Call of Duty is one of the most popular video game franchises ever. As of March 2015, over 175 million copies have been sold, with millions of online players logging in every day.
Developed in 2003 by Infinity Ward, the very first Call of Duty game ran on the Quake III Arena engine. The game’s opening level has you storming the beaches of normady ala Saving Private Ryan. From infiltrating an enemy U-Boat to crouching around bomb-laden buildings of an occupied France, the game was an instant classic, popularizing WWII-themed first-person shooters.
Finest Hour was meant to be a kind of retelling of the first CoD, featuring an all new storyline with new missions similarly following the perspective of the allied forces during WWII. Music fans might also be interested to know that AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson does the voice of Sergeant Starkey, one of the British commandos in the game.
Introducing regenerating health, warning icons for nearby live grenades and character viewpoints of individual soldiers – the first sequel in the Call of Duty franchise established tropes that are still used today. The game was met with wide acclaim from fans and critics.
The first CoD game not by Infinite Ward was also the first console-exclusive game in the series. For a game that only took 8 months to make, it garnered further success for the franchise, although the Wii version developed by Exact Entertainment had more criticisms.
This was a landmark release in CoD’s evolution. Doing away with the WWII theme, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare thrust players into a revisionist history. It features all new locales, like the Middle East, United Kingdom, Russia and Ukraine. The game was a technical achievement, utilizing motion-capture technology from real marines and sophisticated A.I. for NPCs. It also introduced the new experience point system for online play.
A return to the WWII setting (namely the pacific theatre), World at War has become a fan favorite. It utilized an enhanced engine from Modern Warfare, which added many new elements, like the ability to set objects ablaze with a flamethrower. It also featured the “zombie mode,” which has since become one of the most popular multiplayer modes in the franchise.
Selling 4.7 million copies in just 24 hours, this title exemplified CoD’s claim as perhaps the most popular franchise in video gaming. The game is praised for its in-depth multiplayer component, of which you’ll still find an avid online community playing today.
Of course, the first Black Ops would end up crushing this record, selling over 5.6 million copies in its first day of release. It also introduced a further slew of new weapons, placing players in the shoes of special forces operatives that can wield crossbows, ballistic knives and even reconnaissance aircraft.
The final installment in the Modern Warfare saga, it sold a staggering 6.5 million copies in the US and UK alone. For all its hype, critics were disappointed with the single-player campaign, citing the final installment of the Modern Warfare storyline as “forgettable,” although most praised the hugely popular multiplayer component.
Besides being yet another huge commercial success, Black Ops II introduced futuristic weaponry into the CoD realm, including drones and combat robots. The campaign also showed some new innovations, like player choice, multiple endings, side missions and being able to choose weapon loadouts before playing a level. The updated zombie mode also featured new modes in addition to the original survival mode. The multiplayer was also significantly tweaked, making in-game rewards more achievement-based and giving players the option to utilize a match-making system to pit them against players with similar skill levels.
Developed for iOS and Android devices, Strike Team made significant changes to the CoD gameplay, allowing players to switch out of their first-person viewpoint to an arial, third-person viewpoint akin to a drone perspective. The game makes clever use of the touch-screen mechanics inherent on those devices, giving players the ability to command their troops with just a few simple swipes and gestures on the screen, while the left and right sides act as virtual analog sticks.
Ghosts introduced a new alternate timeline, where the Middle East has been wiped out by nuclear warfare and a new global superpower has begun swiping through South America. The campaign received a lackluster response from critics, but many players consider the multiplayer to be one of the finest CoD packages to date. The new extinction mode has four players working to gether to fight aliens in base-defending, survival-style gameplay. The online multiplayer was overhauled, with a litany of new game types and revisions.
A far more futuristic rendition of the CoD verse, Advanced Warfare’s campaign mode featured a highly cinematic storyline, which included veteran actors like Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker. This was met with praise from citics, who were also impressed by the new multiplayer features. Players can try out various weapon variations and take part in daily challenges. Completing these challenges earns them supply drops, which offer random prizes and extra experience points.
Speculation is a fickle thing. With a franchise as far-reaching as CoD, a Black Ops III or a just another sequel to World at War, Ghosts or Advanced Warfare are likely. With the recent release of Advanced Warfare though, it’s still a little early to search for clues as to what’s next.