Call of Duty has left lasting memories for millions of players around the world, including a whole generation of gamers who spent their teenage years with…
- 17 Years of Call of Duty
- Article Index
- Call of Duty (2003)
- Call of Duty 2 (2005)
- Call of Duty 3 (2006)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007)
- Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
- A beginning
- Raven, in retrospect
- Expected launch date
17 Years of Call of Duty
If this were a real person, Call of Duty would likely be a rebellious teenager now, just a year away from entering the joys, freedom, and challenges of adulthood. Instead, during this time, the military-themed FPS has left lasting memories for millions of players around the world, including a whole generation of gamers who spent their teenage years with the series and stick to it to this day.
So it’s no surprise that the series is becoming a cultural phenomenon that continues to generate blockbuster hype levels, with each new part surpassing the last, earning tons of money for the publisher Activision. The latest installment, which just came out this month, seems like a good time to scratch the surface of this series, which has now become a sales juggernaut employing half a dozen development studios.
Sit back, grab some Doritos and Mountain Dew as we hit the target and take a look at the 17-year history of Call of Duty, from the first game released in 2003 to this year’s Black Ops Cold War.
Call of Duty (2003)
The early 2000s were exciting times for military-themed shooters, especially WWII variations. Electronic Arts shot at all cylinders in the Battlefield and Medal of Honor series, and in 2002 set the bar for the genre in the single-player and multiplayer modes of Battlefield 1942 and MoH: Allied Assault.
The latter, as it turned out, was also the genesis of Call of Duty. Developed by Infinity Ward, a fledgling studio led by Vince Zampella, Grant Collier and Jason West, all of whom previously worked on MoH: AA, work began on what is arguably the spiritual successor to Allied Assault.
By today’s standards, the gameplay is a bit rough, but Call of Duty’s intense, thrilling combat and often witty dialogue complemented the WWII scenery perfectly. These attributes would eventually become an integral part of the franchise. The Call of Duty campaign wasted no time shooting, crouching, and shooting by the player through various events in the US, British, and Soviet theater, with its dependable rifle, submachine gun, or panzerfaust as it gets hairy.
The radio beacon activated just minutes after the campaign started, and all around you can hear sirens, gunshots, explosions and adrenaline
Call of Duty also introduced the – quite subtly – the infamous time-traveling hero Captain John Price on an insidious warship mission where he also meets his fate after being overwhelmed by Axis forces. Captain Price has obviously been resurrected in a few future installments of the game, and was last seen “darkening” in Modern Warfare in 2019. The game’s multiplayer, though in its infancy, had over a dozen maps with players battling in Team Deathmatch, Headquarters, and a few other modes.
Undeniably a hit in 2003, Call of Duty development studio Infinity Ward was acquired by Activision the same year as the publisher was looking forward to establishing a solid competitor to military-themed shooters such as Counter Strike, Battlefield and Medal of Honor as others like Halo and Far Cry.
Note: Call of Duty: United Offensive is an expansion pack that was released in September 2004, which included several new campaign levels, multiplayer maps, and an assortment of WWII weapons and vehicles. Two months later, the first console version of the game appeared with Call of Duty: Finest Hour.
Call of Duty 2 (2005)
In addition to the graphics and audio enhancements, the launch of Call of Duty 2 along with the Xbox 360 was a sign of what was to come, as the series eventually became more popular and console-focused than it was on the PC. Health regen was also implemented, meaning players no longer needed to search for health kits to replenish their health and could just crouch or lie behind a sandbag for a while before attacking this MG42 killer shooter again.
Cuts were rare in the early Call of Duty games that relied on journals to get an authentic, direct account of the events. They also served well as loading screens.
This time, the campaign began on the Soviet front, where biting cold and potatoes accompany the player during basic training with weapons. From close-quarters combat in the war-torn streets of Stalingrad to battles in sandy trenches and tanks in Egypt’s El-Alamein, North Africa, Call of Duty 2 also featured D-Day’s historic invasion of Normandy and another reincarnation of Capt. Price.
The multiplayer game offering was solid as well. Shooting from rooftops in the Tunisian city of Toujane with Mosin-Nagant or Lee-Enfield is just as gratifying today as it was in 2005. Also, with no killstreaks to aid players in battle, we focused solely on placing the enemy in the crosshair at the right time. What happened next depended entirely on who first pulled the trigger.
It’s worth noting: Treyarch made his first franchise debut with Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. It was an exclusive console, as was the studio’s next game: Call of Duty 3.
Call of Duty 3 (2006)
Like the previous two games, the third part also focused on the events of World War II, but this time the campaign told the stories of the Canadian and Polish armies, as well as American, British and French forces. The game only just arrived on consoles and brought with it a new class loading system for multiplayer, a feature that PC players won’t be able to experience until next year in the fourth and arguably most significant installment of the game.
The charging system based on the Call of Duty 3 classes will appear in many future versions
With three more titles and a few expansions based on the events of World War II, it’s high time for the franchise to try something bold and new, especially as its main rival to EA has ventured far into the future with Battlefield 2142.
As it turned out, Call of Duty found the perfect foothold in the present.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007)
It’s been an amazing year for story-driven and multiplayer first-person shooters. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s fresh take on a global conflict with a strong storyline, slick presentation and engaging gameplay that is second to none other heavyweights released this year, including Medal of Honor: Airborne, CrossFire, Halo 3, BioShock, Team Fortress 2, Portal and Crisis.
Running on the id Tech-based IW 3.0 engine, Modern Warfare featured a number of visual and gameplay improvements. In addition to thoroughly redesigning the menu and interface, players were now able to slice watermelons as well, and some surfaces, such as wood and sheet metal, were pierced by bullets.
The star of the series was the single-player campaign that portrayed the riots on a global scale, especially Russia, the Middle East and the mood of Captain Price when he discovered that his next SAS recruit was called Soap. Nevertheless, it quickly turned out that our shooting skills were good for embarking on a risky freighter mission in very bad weather.
The loading screens now had neat mission summaries and a good dose of tactical callsigns
In addition to Soap MacTavish and John Price, the Modern Warfare campaign has provided unforgettable characters such as Gaz, Nikolai and Griggs who accompany the player in climatic, linear game scenarios where tanks have to blow up with Javelins and an AC-130 helicopter is summoned to the air Help. For many, this intensity peaked with Captain McMillan on the infamous All In Ghillied Up flashback mission, even if the campaign itself ended in a pretty cliffhive.
The game’s multiplayer has taken its own path, enhancing the class loading feature introduced previously with the addition of a new perk system. The icing on the cake, however, was the maps that allowed players to take full advantage of their arsenal and unique playstyle. Backlot, Crash, Crossfire, and Overgrown provided a good mix of open / semi-open environments to master snipers, assault rifles and ahem, camping, while Killhouse and Shipment favored medium / short range weapons.
With a solid foundation, Modern Warfare was poised to release its next blockbuster sequel, but not before Treyarch once again took part in World War II with World at War in 2008, creating his own series, “Black Ops.
Note: Call of Duty: Roads to Victory, the WW2 spin-off was also released this year on Sony’s PlayStation Portable. Modern Warfare received a remaster in 2016, and the series was rebooted in 2019.
Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
Narrative wasn’t just Infinity Ward’s forte, as Treyarch proved with his boldest approach to World War II, this time focusing on the Pacific and Eastern Front.
The campaign began in ambushed jungles in the Pacific islands where US Marines faced the Imperial Japanese Army. While the flamethrower finally arrives to lighten the situation, players initially need to eliminate camouflaged snipers sitting on top of tall trees and bayonet enemies charging at full speed. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, Viktor Reznov of the Red Army turned out to be another memorable character for the series to appear in (almost) every future Black Ops installment.
Dmitri becomes a true companion following Reznov’s orders throughout most of the campaign
In the multiplayer game, World at War, Treyarch introduced a different progression system to Modern Warfare from 2007, carrying over most of the traditional game modes. However, his most notable contribution was the addition of the 4-player Nazi Zombies mode, which became an instant hit and gained a devoted fan base.
Moreover, Treyarch introduced the co-op mode for the first time in every Call of Duty, including the single-player campaign, which now allows players to experience these action-packed missions together with a friend. For many players, World at War stands out as the best game in the entire series, while others are forever convinced of what came out the following year.
Note: Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts, developed by Rebellion studio, appeared at the same time as World of War, but was only released on PlayStation 2 and had a separate story from the main part.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
High expectations were related to Modern Warfare 2, the first CoD game that directly carries over elements of the plot from the previous title. As the story thickened with the introduction of Gen. Shepherd, Makarov and several other characters, players were given a variety of missions in new locations, including the controversial “No Russian.’
As Gary Roach Sanderson, players can fight alongside Soap MacTavish in the snowy mountains of Kazakhstan and Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, among others. Meanwhile, the parallel US-Russian conflict is witnessing a war hitting Washington and the destruction of the International Space Station.
Some male tears were shed during this scene
After Captain Price was saved from the Gulag, history has evolved to balance the return of a fan favorite with the loss of two beloved characters, Roach and Ghost. Like its prequel, Modern Warfare 2 had a tense ending as General Shepherd met his fate, but the story was far from over.
The game’s multiplayer has been as well received, if not more so than the campaign. The ranking system and perks have changed, the killstreak has been expanded, and players can now equip a heartbeat sensor to immerse themselves in fun new maps like Rush, Favela, Highrise, and the Terminal. A new Spec Ops mode has also been added, where players can undertake quick missions alone or with a friend.
At this point, the trilogy was almost guaranteed, but unfortunately the relationship between Activision and Vince Zampella with Infinity Ward and Jason West began to tighten. The co-founding duo Call of Duty were released just months after MW2 was released and formed Respawn Entertainment (Titanfall, Apex Legends) under Electronic Arts. Fans eventually got a third sequel which ended the MW story decently, however we would never have known what would have turned out if Zampella and West were responsible for the creative governance of the studio.
Note: Modern Warfare 2 received a remastered campaign a decade later so that players can (re) experience General Shepherd’s betrayal in true high definition.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
Taking into account the annual release schedule, Call of Duty got its seventh part in 2010. As it turned out, Black Ops also had a problem with the numbers in the campaign. While Infinity Ward perfected the modern shooter, Treyarch based his story on the events of the Cold War.
Most of the single-player missions are flashbacks from former US Marine Alex Mason, a member of the covert assassin team. With Jason Hudson of the CIA as Mason’s guardian, players fight alongside Frank Woods and Joseph Bowman in Mason’s past, where they can also see Viktor Reznov’s return.
Reznov dies during an escape mission early in the game, but accompanies Mason in his imagination for much longer
Hudson and Mason found that this data was being transmitted to dormant cells to release biochemical weapons throughout the United States, so Hudson and Mason hunt down and destroy the transmission source located on a ship in Cuba.
With Black Ops, Call of Duty Multiplayer introduced CODPoints as the currency to unlock weapons and perks as players leveled up and progressed through the regular game modes and the enhanced Zombie Mode. Meanwhile, a special combat training section has been added to help newbies get to grips with the basics. Fan favorites such as Nuketown, WMD, and Firing Range, among others, are now freely viewable.
While Black Ops didn’t leave any loose ends in terms of its story, a sequel was released that pushed the franchise into a futuristic war for the first time.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Like the strong bond that has developed between Soap and Price over the years, Call of Duty has also forged a similar relationship with its fans eagerly anticipated by Modern Warfare 3. The eagerly anticipated final installment hasn’t tried anything out of the ordinary, but its featured action Packed Sequences has yet to become larger in scale, and the storyline had enough twists and turns – most notably Soap’s fall – to bring the MW trilogy to a predictable but satisfying end.
The campaign immediately orders players to remove the disruptors from the New York Stock Exchange, disregarding the need for another weapon training mission. Global conflict continues on the streets of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, along with a brief flashback to the “All Ghillied Up” mission in Pripyat, Ukraine.
Does Price doubt our shooting skills or advise sneaking? Maybe both
It was also a time when Call of Duty’s reliance on Hollywood-style action movies began to stutter. Even though it broke Activision’s sales records and sold in the millions, the series needed a new direction beyond the modern frame.
MW3’s multiplayer improved the features from the prequels and borrowed a few from the Black Ops Treyarch. In addition to Kill Confirmed and Team Defender as the two new game modes, the MP CoD community has been busy with a dozen new maps, including hits like Hardhat, Dome, and Mission.
Activision hired a half-dozen studios to develop Modern Warfare 3 after the shaking up Infinity Ward. It was also the year he doubled the Call of Duty franchise and put three studios (Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer Games) in rotation for the game’s annual releases. Ka-ching!
The latest Call of Duty takes us back to WWII – how is it holding up?
If World War II itself is one of COD’s recurring fascinations, the other is the dark world of Special Forces operations so bombastically explored by entries later on the timeline. So it makes sense that Vanguard is looking at the situations that led to the formation of these secret entities, operating according to a different set of rules.
Arthur Kingsley is a British warrior tasked with assembling a world-wide team of agents in Vanguard. As the end of the war draws near, the Third Reich is kneeling. However, the elected Nazi leaders are already planning a return and a Fourth Reich, which is in need of detention.
In the campaign, you travel across the fronts of the war recruiting new members, and that gives you a sense of diversity. Not only are you restricted by trenches or war-torn cities, but you can also see the Pacific and other colorful spots.
Vanguard admirably tries to focus its story more on the characters that make up the Kingsley team, and the likes of Polina Petrova get nice characteristics. The Warning, however, also has a sad tendency to kill people before we really get to know some of them. There is also a bit of an uneven pace.
The stealth sections are clunky and the air missions are like a diversion. The campaign is best when it offers run and shoot combat in a dirty environment with dust and flying debris. That said, the direction of the cutscenes and story moments in the engine is a big improvement in Black Ops Cold War, with a nice border and color.
When your shoes are on the ground, you won’t be delighted with the originality of what’s on offer – most of them you’ve done before. But for many (including us) this is more than enough. It’s great fun and is no longer welcome. It also prepares you perfectly for the rigors of multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Warzone is rapidly becoming an increasingly large part of the Activision business. As a free battle royale game with over 80 million players as we last checked, this is surely the biggest thing going on in Call of Duty right now, including the newer Black Ops – Cold War. In the first year, it seemed clear that Infinity Ward was driving development, but Modern Warfare had been completely silent on the game in the last month. Which begs the question: who exactly is flying at Warzone HQ? Oddly enough, Activision doesn’t seem interested in confirming this. When asked which studio (or studios) is currently developing Warzone, the PR representative simply told me that the game was developed by Infinity Ward and Raven Software. The short answer didn’t answer the question of who is currently driving development 10 months after its release, but signs indicate Raven Software has taken over the Warzone coat. Since the launch of Black Ops – Cold War Season 1 in December, Raven (CoD’s support studio that also created the Cold War campaign) has become the face of constant Warzone updates. Official patch notes and beauty announcements now appear on Raven’s official Twitter account, while Infinity Totem is silent. So, does that mean Raven is now calling for arrows? Or is it just releasing balancing updates, while the Infinity Totem works with larger updates like a supposedly new map? Why does it matter at all?
Raven, in retrospect
to be clear, Raven is a good studio and I think the game is in good hands if they actually have the project. Before he focused on Call of Duty, Raven was in charge of other memorable FPS games. Here’s a short history of what the studio has been doing over the past 15 years.
- 2020 Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War: Lead Developer of the campaign we liked the most.
- 2019-2010 Assist with every Call of Duty in 2019-2010
- 2010 Singularity: The underrated single-player FPS with the rapid aging and rejuvenation of the world around you.
- 2009 Wolfenstein: The official precursor to Bethesda’s modern Wolfenstein series. Exaggerated enemies (dominance of the SS lady with energy whips) and absurd weapons made it memorable.
- 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine: A rare cinematic role-playing game that is better than a movie that was made for sale.
- 2006 Marvel: Ultimate Alliance: The cooperative role-playing game that brought the Avengers together long before the MCU.
Call of Duty: Vanguard is due out at the end of 2021, as are many other games in the series, which have appeared frequently in October and November.
Expected launch date
Call of Duty: Vanguard is expected to debut between October and November. The games in the series always came out in November or October, often on Fridays. If Activision decides to follow suit with a new game, we can expect Call of Duty: Vanguard to be released on the 1st or 2nd Friday of November this year, which is the fifth or twelfth.
It has also been confirmed that the game will be released on next-gen consoles and PCs, but there is no confirmation as to whether it will be available on the older PS4 or Xbox One.
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