After the incredible fan response and hype for the recently released Call of Duty: Warzone, fans and writers alike have been picking apart the brand new battle royale entry in the Call of Duty franchise.
It's certainly been a hit, but the franchise as a whole has always been a polarizing entity in the gaming industry. With Warzone currently creating a big stir in the battle royale fandom, it seems like a good opportunity to take a step back and look at what’s come before, good and bad. With that in mind, we are going to examine some of the best and worst entries in the franchise's history.
Updated by Derek Draven, April 2nd, 2020: As mentioned in the updated introduction, Call of Duty has expanded the scope of its offerings since the original iteration of this article - namely with Warzone. Likewise, the scope of this article needed to be expanded to account for its latest entries, as well as a few that didn't make the cut originally.
15 BEST: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Trying to live up to the expectations of the first Modern Warfare game is a lot for any developer, and yet Infinity Ward managed to soar well past the bar they had set for themselves with the follow-up, Modern Warfare 2.
Featuring a story filled with betrayal, plot twists and one of the most infamous levels in all of gaming (No Russian), Modern Warfare 2 took the Hollywood touch out of the franchise for the first time, and played up the ugliness of foreign policy and conflict.
14 WORST: Call Of Duty: WWII
In 2017, Call of Duty went back to WWII in the hopes of revitalizing interest in the franchise, with a new graphics engine to re-sell the conflict to a new generation of players.
Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned. History buffs were puzzled by massive liberties taken with the historical source material, and the lack of any real innovation didn't sit well with gamers who were hoping to see the series grow within the WWII space.
13 BEST: Call Of Duty: Black Ops
One of the better games of the franchise was Call of Duty: Black Ops, which took players into the secretive Cold War era. The game takes place twenty years after the events of COD: World At War.
Themes of espionage and mind control drive forward the spy thriller plot of the game, which began a successful run of titles in the Black Ops series. It’s easily one of the fandom’s favorite games.
12 WORST: Call of Duty: Black Ops III
The third in the series suffered quite a hit. Fans and critics noted that developer Treyarch had essentially turned Call of Duty into a cookie-cutter franchise with little in the way of growth or development.
Where Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare injected new life into the franchise, Black Ops III preferred to simply go through the motions. Treyarch's abysmal Twitter campaign involving a fictional terrorist attack in Singapore didn't help matters much. Definitely a misstep.
11 BEST: Call of Duty 2
COD 2 wasted no time capitalizing on the success of the seminal original. It took everything gamers loved about the squad-based approach to WWII combat, and drove the story even farther.
Multiple plot-lines focused on the war through the eyes of three individual military campaigns, all driven by an updated IW 2.0 graphics engine which allowed for greater expansion of combat gameplay.
10 WORST: Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare failed to live up to the majority of fans expectations. The franchise took gamers on a mission to stop a war-fueled regime from Mars, and protect the colonies across the solar system from a new enemy.
The use of robotic soldiers, space travel and sci-fi weaponry seemed entertaining, but failed to add anything new to the gameplay. Fans weren't impressed.
9 BEST: Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare took the franchise into the future, blending gritty realism with plausible technological advancements in weaponry that we may yet see enter the real-world battlefield environment.
The story feels more intimate as the player sees the rise of corporate war machines and single individuals who must end the globalization of war profiteering. It’s a reality many fear and hope they can avoid.
8 WORST: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
The Black Ops series got off to a good start, but it began showing wear around the edges in the sequel, which many critics and fans felt had a confusing story that was too hard to follow. Criticism was also heaped on game elements such as A.I., and a branching storyline with an anti-climatic end.
It was still fun to play, but Black Ops II was the first sign that Treyarch was beginning to get bogged down by the monster franchise it had created.
7 BEST: Call Of Duty: World At War
World At War was the first stand-alone COD title to showcase the Pacific campaign of WWII. This added a new narrative dynamic to the mix that players had never before experienced.
It was a smash hit with critics and gamers who loved the new direction, enhanced gameplay mechanics, and the brand new Zombies mode. It would also lay the narrative groundwork for the Black Ops series of games which followed afterward.
6 WORST: Call Of Duty 3
By the time Call Of Duty 2 had wrapped, the WWII setting was beginning to wear out its welcome. Nevertheless, in 2006, Call Of Duty 3 hit the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 to continue the story.
While not the worst in the series, many gamers had become bored of the formula and were clamoring for something more. That would come exactly one year later when Modern Warfare hit the scene.
5 BEST: Call Of Duty: Warzone
The success of Battle Royale titles like Fortnite was enough for Infinity Ward to take notice, and offer their own take on the formula. COD: Warzone is the end result.
Multiple gameplay modes keep things fresh, with more undoubtedly on the way as the series' fan-base continues to grow in popularity. Is this the future for Call Of Duty, or is it just a mere spin-off? Time will tell.
4 WORST: Call Of Duty: Finest Hour
Many critics and gamers found Finest Hour woefully disappointing. As the first COD game on consoles, it failed to live up to the smash success of its PC predecessor.
While not the worst in the series, it was marred by a so/so story, control issues, and subpar level design. Later COD games would fare better on console, but this first outing was a bit of a fumble.
3 BEST: Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The first Modern Warfare was a deviation from the traditional WWII COD formula used in previous titles, which focused on the development of fan-favorite characters like Soap and Price engaging in missions that take place within a contemporary era.
Featuring one of the best single-player levels of any game, (All Ghillied Up), this instant classic brought the realistic gameplay and story into an entirely new (and far more relevant) setting.
2 WORST: Call Of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts failed to resonate with long-time fans of the franchise due to the many creative decisions it took. The story was difficult to grasp, the characters were written in water, and Infinity Ward failed to evolve the franchise gameplay in any significant way.
The single-player campaign took gamers in many different directions, from space-based levels to urban environments, and everything in between. However, the story never connected with gamers the way it should have, especially considering its noteworthy debut on the next-gen series of consoles at that time.
1 BEST: Call Of Duty
The original Call of Duty attempted to court realism by putting the player inside a team environment where squad mates were just as integral to success as their own skills.
By eschewing the lone-wolf formula of games like Medal of Honor, Call of Duty was able to place more emphasis on team tactics, especially when it came to the multiplayer portion of the game. It was the start of a brand new era for multiplayer FPS games.
NEXT: Top 10 Crazy Things You Can Do In Call Of Duty Warzone