Throughout my tenure as a writer across multiple sites, I’ve found myself writing opinion pieces, nay, love letters regarding the Call of Duty franchise. It’s no secret I’m a fan of these games, considering I play each annual installment and sink countless hours into multiplayer every year. However, I never would’ve thought I would continuously be each site’s “COD guy.” It seems as though most people don’t want to step up to the plate and defend Call of Duty as a whole. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the franchise does need some defending every once in a while. From a noticeable dip in narrative strength to unnecessary gameplay changes and microtransactions throughout the years, Call of Duty has angered quite a few gamers out there. It must be noted that I am not always standing idly by and praising COD amongst its shortcomings. I save that job for Assassin’s Creed, but that’s a different article. On the contrary, I’ve been known to speak my mind when it comes to Activision’s flagship franchise, and my opinions never cease to welcome an endless dirge of bewilderment.
All this being said, I welcome you to this situation report, in which I shall take an in-depth look at the Call of Duty series in its current state. Having missed out on writing a proper review for 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot – procrastination and kidney stones are an ugly mix – I figured it would be a great excuse to analyze some of the most recent, and most prestigious, titles in the series. From the latest new installments to the latest remasters, to the ones I chose to replay for the first time in years, let us take a journey through time together and properly view this esteemed series on a larger scale than most would dare to. In no particular order, rhyme, or reason, this is Call of Duty.
I began my journey with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered on the Xbox One. Having owned this game since it was bundled with Infinite Warfare back in 2016, I’d only ever touched the multiplayer until now. While I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, my first introduction to the Modern Warfare series was Modern Warfare Reflex on the Nintendo Wii. While the control scheme was a lot different, utilizing a Wii Zapper peripheral to point a fake gun at the screen, the story still managed to take me on an emotional thrill ride. Fortunately, Modern Warfare Remastered keeps that story intact, however its place upon the pedestal of “my personal favorite Infinity Ward title” may have faltered a bit.
What must be commended throughout this entire article is Call of Duty‘s ability to establish memorable characters. While the missions themselves and the guns and the set pieces may blend into each other, the soldiers that players fight beside have gone down in history as some of the best. Modern Warfare kicks off this trend with the likes of Captain Price, Gaz, and Soap MacTavish, who will live on in later installments and even cross over into future properties like 2020’s Warzone. Their unique personalities lend a certain charm to the series’ writing, making for a Hollywood-quality narrative throughout the whole trilogy.
The first Modern Warfare is most recognizable by missions like “All Ghillied Up” and the scene in which a nuclear bomb explodes before your eyes. But the true enjoyment of this campaign – nostalgia aside – is its inclusion of more subtle action sequences, like sneaking around farmhouses and setting traps to ambush enemies. Not to mention the awesome tactical shooting segments from an eagle-eyed helicopter, which make their return in nearly every Call of Duty following this one. The beauty here is that Modern Warfare proves a shooter doesn’t need to be full of constant in-your-face explosions to maintain the player’s interest. All it takes is a cast of eccentric characters and a plot full of emotional twists and turns to keep them wanting more. This remaster holds up quite nicely amidst the pantheon of COD titles in more recent history.
Betwixt my play sessions with the Modern Warfare remaster and my day job, I had decided to go back and play the first Black Ops, which I have heralded for years as not only my favorite of the franchise but also one of my favorite games of all time. Coming away from what was probably my third full playthrough, I must say the game itself is still one of the most mind-bending narratives I’ve ever experienced, however, a few better installments have come along in more recent years. The original Black Ops centers around the Cuban Missile Crisis era, switching between viewpoints of JFK’s America and the Vietnam war. Not only are these environments dramatic and full of quite a few explosive set pieces, but they also hold a tremendous amount of history, which has been altered to form a narrative about top-secret chemical weapons and brainwashing conspiracies for political gain.
I hadn’t replayed World at War before replaying Black Ops, yet it’s apparent just how much it relies on Treyarch’s predecessor to further strengthen its plot, especially when Viktor Reznov joins the fray. Arguably Gary Oldman’s most memorable role, Reznov accompanies Alex Mason – our protagonist – with an admirable quantity of shouting and shooting aimlessly. His lust for blood and revenge fuels the fire that churns Black Ops’s narrative forward, and he is without a doubt the most memorable part of this Call of Duty series of games. Consider Reznov Treyarch’s answer to Captain Price; a grizzled war veteran whom the player character relies on for guidance and general orders. It also helps that both men are chock full of unorthodox methods when it comes to getting a job done. Remember what I said about eccentric characters in Call of Duty?
For some reason, I’ve always held Black Ops in high regard when it comes to the COD franchise as a whole. Perhaps it’s because it was my first real console shooter – which I bought at launch alongside my 360 – and the main reason I officially joined the Xbox Live community. Something about it fills me with nostalgia, and its story still takes me for a ride to this day. Every time I’m blown away by just how many twists and turns lie within, and its ending never ceases to satisfy.