The Evolution of Nuketown

Black Ops 3

I’ve written a bunch here about the importance of map design in FPS games. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is no different. And Treyarch has one of the best designed maps in the franchise as a whole with Nuketown. It’s become the trademark Treyarch map – now that it’s appeared in every Black Ops game. While the basic layout and design hasn’t changed over the three variants, the details that make each map feel unique from each other are what really make the map as strong as it is. Treyarch has done a tremendous job of taking the updates in each game and making the new additions to Nuketown work with them. In the original, the mobility option comes from diving – so, you’ll see pieces of cover that are perfect to hero dive over. In Nuketown 2025, the scorestreaks and weapon balance was a lot different, and while diving was still the mobility option, it became a lot easier to defend the houses and really turned games more into map control and less about crazy action. Now though, with wall running and thrust jumps and slides, the map has again shifted and is way more about moving around and flanking and creating different sight lines.

Call of Duty Nuketown

Yes, if you’re playing Domination, there’s a pretty infamous head-glitch spot that really I think was a bad placement. But in general the game is less about holding down a house or side of the map and a lot more about controlling the middle and knowing your movement routes. Wallrunning can get you out of the side halls alive, and help you get around hard charging teams. The second floor windows are a lot easier to get into – no more mantling on a couple different pieces of decoration, you just thrust jump right in. That makes holding that second floor a lot more risky that it was in Black Ops II. That’s really what makes the map really special – it’s evolved with each iteration and each time it still remains one of the strongest maps in shooters in general. With the chaos moshpit playlist basically being Nuketown all the time, it comes up really often – and I am not sick of it at all. It’s a map that is pretty much perfect for completing any challenges in the game. It’s where I finished my Glitch double kills for Prophet. I finished my KSG gold camo on it as well.

Infinity Ward is putting out the Call of Duty this year – that’s just how the rotation is shaking out, which means we’re unlikely to see a Modern Warfare anniversary. In truth, we’re probably in for a Ghosts 2 this year – which I only bring up because Ghosts didn’t really have a signature map in it, despite the fact that Infinity Ward had a signature map with the Modern Warfare games – Crash. When we actually see the map list, that’s when we’ll learn if Infinity Ward thought any map in Ghosts was worth bringing forward. While it might not be Nuketown, it could still be a pretty damn solid map.


Mapping Out December – Part Four: Answering the Call of Duty

I know that this blog has seemed to be pretty much focused exclusively on Call of Duty, but I swear that isn’t by design. This year’s fall season was more about the consoles released than any really big game, outside of Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’ve already talked about how Call of Duty dominates sales right now, so really when I decided to do this series on the best multiplayer maps, I knew that I would have to talk more about it. But since I had talked a bunch already, that’s why I pushed it back this late. I should also say that I’m focusing this on the series since Call of Duty 4, since those are the games that have performed well, and that I’m most familiar with the multiplayer of.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

With all that said, let’s flip back to 2007 and look at Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. At the time, it was a bit of a risk – moving away from the tested and true World War II setting to the slightly touchy setting of modern day conflict, as well as pushing hard on consoles. But it certainly paid off big for Activision. Let’s look at some of the better maps from that game. I’ve already talked a couple times about Crash, so I won’t beat that horse any more. Instead, let’s start with Backlot – one of the mid-sized maps, it’s got a solid map flow with good sight lines crisscrossing the maps. There’s a good variation in vertical lines as well, with multiple levels on a few different buildings. Domination games are always fast-paced, with a lot of fighting around B Dom. Sticking with good Domination maps, Ambush is another winner. It’s a bit bigger, with some really long sight lines that a good sniper can lock down, and a B Dom point that is wide open, and holding it for any real time can help solidify a win. Another big map that plays really well is Overgrown – great for a good sniper, even better for a good stealth class. It’s a map that can come down to the last few minutes to determine the winner, in any game mode. It’s so good they brought it back for Modern Warfare 2.

Modern Warfare 2

So with that, let’s look at Modern Warfare 2 – the game that really cemented Call of Duty as the leader of the pack. Even four years later, I still remember that the first match I played was on Karachi – so let’s start there. I loved running around the roofs with a SPAS-12, stopping snipers and running and gunning all around this map – it works well on pretty much any gametype, but TDM games are always fun on here. The other big memory I have of MW2 took place on Scrapyard. A smaller map, it’s a frantic pace for any game type, but it shines on Domination – well balanced, with great running and sight lines, any weapon can excel on it. It was a Domination game that me and my college buddies were in where we shut out the other team on this very map, 200-0. That could only happen on a map that had great running lanes that made defending points possible. I also always loved playing Highrise – good for any mode, but really great on CTF, this map has tons of little touches that make it really fun to play. This was the map that probably had the most little external spots that players can get into – either the crane, the roof, or the balcony all come to mind right away, along with lots of different paths to take.

Modern Warfare 3

I want to stick with the Modern Warfare series while I’m on it and go to Modern Warfare 3 next, then I’ll talk Black Ops and Ghosts. I always thought that with MW3, the initial maps were a bit of a step back. The DLC maps were good, but the initial offerings didn’t really have a fantastic stand-out. I think maps like Outpost, Lockdown, Resistance, Bakaara, Fallen, Seatown and Dome are all okay, but not exceptional. It’s full of maps that work, but almost all have one or two spots that are really easy to camp and hold. Outpost had the bunker, Lockdown has the long hallway, Resistance had the B-Dom building, Bakaara has the hill building, Fallen had the overwatch building, Dome has the B-Dom building. Seatown has a few buildings that tend to get held on to. Then there’s maps like Mission where the entire flow of the game hinges on holding the top-middle section of the map. I think Infinity Ward took a lot of the feedback to heart with the DLC maps, as well as the design for Ghosts.

Black Ops II

But before we head there, let’s talk about Treyarch’s games – Black Ops I and II. Compared to Modern Warfare 2‘s maps, I never really felt that Black Ops had nearly as good maps. I just never really was able to get into the multiplayer to the same extent. Not that there aren’t stand-outs: Nuketown and Radiation are both great maps; but for the most part, the maps are pretty average, and ultimately, forgettable. Cracked, WMD, Firing Range and Summit are all solid maps, but the rest of the mix were all just sort of “there.” I think Treyarch probably puts a big amount of time into the Zombies mode, which might explain the step down from MW2 maps, but that’s total speculation. Especially since Black Ops II had much better maps. Maps like Hijacked, Standoff, Yemen, Overflow, Raid, and Meltdown are all quite good maps. They all offer a way for any style of play to excel on them – a CQC runner can do well, snipers can find good lines, AR gunners can do some major damage, while LMGs can hold objectives really well. With the exception of Carrier and Aftermath, I actually was totally fine with the maps in this offering.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Now, Ghosts is still going through some growing pains, since it’s still quite new, but I think some patterns of play have definitely developed and certain maps have emerged as winners. First off, the lack of a Ground War playlist makes maps like Siege, Stonehaven, Stormfront and, to some extent, Whiteout, suffer a little bit. These maps are just a little too big for just 6-on-6 games. But some of the other maps have shone as really strong maps – Strikezone, Octane, Sovereign, Flooded and Chasm all play pretty well this early on in the life of the game. Strikezone and Sovereign play super fast, with a great mix of close-quarters fighting, with a few longer lines here and there. Octane and Flooded are more mid-range maps, but have a couple really good sniping lines, and even a few good running lanes. Chasm is probably the best balance of the different types of combat so far – long lines for snipers are there, it’s got great mid-range lines for Assault rifles and DMR’s, but a run and gun class can do well too, with lots of different paths between points.

In general, I think what helps the Call of Duty maps out, are the different gameypes – Domination really helps show off a map’s defensible positions, while also showing off the different paths between points; Hardpoint takes that idea and rotates it around the map; CTF and Blitz offer classic style team based games; while the Demolition/Sabotage/Search and Destroy/Headquarters games all change the dynamics of the map.

That will wrap up my look at what I consider the best maps in multiplayer shooters, across time and platform. Next week, I think I might offer up a few of my picks of the worst maps I’ve ever played, as well as I will probably look back over 2013 with my picks of the year’s best.