
The whole game’s cast was akin to an Oscars party, with Troy Baker playing the main character and Kevin Spacey playing the antagonist. As the main character of the campaign reluctantly teaming up with a private military corporation. The game was criticized for being too predictable when it came down to writing, but something nobody expected was that this game was the only Call of Duty to force you to “Press F to Pay Respects.”
Aside from the multiplayer and campaign, the game also included its take on the survival mode from Modern Warfare 3; however that was overshadowed by the Exo Zombies mode that came out after the release of the first DLC. The cast, completely played by Bill Paxton, John Malkovich, Jon Bernthal, Rose McGowen, and Bruce Campell, fought from abandoned towns to underwater facilities to stop a zombie outbreak brought upon by the campaign’s antagonist, the Atlas Corporation. With gameplay strikingly similar to Treyarch’s Zombies mode, the gameplay stood out enough with the use of more than four perks, Upgrading weapons more than once, multiple zombie types, and the exo-suit.
The DLC for Advanced Warfare still held onto the Microsoft exclusivity, with the one-month wait for PlayStation players. People who pre-ordered Advanced Warfare gained access to special cosmetics for their multiplayer character, which was expanded from Ghosts, allowing players to customize the entire outfit of their character. Each DLC included four maps and a Zombies map.
While the game was considered to be great in the eyes of critics, Advanced Warfare was largely forgettable in the eyes of casual players, and the support for the game had dwindled prior to the launch of the series next entry.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Systems: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
Now with three years to develop their next title, Treyarch became more ambitious than ever with Black Ops 3. Marking the first time that Call of Duty would shift onto the next generation of consoles from the PS3 to the PS4. The campaign supported up to 4 co-op players at the same time, and the story, while criticized for being convoluted, became a fan favorite amongst die-hard fans of the series. While not connected to the events of Black Ops 2, Black Ops 3 takes place 40 years after the end of the previous title in the subseries, with the player character hunting down the defectors of a cybernetic black ops team.
The multiplayer was changed compared to Advanced Warfare, with the exo-suit double jump being replaced with a jetpack-like rise into the air, while wall running and sliding akin to Titanfall was added to the game as well. Instead of playing as a customizable character, the player picked between 9 different specialists, which were unlocked after leveling up. Each character had their own set of abilities that the player could use to hold their own in a fight. The multiplayer also shares continuity with the campaign, being virtual simulations of battles against each of the nine specialists.
The supply drops returned to the multiplayer space, although aside from earning them by playing, they had to be purchased with an extra currency which could be earned during matches. Supply drops could net players customization options or new weapons if the player was lucky enough, though throughout my own playtime, I never once got a new weapon to use. If a player wanted to get more packages without having to play, the reintroduction of Cod-Points was there, functioning like V-bucks from Fortnite. The game’s secondary and premium currency could be exchanged from real money to in-game items.
Zombies and Dead Ops Arcade returned to Call of Duty, with Shadows of Evil being the only on disc map. Considered to be one of the biggest maps to date, the player takes control of yet another full celebrity cast, Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough, and Ron Pearlman. The four characters fight through a destroyed 1930’s red-light district and reawaken an ancient evil, which then ties into the rest of the DLC maps Treyarch released, in which the story continues, but instead follows alternate versions of the main crew from Black Ops 1, who were introduced in the final map of Black Ops 2’s Zombie mode. The introduction of a new gameplay mechanic called gobble gums allowed players to get a random powerup or modifier on weapons and abilities if they had them equipped; some more powerful modifiers were limited and could only be used if they were available. To obtain those specific gobble gums, the player would have to spend a Zombies-only currency to roll for the chance to get one of many different gobble gums. Eventually, before the release of Zombies chronicles, specific gums could be traded in for more powerful ones if they had the required gumballs to sacrifice.
This marks the first game where players had a level for each mode in the title as well, with unlocks in Zombies not being tied to unlocks in multiplayer, as it never had a leveling system.
In a turn of events, Activision opted to switch teams with this release, giving the one-month timed exclusive deal to Sony and PlayStation instead of Microsoft and Xbox. There were a total of 5 DLC packs for Black Ops 3, with Four being regular Multiplayer only. A fifth one, entitled Zombies Chronicles, in which the eight zombies maps: Ascension, Shangri-la, Moon, Origins, Kino Der Toten, Nacht der Untoten, Shi No Numa, and Verruckt were remastered which was released in 2017 and in turn became the most purchased DLC pack in all of Call of Duty history. The Replacer character also makes an appearance in a new advertisement for Black Ops 3’s first map pack as well.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Systems: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Infinity Ward
Infinity Ward would have to crank it up to 11 if they wanted to beat out Treyarch for the next Call of Duty, but with the past 3 Call of duties going farther and farther into the future, Infinity Ward needed a game that would stand out from its peers. The only problem is that they had made yet another futuristic Call of Duty. When releasing the trailer, it was met by unanimous disdain from the community, becoming the second-most disliked video on YouTube at the time. Now, it sits at the 19th spot. Although, the game turned out to be surprisingly fresh.
The campaign, which took place in space, was actually considered to be one of the best by critics, improving itself from its predecessor. There were also ship fighting missions in the game, with PlayStation players getting access to one mission in VR with the help of the PlayStation VR headset. The campaign was more open, with a central hub world and side missions to take on, rather than a linear story.
Multiplayer introduced an updated version of the specialist system, with fewer specialists but more options for each type of “rig” meant to gear towards different playstyles. Playing matches helps the player earn Salvage, which can be used to craft weapon variants like in Advanced Warfare. There are more types of weapons in the game as well, from ballistic weapons to laser rifles to energy pulse shotguns. Each type of bullet does something different, so It’s up to the player to decide what kind of weapons they want to use.
Infinity Ward decided to throw their hat into the ring when it came to Zombies and hired a celebrity cast to play the main crew. Seth Green, Jay Pharoah, Ike Brianholtz, and Sasheer Zamata play the roles of 4 actors who get transported into the films of the evil Willard Wyler, played by Paul Reubens. With each film taking place in a different era, and an icon of that era as a guest for the map. With four maps having guests. The first map is 80’s themed and has David Hasselhoff, the second is in the ’90s and had Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, the third is in the ’70s and had Pam Grier, and the fourth is a 50’s horror movie which has Elvira. The gameplay is similar to Treyarch’s zombies in Black Ops 3 but functions differently to make it more accessible to new players. With an easy disconnected story from any other IP and fun animated cutscenes. Many in the Zombies community considered IW’s take on zombies to be an imitation of years past, citing that they were only making the zombies mode to piggyback off of the success of Black Ops 3.
Notable items from the DLC season include the reintroduction of the Cryptids from Ghost’s Extinction mode in the final Zombies map, as well as the announcer packs being brought back to Infinite Warfare, with notable celebrities like Method Man and Ken Jeong. Internet personality Ozzy Man Reviews also had his own announcer pack for the game. For Players who purchased the Hardened Edition of the Game, they received a downloadable copy of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered, which was the entire game remastered for current generation consoles at the time.
Regardless, While the initial response of Infinite Warfare was an overwhelming disappointment, many let the game grow on them, and in a twist of fate, Infinite Warfare became the best-selling Call of Duty of all time.
Call of Duty: WWII
Systems: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Sledgehammer returned for the next installment to the series and decides to ditch the futuristic aspect and return to the series roots. Many fans were eagerly anticipating this new entry, as not only was Call of Duty returning to the boots-on-the-Ground style of gameplay from Black Ops 2 and Modern Warfare, but that the new title will be returning to the WW2 setting the series was originally known for.
Sledgehammer promised an authentic war story and wanted to showcase how gruesome the battlefield was, citing events like D-day as playable in the game, as well as showcasing a German internment camp at the end of the campaign. This also included adding Nazi imagery in the campaign as well. The campaign was also known for returning closer to the roots of the series by not having players regenerate health during missions. The Multiplayer, however, didn’t take the full realism route like the campaign, much to the disdain of fans prior to the launch of the game. Sledgehammer stated that the multiplayer was a global experience, one that everyone can play, as reasoning for their choice to remove Nazi imagery from multiplayer maps and include German soldiers of African descent as well as female soldiers, despite the fact that it was not historically accurate. Many fans would call Sledgehammer hypocrites as they pushed historical accuracy in the campaign but not in the other modes provided by the title.
Multiplayer included the same class system as Infinite Warfare, with specialists and abilities, but introduced a full-scale War Mode, which was an objective-based game that played as a reenactment of real battles in WW2. Multiplayer also introduced the Headquarters mode, where players could walk around a base and engage with other players in friendly 1v1 matches, as well as customize their player, test their weapons, scorestreaks, and open loot boxes, which returned in the same style as Sledgehammer’s previous game Advanced Warfare.
The Zombies were also included in the removal of all Nazi imagery, despite being named “Nazi Zombies” as far back as World at War. However, Sledgehammer promised that the Zombies mode for the game would be more horrific than other zombie titles as Sledgehammer’s Micheal Condrey and Glen Schofield had worked on the horror title Dead Space and were heading the Zombies development team. Also resembling the same gameplay formula of Treyarch and Infinite Warfare, WWII’s Zombie mode introduced Classes for the players to choose from, giving them options to support to play offensively during a match. The quests in this game were divided into “casual” and “hardcore” to make the quest accessible by everyone’s standards. However, partaking in the hardcore quest gave the player an extended cutscene and the official story for the map.
Receiving lukewarm reviews from critics, Call of Duty WWII seemed to be two steps forward, one step back, with the return to boots on the ground. But with the audience of Call of Duty changing, as well as Battlefield filling the World War 1 & 2 hole in the FPS genre, the general fanbase were not as thrilled by the WWII setting.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Systems: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Treyarch returned for the next game for Call of Duty, now being a part of the three-year developer cycle. Many fans thought that the Black Ops series was finished, although when NBA player James harden was photographed with a logo that looked like the Black Ops insignia, rumors began to spread of it’s return. Activision confirmed this shortly after, announcing that Black Ops 4 was going to be released that following November, rather than the usual October release Call of Duty games were known for. This would also mark the beginning of the seriesmoving their PC version from Steam to Activision/Blizzard’s proprietary launcher Battle.net. Every Call of Duty game from now on would only be purchasable on Battle.net.
Many were disappointed to discover that Black Ops 4 was not going to include a single-player campaign, as the game was going to focus on Multiplayer, Zombies, and a new mode entitled “Blackout,” which was Call of Duty’s first take on a battle royale game. Reports circulated around the internet claiming that the campaign had been scrapped due to time constraints, and Treyarch was more interested in getting their foot in the door with Blackout. But co-studio head Dan Bunting refuted any claims that Black Ops 4 was intended to have a single-player campaign, despite Treyarch mentioning that Black Ops 4 takes place during the time between Black Ops 2 and Black Ops 3. However, the tutorial mode for all the specialists in the game featured a loose storyline that many considered to be remnants of the scrapped campaign.
Multiplayer also retained the boots on the ground style of gameplay found in the previous year’s release. The game did receive one big change, though, with the ability to choose a specialist to play, and only allowing one of each specialist per team. Most people compared this to Overwatch, as it followed similar rules. Certain weapons in the game offered what’s called an “Operator Mod,” which changed the way the gun functions in exchange for a large portion of the custom class loadout. One example is the Hades LMG, in which its operator mod gives it a handle, which allows it to aim and fire akin to a minigun. Regenerative health was removed in favor of a manual healing system where characters used stim shots to heal during battle.
Black Ops 4 Zombies would become polarizing for many in the community as the gameplay was completely altered. Instead of having fan-favorite perks like Juggernog and Double Tap, the player was only given a damage boost on their weapon if they upgraded their gun four times. Players were also limited to only four perks per map, in which they had to choose their perks via a custom class loadout.
Gobble gums also did not make a reappearance but instead were reintroduced as elixirs. Many of the fan-favorite elixirs were removed for being too overpowered and were replaced with other elixirs that fans were reluctant to use.
Treyarch also opted to run two new Zombies storylines simultaneously, continuing the story from Black Ops 3 and introducing a new one involving four new characters in an entirely new universe. While most fans were okay with the news story, many online influencers were apprehensive about the fact that the upcoming DLC maps would not take place in the Aether Storyline from Black Ops 3, until Treyarch changed the DLC release schedule and canned the Chaos Story after the second DLC map, leaving the last two maps to the Aether Story. Many fans of Zombies were also disappointed to see that all of the maps taking place in the Aether story were remakes of previous maps in the series, with little additions on their layout, with the penultimate map promising a journey to a great war, only for the final map to be a remake of a map from the original Black Ops, with nothing promised from the cinematics in the previous DLC.
Zombies would continue to get the short end of the stick, as modes were promised, such as “factions,” which would have allowed players to battle it out in events during the DLC season for upgrades and materials to create more items in the game; however, this feature never got added to the game.
Zombies players would not be the only ones to get the shaft, however, as players who enjoyed Blackout and multiplayer would get reintroduced to the lootbox system from Black Ops 3, as well as the introduction of Call of Duty’s bundles that have been in all installments since then, letting players purchase items and cosmetics for real money, rather than hoping to get them out of a lootbox. Certain characters in the Blackout battle royale mode were also locked behind a paywall rather than having to do a challenge like other characters in the game.
On top of all of this, players would be extremely let down when Activision announced that Call of Duty’s DLC maps could not be bought separate outside of the season pass, forcing players to purchase all the DLC packs upfront without knowing what they were going to get. Black Ops 4 also introduced operations, which were a pseudo battle pass for the game, in which tiers of the operation could be skipped with Cod Points to unlock the items before the operation was over.
Regardless, Black Ops 4 received moderate to good ratings from critics, though fans would not echo that sentiment, feeling betrayed by the developer who became the fan-favorite over the past years.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
Systems: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Infinity Ward
With most of the fanbase disliking Black Ops 4 but enjoying the mechanics of boots on the ground gameplay, Infinity Ward was up to bat using an entirely new engine that focused on delivering fantastic graphics and batter gameplay.
Just as promised, Modern Warfare was given a campaign, albeit a reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-series. The developers stated that it was going to be brutal, comparing the level of subject matter in the game to the controversies of Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian mission. Players who tested the game recalled feeling uncomfortable playing the game, as one level had you play as a child in a warzone. The game was considered to be controversial in the campaign depiction of Russa as the antagonist of the campaign. With Russian players review bombing the game, stating that even though the story is a work of fiction, IW had stated that some of the events were based on real conflicts, and they felt that Infinity Ward was rewriting history.
The multiplayer had some significant changes to the game, ditching the specialist classes from the year’s previous titles. The removal of the mini-map was also planned until beta testers asked for the map to be brought back. Scorestreaks were removed and reverted back into killstreaks, but a perk in the custom class menu allows for that change to be reversed. A new game mode called “Ground War” was introduced, allowing players to fight on a massive map with up to 99 other players. Totaling out at 100 players per server, as well as the inclusion of night maps, where players had to use night vision goggles to get a drop on the enemy team at the cost of not being able to sneak around in the shadows. A new game mode called “Gunfight” was added to the game allowing for a 2v2 match in which all players have the same loadout, leaving the winner to be decided by pure skill.
This also marked the first time that Call of Duty would go cross-platform, allowing players on PC, Xbox One and PS4 to play together in unison.
Many players were upset with Modern Warfare as the matchmaking system had changed from regular matchmaking with ranked and unranked lobbies to a skill-based one where players would play against people who were of the same level of skill. While on paper, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea, many took issue with the system as casual players would find themselves in lobbies where they were outmatched because they had won a couple of games previously.
This also marks the first time since 2013 that a Call of Duty game did not include Zombies as the co-op mode was instead the Spec Ops mode from Modern Warfare 2 and 3. Spec Ops had four players team up to travel around a massive map to complete campaign-style missions against AI opponents and was known for being notoriously hard among the fanbase. Spec Ops also included the survival mode from Modern Warfare 3. However, in an effort to continue the PlayStation exclusivity deal, the mode was locked for an entire year, leaving many players on other consoles very upset. The mode would only unlock until after the release of the next game in the series.
All post-game maps were released for free, a first from the series as map packs had been the ruling class of DLC for the title. Loot boxes do not make an appearance either. Instead, the developers introduced bundles like in Black Ops 4, with players able to purchase cosmetics and characters for the multiplayer with the CoD points they bought with real money.
Following in the footsteps of other games from the time, Modern Warfare went all-in on the battle pass system as well, allowing for 100 tiers of content to be bought for 10 dollars, with the pass lasting for eight weeks per season.
Modern Warfare was received very well by critics and players alike, being the step forward in the series that it needed and returning back to its roots with the hay day of the other Modern Warfare titles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Systems: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5
Developers: Treyarch, Raven Software
2020’s Call of Duty was originally going to be made by Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software. But creative differences between the two ended up with Activision stepping in and forcing Treyarch to head the development for that year’s title. With Sledgehammer out of the picture, Treyarch and Raven worked with a heavily constrained time limit and pushed out a new game that sits within the Black Ops sub-series.
The campaign took place in between the events of Black Ops 1 and Black Ops 2, with the main character named Bell being a stand-in for the player. The campaign also brought back fan-favorite characters Alex Mason, Woods, and Hudson but introduced others who played a key part in the story. While the canon Black Ops characters appeared as side characters in the story of Cold War, antagonists from Modern Warfare (2019) also made appearances, as Cold War takes place in the same universe as the previous year’s title. The campaign also included choice and alternate endings, with three endings for the game, two being the bad endings and one being the true ending.
The multiplayer made some small tweaks to the design but has relatively stayed the same by comparison to Modern Warfare (2019). However, new game modes were added to the title, featuring a Fireteam mode which was a large-scale 20v20 objective-based multiplayer match with vehicles being available to drive around the area.
Zombies also made a return to Call of Duty, with the introduction of the Dark Aether story. Taking place in a new universe after the ending of the Aether story in Black Ops 4, players were met with their first map in the title, which was a remake of the first, and smallest Zombies map made. The community was happy with the reintroduction of the perk-a-cola mechanics from Black Ops 1,2 and 3, however, custom classes and special field upgrades to turn the tides of battle were added as well. Multiplayer and Zombies also shared the same leveling system, and players could now level up without having to stick to a single game mode.
The bundles and store returned to Black Ops Cold War, but all post-game maps and content were free for all players. Seasons and the battle pass returned as well.
Black Ops Cold War, despite its extremely rocky development, was well received by critics and fans alike for changing enough to the gameplay loop to keep the series fresh without stepping on what made Modern Warfare (2019) so great.
With a clear understanding of how far the series has come, the final question remains. Just exactly how many Call of Duty games are there? With the mainline titles, we’re sitting at 17, with an 18th coming this year. There are more than just the mainline Call of Duty titles, though, so tune in next time as we take a look at all the spin-offs the Call of Duty franchise has produced.