Credit: Activision

Black Ops 2 is so forgettable, in fact, that I never even went on to replay the third game. I recall that Black Ops III is full of a lot of futuristic BS, though, and its ending was so mind-numbingly ridiculous that I simply can’t go through it all again. As the years went on, some more awesome Call of Duty titles came down the pipeline, and while I didn’t replay all of them – and I don’t intend to go into detail on each one – they deserve some recognition for the achievements they made in their own fields.

Speaking chronologically, after Black Ops 2, the world was blessed with Black Ops: Declassified, a mediocre PlayStation Vita exclusive that only I played. If you played it as well, please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear your opinion on its star-based level format and lack of a coherent plot. After this bland spin-off came Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward’s attempt at something new. Unfortunately, we never received a sequel to this rather exciting installment, and its cliffhanger ending has been a thorn in COD fans’ side for almost seven years now. Here’s hoping for a return to this series, as its unique spin on an alien-centric “zombies” mode was genuinely captivating, on top of its memorable campaign. Then came Advanced Warfare, which modern-day society likes to forget for… reasons. However, it cannot be denied that this campaign was one of the most cinematic experiences in Call of Duty history, with incredible performances by the whole cast and new additions to the franchise that forever changed first-person shooters as we knew them. Not to mention, Advanced Warfare introduced the world to Sledgehammer Games, who took over as lead developer for the first time in their Call of Duty history.

Skipping over the lackluster Black Ops III, it was with 2016’s installment that I began my writing career, submitting my first ever published review for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I will forever wave the Infinite Warfare flag and say it is one of the absolute best Call of Duty titles the world has ever received. Its gameplay is so varied, from stealth segments to all-out action sequences to spaceship battles that rival those in Battlefront II. Its optional missions and loadout systems felt so much more fleshed-out than Black Ops 2’s and really made you feel like you had an impact on the world. On top of all this, the story is emotional, the visuals are breathtaking, and… Jon Snow is in it. What more do I have to say?

Credit: Activision

Call of Duty: WWII attempted to bring the franchise back to its roots with a realistic storyline set during World War II, utilizing the weaponry of said time period and doing away with all the futuristic mumbo-jumbo. This was done well and many fans enjoyed it, and as we move on to the current day in the COD timeline, it’s easy to see how Infinity Ward went in the direction they did. After Black Ops 4 delivered a beautifully chaotic “sequel” without a single-player campaign – acting as more of an operative-based multiplayer fan fest with a return to the futuristic feel of old – 2019 brought us back to the realm of real-life struggles and genuine emotion with Modern Warfare, a full reboot of the beloved franchise set in the present.

The Modern Warfare series always revolved around IRL issues and toyed with an impending World War III, all the while dancing around the subject with a veil of fiction and purposeful misdirection. Continuing this trend, the Modern Warfare reboot follows a graphically-enhanced Captain Price as he’s thrust into a new war, following a rather brutal terrorist attack. I never got around to reviewing this game properly – which is kind of why this piece exists in the first place – but one major point I always wanted to touch upon was how dark this game can be. Modern Warfare is hard to watch and play because it’s based in reality. Call of Duty has always tried to tread the edgy line, what with its first-person Russian roulette, nuclear bombs, and children getting gassed. However, Modern Warfare 2019 takes this edgy concept and really pulls back the curtain on today’s very bleak, very grim reality.

The game opens with a first-person view of a suicide bombing – minus the act itself. But the leadup alone is tense, and keeps you guessing until the very end where you wish you could turn back… but you can’t. This game left a massive impact on me, and I know I’ll look back on it for years to come, simply because of how it’s not afraid to take risks. It’s not all about action, it’s not all about looking pretty, it’s not even about establishing memorable characters – all of which are Call of Duty’s core attributes, and all of which it does expertly. But on top of all of these amazing things, Modern Warfare speaks to the player’s soul, and through its hardened, war-torn shell, it asks society to wake up.

Credit: Infinity Ward

Now, with that prophetic tangent out of the way, I figure I should speak a bit on the technicalities of Modern Warfare, seeing as this is partly a review. The first thing you’ll notice is how visually immense this game is; they got all the details down. Faces are a whole experience in themselves, from cutscenes to basic gameplay. Facial expression is so meticulously crafted, with the little creases in Captain Price’s smile so prominent, you’ll hardly believe this is a video game at times. Shooting through doors makes splinters fly. Environments look so weathered, yet at the same time so fresh and new. The sound and lighting design is incredible, with guns sounding heavy and powerful and the hands that hold them looking like genuine photographs.

The things we can do with modern technology are astounding, and they’re all on display here in Modern Warfare. The only disappointing thing is fire, which always looks as if a real-life video was superimposed on a video game environment. New minor additions make the gameplay feel updated, from mounting guns and reloading while aiming down the sights, to regenerating health making a return to the franchise. What had me the most pleased, however, was the inclusion of stealth segments that finally felt like they were properly handled for the first-person point of view. This aspect of FPS games is so hard to nail down, but in Modern Warfare I was truly enamored with the mechanics at play, and how for once I didn’t feel like I was doomed from the get-go. My heart was pounding at one point as I stealthed through a house, and it was such an invigorating experience I’m still thinking about it to this day.

Simply, everything Modern Warfare attempts, it seemingly hits the nail on the head. Alongside these features, there’s a story full of characters whose struggles we can sympathize with, and moments that felt so close to home, I had to pause the game and take a deep breath. Never before has a Call of Duty campaign impacted me on such a deep, emotional level. Yet for some reason, I feel like this attack on the senses makes it one of the best installments to date.

After Modern Warfare in 2019, Call of Duty took a bit of a sharp turn. Leaving behind its ability to tell a gripping, emotional narrative – at least for a brief moment – the franchise released a new contender into the landscape of battle royales. Call of Duty: Warzone is a free-to-play experience across PC, PS4, and Xbox One, which allows players to compete in multiplayer battles with over a hundred other players online. Warzone acts as a sort of Call of Duty playground, utilizing various locales from all the games mentioned above to create a map worth exploring – and explore they have.

In May of this year, players started uncovering clues that have hinted at the next Call of Duty on the horizon. Over the course of three months, curious gamers have scoured the Warzone landscape to discover: what is going on with the Call of Duty franchise? Some believed that Warzone was the future of COD, at least for this year. With a map that can change on the fly, what’s to say it won’t go the way of Fortnite and just deliver fresh experiences through content updates and battle passes, much like they’ve done with Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Mobile? Side note: Call of Duty: Mobile is fantastic, and you should absolutely try it out if you have the storage for it (You can read some more about this wonderful app over here).

Thankfully, we’ve received word in recent weeks that there is, in fact, a new COD coming this year. Dubbed Black Ops Cold War, it seems to take place in the past once again, hopefully bringing my favorite series back to its roots and providing some new flair to history – the initial joy of Call of Duty. Time will tell what lies ahead for Activision’s profitable shooter. While sales have dwindled in recent years and fans have seemingly fallen out of love across the internet, there’s no denying this franchise remains on top when it comes to “games that built a genre.” What Call of Duty has done for first-person shooters is both spectacular and mind-boggling. Taking risks, making memories, and doing the impossible is what it’s all about, and COD does it year after year. Here’s hoping Black Ops Cold War lives up to the hype, and restores Treyarch to its former glory, all the while keeping fans like myself thirsty for more.

Thank you for reading.

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