One of the most successful and influential videogame franchise in history, the Call Of Duty franchise remains the favoured shooter series of PC and console gamers alike worldwide.
The Call of Duty franchise has amassed a whopping 32 games over the last 18 years, selling over 300 million copies, and making over 18 billion dollars.
Of course, not every game in the franchise is beloved by its fans. Some are considered exceptional, others not so good. Others even imbue the players with a strong sense of ‘This is the same game we played last year, but with a different roster’, as if the Call of Duty franchise has turned into a Madden or FIFA experience.
In this article we’ll be concentrating on the main series, because there are too many entries to fit into a standard article.
Call of Duty: The World War II Era
A Franchise Is Born
The original Call of Duty (CoD) was developed by the then-new Infinity Ward, and distributed by Activision.
It was released for Windows/PC in 2003, and focused on three World War II campaigns: American, British, and Soviet.
It was one of the first FPS games to use iron sights. It also added many other improvements to the first-person shooter experience, many of which gave the game a more realistic and grounded feel when compared to other shooters of the time. These other improvements include things such as, a more realistic weapon system (only two at a time), and being a squad-based first-person shooter.
It’s also the first appearance of Captain Price, the main character from the CoD: Modern Warfare series.
The First Few (of Many) Sequels
The sequel, Call of Duty 2, was also set in World War II.
It was released for Windows, and was also an Xbox 360 launch title. It defined that console’s generation, with its amazing graphic, and audio design. It also introduced regenerating health and the ‘grenade indicator’ mechanic to the franchise.
Call of Duty 3 was Treyarch’s first main entry into the CoD franchise (they developed a GameCube/PS2/Xbox spinoff named Call of Duty 2: Big Red One). American British Canadian Polish campaign, Battle of Normandy.
CoD3 introduced quick time events to the franchise, along with the ability for the player to throw their enemies’ grenades back at them. Although the previous CoD entries had multiplayer, CoD3’s multiplayer would lay the groundwork for the modern CoD franchise multiplayer experience.
Although CoD3 was the best selling title in the CoD franchise up to that point, players were getting tired of the World War II setting.
Infinity Ward would address this issue with the next game in the series.
Call of Duty: Into The Modern Age
The Golden Age of Call of Duty
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is considered among many of the fans to be the peak CoD experience, possibly due to the high quality of the single-player campaign. One of the missions, ‘All Ghillied Up’, is regarded by many fans to be the best mission in any videogame ever made.
The Modern Warfare multiplayer introduced Killstreaks to the CoD franchise, and also allowed players to play as Captain Price in multiplayer for the first time.
Boasting a fantastic single-player and multiplayer experience, this is the game that started the Call of Duty world domination.
Call of Duty: From Hollywood to Zombies
Treyarch developed the next game in the franchise, Call of Duty: World at War, the storyline of which would set up Call of Duty: Black Ops. World at War was the first CoD game to hire big-name actors for voice work on the game, a marketing strategy which many subsequent CoD entries would also employ.
The next entry, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, made long-lasting changes to the Killstreak mechanic, allowing players to create simple builds based on their preferred playstyle.
Modern Warfe 2 also contains one of the most infamous missions in gaming history, ‘No Russian’. In this single-player campaign mission, the player is tasked with helping a military group slaughter civilians. The player can’t stop this from happening, but they can choose to withhold their own fire.
Modern Warfare 2 was the first CoD game to earn over 1 billion dollars.
The next game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, moved the setting to the 1960s, concentrating on the Vietnam War and the beginnings of the Cold War. However, it’s best remembered as being the game that introduced the co-op Zombies multiplayer mode to the CoD franchise.
This is arguably the most popular CoD multiplayer mode across all the entries, so the impact of Zombies mode being introduced here really cannot be overstated.
Call of Duty: Alternate Reality and Beyond
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the next release, and was developed by Infinity Ward and new developers, Sledgehammer Games. Modern Warfare 3 was the first game to imply that Call of Duty takes place in an alternate reality, focusing on a possible World War 3.
The next 4 games in the series would be taken up by the Black Ops subseries, which would take players from the 1980s to the 2040s across Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
The most recent title, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, was released in 2020. It was well received by fans.