Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – It’s Real!

Infinite Warfare CoverAfter all the leaks and speculation at the end of last week, Activision and Infinity Ward put all that to rest with the official announcement of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. They also gave fans exactly what we’ve been asking for for a few years now in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. Let’s talk a little about what we learned today from the trailer, Activision blog and livestream.

Bottom line is really that we didn’t learn a whole hell of a lot – just the base level stuff to get the early hype rolling into E3. That said, we know the setting of the new game, we know that Infinity Ward is doing Zombies for the first time, and Raven is working on the MW Remaster. Anything that goes super in-depth about weapons, equipment, perks, and that kind of stuff will wait until E3. That’s usually how Activision goes about their CoD reveals – initial trailer, then a bigger reveal of the multiplayer as a whole event.

With the new campaign, Infinity Ward is bring Call of Duty where it hasn’t ever been before – the far future. We’ve seen elements of true Sci-Fi creep into the franchise in the last 6 years, really dating back to Black Ops II, but this is the first full game that is truly embracing the idea of Sci-Fi. Opening up the entire solar system gives the team options that to go to places never seen in the series before. That of course scares a lot of fans though – I saw tons of posts this year hoping for a return to true boots-on-the-ground combat in the next game. They addressed that a little with the Twitch stream, saying that while yes, there are some sections where you’ll be out flying a spaceship, they really want to ground the combat in realism. That means boots-on-the-ground, small unit infantry combat – it’s always been what Call of Duty does well. The story itself seems to borrow from pretty standard Sci-Fi kind of stories – the colonists that venture out off of Earth eventually have some form of tension with Earth, and that sparks into conflict. In this game it’s going to be built around resources that are mined off-planet, and the fascist organization that rises up in space with their own ambitions. After a surprise attack catches Earth off guard, the game’s setting is complete.

One thing that caught my eye on Activision’s blog was a line talking about progression in the story. We know that we assume command of a ship, and that we launch the missions from the spaceship. But they also point out that we will able to launch raids on enemy ships. That sounds something like a meta-game within the campaign. To me, it sounds like Infinity Ward might be rolling their Safeguard mode – which has been in their previous two games – right into the campaign setting. I think it makes sense especially when you remember that they’re going to actually do a Zombies mode too now.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Of course, the big excitement has been around the official word about Modern Warfare Remastered. There’s a reason that the first Modern Warfare is talked about with such reverence from both fans and critics. It literally changed the FPS world – especially on consoles – telling an incredible story that was grounded in gritty realism, punctuated with meaningful setpieces and then complimented it with a deep multiplayer. So as a fan, seeing a couple glimpses of Crew Expendable, and little details from maps brought forward to a new graphic engine is super exciting. There are still a couple things I’m curious about that they really haven’t been clear on – mainly if the multiplayer is going to use the same mechanics as the original or not – but I am definitely excited to play that campaign again. And come on, playing Crash again? Yes please.

One last thing that I want to talk about that I saw all over social media today. I saw tons of posts already claiming that Infinite Warfare is destined to be a flop, being buoyed by the MW:R. Literally hours after it was officially announced the salt started pouring out. This isn’t unique to Call of Duty – I see it more and more frequently with any major announcement. Nintendo delays the NX to next year? Must mean that their dead in the water. Microsoft is making an updated Xbox One? They’re taking away resources from the next true console and making Xbox Live better. Any game ever announces any kind of change? It’s the end of the world. I love games and the world of gaming. It lets us explore worlds and universes in ways that no other form of entertainment can. But it’s really getting tiresome to see the negativity and pessimism that’s all over social media and the web in general. Not every decision is the right one – I think some of what Massive has been doing with The Division hasn’t been in the right directions – but these developers deserve at least a little benefit of the doubt. Take a step back, maybe actually play the games then post – don’t contribute to the echo chamber of negativity.

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Call of Duty 2016 Leaks Galore

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareThis week has been an interesting one in the world of Call of Duty. We went from grainy photos from retailer material to some cryptic Infinity Ward tweets to finally a hi-res image of the retail material all showing what is apparently this year’s Call of Duty. IF the leaks are correct – which is starting to look more and more likely – then this year we will be playing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. While that’s exciting, since it does open up the possibility for that space combat that was rumored a couple weeks back, the big news that came along with the leak is that the special edition is going to really appeal to long-time fans. The Legacy Edition will be bringing a remastered version of the original Modern Warfare.

The hi-res image that leaked today came from a Canadian retailer, and the details look pretty legit which makes me a little more excited about the validity of the leak. The big part of the image shows some more details about the remastered Modern Warfare. It looks like it will include the campaign – which is phenomenal – and 10 multiplayer maps, which was the original set of maps. If it’s using the same Create-a-Class setup as the original, I think plenty of  newer players might be in for a bit of a shock. Of course, this is still all unknown at this point, but with all the leaked images and Infinity Ward playing around on Twitter I think a full announcement has to be coming soon. The longer this goes without an official word from Activision, the more the hype will just escalate. With EA announcing a new Battlefield next week, the timing also really makes sense. Expect an official statement soon I think.

Call of Duty Rumors Galore

Call of Duty: GhostsI’ve been seeing a lot of rumors about this year’s Call of Duty floating around a ton this week already. I’ve been saying that I still think that we’re getting Ghosts 2 but if if anything that I’ve been seeing this week is true, that’s looking a little less sure. What I saw today did intrigue me a little bit though, so I want to quickly talk about it.

The big news is that, according to a post on NEOgaf from a source who has broken news in the past, this year’s Call of Duty is going Sci-Fi. Like beyond Black Ops III Sci-Fi. Apparently we have the far future as our setting coming our way, complete with space combat. At first blush, I thought that couldn’t be the case. The more I think on it, I think it could actually be the case. The last couple games have shown a pretty clear design direction toward more futuristic content. If any studio is going to take the full plunge it would be Infinity Ward – they are the ones that brought the franchise to modern era first too after all. And really, there’s no reason that if they do it right, that super future can’t work for Call of Duty. The real reason that those elements didn’t work well in Advanced Warfare is because it was done half-way. The more sci-fi elements didn’t marry well with the more standard elements, and in truth were underpowered in most circumstances. Pulling full sci-fi has been tricky for FPS games in the past – look at Battlefield 2142 as a good example – but it definitely can work well. As long as the core ingredients that make Call of Duty what it is are in place, it could be really great.

The other rumor that I saw towards the end of last week was a little less grounded in reality. I’m tempted to believe the sci-fi, far future rumor; this other one not so much. That other rumor was that Call of Duty would be set during World War One. I’ve actually been seeing a pretty good amount of chatter about trying to bring a WWI shooter to the mass market. The problem comes with trying to bring a conflict that was over 100 years ago to an audience that is craving speed and action in multiplayer. I have no doubt that Infinity Ward could craft a solid single-player story during WWI, I do have doubts that trench combat and, essentially ancient, weapons would be as fun in multiplayer. I don’t doubt that we’ll see a WWI shooter on a major scale sooner rather than later, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it being this year.

What surprises me is how early we’re getting Call of Duty 2016 rumors this year. We usually start to see them a few week prior to E3. Since we know that this year’s Call of Duty is going to be at E3, even without Activision having a booth, I was expecting this sort of rumor mill winding up around mid-May. Assuming that the NEOgaf rumor has any sense of truth to it, that’s a big leak for what could potentially be the biggest selling game of the year. I would think Activision, Infinity Ward and Sony all wouldn’t like that.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Hero Armor Tips

Black Ops 3I’ve been going through the big grindy challenges in Call of Duty: Black Ops III this week, finishing out the weapon camo challenges and today we’re looking at the Specialist challenges. These ones are a little different than the weapon challenges since they have multiple tiers to go through before you reach that final gold armor. So the tips here are a little more general per Specialist than with the weapons. Before you even reach the final set of challenges though, you’ll need 800 kills with each Specialist, which is plenty of time to learn how their special weapon and abilities behave – which you’ll need for those final challenges. Those 800 kills can be handled in any way you see fit – that’s why I tie in a Specialist per prestige as I do the weapon camos.

Once you’ve reached those last challenges though, that’s where things get a little trickier. So we’ll start with the three Specialists that I think have the hardest individual challenges: Prophet, Outrider and Nomad. Each has a weapon that’s actually pretty damn good – it’s their special abilities that have tough challenges. Let’s look at Prophet first. His weapon, the Tempest, is a one-shot kill, and has potential for multi-kills with its arcing damage. So getting double kills with it for the final challenge is pretty straightforward. It’s Glitch that’s a problem. Glitch lets you warp back in time a bit, which is amazing for getting you out of danger in a hurry. The problem here is that the challenge associated with Glitch is offensive based – you are tasked with getting kills shortly after Glitching. The real trouble is that the final challenge has you looking for double kills – even in Hardcore that’s a real hard task. What I recommend is running with Semtex or C4, and using those to set up kills then Glitch before the detonation. I got my doubles done in Chaos Moshpit – Hardpoint on Nuketown. Tossed two Semtex into the Hardpoint, Glitched back and got the kills. I think, unless you have a really precise setup, that’s your best bet. With Outrider, it’s a similar situation. Her Sparrow bow is plenty strong – the multi-kills aren’t too bad to get in just about any game mode. It’s Vision Pulse that bugged me. The range on the pulse isn’t as far as you might think, and the actual pulse/mark feels really inconsistent. I was finding myself picking up one or two kills per match – even with Overdrive on. Getting my doubles was a rough go. What I ended up doing was, again, playing Chaos Moshpit looking for Nuketown. Once I got Nuketown with an objective mode, I just focused on trying to get behind a small group – Hardpoint helped the most. Wait for the Hardpoint to be inside one of the houses, flank behind, pulse and move quick on the double. It’s not foolproof, but that made my attempts a lot easier. Nomad is the one here that I’m really just going on the other side of things – I’ve not played as him yet. But much like with Glitch, the challenges for Rejack have you looking for kills after coming back from the dead. The problem is that when you use Rejack, you have this very large green gas cloud around you. I know that it’s supposed to help obscure you when you do spawn, but all it does for me is tell me to wait and watch for him to pop up. You need to really pick and choose your moments here, unlike with Glitch. I’ve also seen people complaining a bit about his H.I.V.E. Launcher – the simple answer there is just play objective game modes and put the mines around the objectives. Domination and Hardpoint both work, and you can always put down a mine or two to cover your flanks if you want.

Black Ops 3 Ruin

Of the other Speciaists, I think they’re a lot more straightforward. Even the couple I haven’t played as – Ruin and Spectre – I think are pretty self-explanatory. Knowing that the medals for Ruin’s speed boost just require you to get kills while it’s active means it shouldn’t be a bad prospect. In truth I think his Gravity Spike is going to be the tougher challenge to complete. Spectre seems like he’s going to be really easy – Ripper is insane to deal with on the other side of things, so using it has to be a breeze, and having Active Camo in a shooter is always a good thing. I thought Battery and Firebreak were both super easy to finish. Kinetic Armor in Hardcore is a no-brainer, and the Purifier flamethrower is super powerful. I guess Heat Wave can be a little tricky to get doubles with, but again, flank, and play from behind the enemy. With Seraph, just set up your Scorestreaks so they’re close in value – pop Combat Focus, grab the points you need and there you go.

If there’s one overall tip for the Specialists’ challenges, it’s to play objective game modes. Nuketown is probably the best map across the board, especially on Hardpoint, but you can do them on most maps no problem. I like to focus on one ability at a time though – don’t flip between the weapon and ability until you have to. Get the 40 kills with the weapon, then switch to the ability and finish that. I think that generally the Specialists are easier to do than weapons – there are less to do, and the challenges are overall easier I think. Again, don’t burn yourself out, pick your moments and you’ll do just fine.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Awakening MP Map Impressions

Black Ops 3The first DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Awakening, landed on Xbox One and PC today, bringing four new multiplayer maps and a new Zombies map. While I know that the maps have been available on PS4 for about a month now, I haven’t had the chance to play them until today. So with that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little bit about each of the four new maps and how I think they work in Black Ops III‘s current meta-game.

RISE
Rise is, to me, the most standard “Call of Duty” style map in the pack in terms of visuals. It’s set in an under construction research facility in the mountains around Zurich. It’s got a neat way of using Treyarch’s three lane approach to map design – one lane is full of cover to move around and feels really clustered and claustrophobic almost, the middle lane is pretty typical in three lane ideas featuring a large central courtyard that acts as a huge chokepoint, and the other outside lane is definitely the cleanest and most open, with a good chunk of water available for moving in. It’s a map where I think longer range engagements are going to be a little scarce – moving around it seems really easy, with lots of small crossing routes to take between the lanes. I don’t know if Treyarch did this on purpose, but Rise feels like it draws heavily on a couple different Black Ops II maps – Meltdown and Hydro. The water side has a sightline and window setup that looks a lot like the dam side on Hydro, and the interior industrial side felt a lot to me like Meltdown. They aren’t direct, but I couldn’t help feel the echoes.

Call of Duty®: Black Ops III_20160201195848

 

SPLASH
The brightest map in the pack for sure, Splash takes place in an abandoned water park. In most Call of Duty maps, the color palate is generally pretty muted – lots of grays and browns. Splash throws that out the window – bright reds, yellows, purples and blues are all over this map – it’s honestly a pretty refreshing look for a Call of Duty map. The map itself has a similar setup to most Black Ops III maps – three lanes, with a big central courtyard. In this case though, those outside lanes really are more designed to draw players to that center courtyard than as actual combat lanes. There aren’t a ton of super long sightlines – think combat that’s similar to Nuketown, so mid-range combat is going to be the main action here. When Awakening came out on PS4, this map had some pretty nasty collision issues that made it real easy to get out of the map an into really unfair positions. They were patched pretty quickly though, so hopefully playing on the Xbox won’t have any of those growing pains. Of the new maps, this is the one that I’m hoping ends up having a strong meta-game around it.

GAUNTLET
This is the map that visually I’m the most in love with. As much as I like Splash’s colors, Gauntlet has a really unique look that no map has had in Call of Duty. The three lanes each have distinct environments, designed to be training settings for Winslow Accord operatives. That helps give each lane a really unique feel from each other, and each one is going to demand different skills from players. The jungle lane is super dense visually – I think certain Specialist camos are going to make picking out targets difficult. Thermal scopes could be pretty handy on this one. The rainy, urban setting is symmetrical, and definitely built around long-range lane control. Each side has a little room that only has two entrances – perfect for sniping from to control that long hall. The middle lane though is where I think this map shines – the arctic section features just about every kind of combat and ability that Black Ops III has. Longer ranges, winding paths for flanking and close range weapons, wall running, ledge jumping, thrust jumps – all feature in in this arctic section.

SKYJACKED
The map going in that I knew the most about, Skyjacked is a updated remake of Hijacked from Black Ops II. Hijacked was a great map, and worked in any game mode – mainly because it was symmetrical but had enough routes to get from base to base to keep it from turning super campy. Skyjacked keeps that basic idea – symmetrical design with two main bases, but with the new movement options, getting around the map is so much faster and easier. The changes to the map mainly involve adjusting sightlines – there aren’t quite as many ones that cross the whole center of the map anymore, and the cabana and middle hut offer a lot more cover than before. The bottom deck also feels a lot more packed in, even with the addition of the outside route into and out of it. Where the biggest change though is in the utility of the towers. In Black Ops II, those towers could be used to really lock down the map, at least above deck, because you could easily defend them with their limited points of entry. Now though with thruster jumping, the second floor is easily reached from the main deck, so holding down a tower is going to be a lot more complex. It still feels really good to play – there’s a reason they picked Hijacked to bring forward. It still can be played with pretty much any weapon class, though I do think SMGs and fast firing assault rifles are better off here.

Overall, Awakening adds in four really strong maps to an already pretty good mix to Black Ops III. Now that we’re starting to get into some new games – Division comes next week, Quantum Break is next month – bringing new content to all consoles is just what Call of Duty needed. Halo 5 has been killing it with the free content updates so far, so I’m going to be curious how this performs on Xbox One. If you’re playing Black Ops III, I definitely recommend picking it up – it adds a good bit of life to the game.

Fantasy Development: Call of Duty

Call of Duty: GhostsA few weeks back, I played fantasy game developer with the sequel for Destiny. I threw money, time and honestly, reality out the window and focused on making what I think would be the perfect Destiny game. Today, as a bit of a breather from talking about The Division, shooter news, and Destiny we’ll revisit the fantasy development idea. Today I’m going to make the best Call of Duty: Ghosts 2 ever.

Obviously it’s a bit of an assumption that we’re getting Ghosts 2 this year. We know that Infinity Ward is making this year’s game, but that’s it officially. I’ve seen a couple posts online – including bigger websites – saying that they don’t expect Ghosts 2. I completely disagree with that – yes the multiplayer fell a little once the weapon balance deteriorated, but the other two pillars of the game are set up perfect for a sequel. So I’m going to build off of that idea, and deal with multiplayer last.

First off, the single player campaign: let’s not make it single player. Black Ops III showed that the campaign works as a co-op story as well as a single player experience. So we borrow that idea – make the campaign playable (optionally of course) as a co-op game. The story was set-up at the end of the first game – you tracked down Rorke, stopped his plans, and then had the big twist. Rorke survives, wounds you, and captures you – credits roll, sequel set. Now, I think realistically there’s one question to ask before we talk story – is Infinity Ward setting up a trilogy again? So far Call of Duty likes to work in threes – the original series was three numbered entries, Modern Warfare was three games, and Black Ops has been three. So we’ll assume that is the plan here and know we have a final third game coming in a few years. With that set, we have the basic structure of the plot – Hesh (player 1) and his Ghosts squad that he took over from his father are tracking down Rorke and trying to find his brother Logan. There’s still room in that basic story to throw in plenty of Call of Duty twists and big moments – there is still an overarching story of the war going on too after all. But instead of finding Logan in this game, save his role for the third game. I would have this Ghosts 2 end with Rorke’s defeat – and in this story we’re crafting, he sacrifices himself to save Logan, completing the brainwashing process and setting up the ultimate confrontation in the third game: brother Vs. brother. It’s real simple, which does play into the Call of Duty stereotype, but believe or not actually works here. There’s no reason to keep trying to adding twists and turns and other bells and whistles. Go back to the basics – a simple story, with less complications makes for a much more engaging overall experience. Call of Duty has a habit of putting in a whole bunch of characters to the games – Infinity Ward in particular was guilty of that in the Modern Warfare games. Keep it small – four protagonists, an overwatch character to drive the narrative and two main antagonists – that’s it. Keep the story focused and you can start to shake off that stereotype a little bit.

Now, before we leave the campaign mindset, there is one thing that I would pretty much steal from Black Ops III. Treyarch, I think, got the idea from Ghosts‘ Extinction mode – tell a different story using the same pieces. Black Ops III has the Nightmares campaign – it’s the same world and basic setting, just a totally different story – the zombies have jumped from their mode into a story setting. Ghosts 2 could do something similar – Extinction and Nightmares can certainly exist in the same game. I would love to see something like that, because it offers up another way to keep the game alive for a longer time. It’s not a fully fleshed idea yet – I don’t know exactly how I would tell that story, but I still think it could work.

Extinction CoD Ghosts

Now, let’s actually talk about Extinction itself. Far and away that was the mode I played the most in Ghosts. It was the most fun part of the game I thought – no need to worry about the crappy weapon balance, or stupidly overpowered killstreaks. Just worry about beating progressively tougher AI monsters, ending with some pretty awesome boss battles. The achievements pushed the players to doing certain things that might have been out of their comfort zone, but not in a way that punished them. When the story finished, our group of survivors had actually left the planet – biding time on one of the orbiting space stations. Again, the story is perfectly set-up: tell the story of humanity beginning to retake our planet. Nothing crazy here – basic storytelling works best – it’s universal themes that the broad community can get behind. It also is sets us up for a DLC season – the first mission is establishing a beachhead somewhere; the DLC then tells how we began to branch out. If we’re still going under the assumption of a third game, we’ll need to close the DLC season with a big moment that leaves players wanting that final chapter. We got a taste of how I would do that in Ghosts‘ Invasion DLC’s Awakening map. That map brought us inside of Ball’s Pyramid, into the Cryptid tunnels. That’s how I would end this game’s season – our group finally moving into enemy territory, striking them on their own turf, ending with a fight against some kind of massive Cryptid. As for the actual gameplay, I really don’t think a whole lot needs to change. I like the four classes – they work well together, although I do think that the Tank class needs a little tweaking (my group tended to ignore a Tank and double up on Engineer – I played the Weapon Specialist as our damage dealer). Some of the perks could use a little tweaking – mainly the ammo types to make them all viable in different situations. Variety definitely suffered a little as we played the mode more and more – we doubled up on a couple items to make sure we had them in hand as often as possible. Keep the weapons on the maps, keep the money system, keep the armory and teeth system, keep the search piles and all of that – it helped separate Extinction from Zombies. I do like that a lot of the story was told through the intel pick ups too – I would however drop the random ones and make them all static pickups. Generally, I think Extinction is in a pretty good spot moving forward in terms of having a really strong base to build off of.

Which is a different story than we have with the multiplayer. Ghosts is such a frustrating game for me to look back on – I loved the multiplayer initially; but that changed real fast. First off, with this fantasy Ghosts 2, we’re keeping the basic movement and overall feel from the first game. No thruster packs, exo suits, or anything like that – go back to basic Call of Duty mechanics. Sliding and corner leans are fine – they fit with the world that the campaign established. And really I think the map design was fine, so I’m fine with Infinity Ward using similar thoughts for this game’s maps. One thing I would caution is adding in really big maps – they were definitely the weakest of the original game’s set and the DLC moved away from them. They can work, but they definitely take more work to get right. What really matters here is the weapon set. Now I can’t go through the plethora of weapons that we know are going to be there – that’s way more detailed than these fantasy development posts are meant to be. Instead I want to talk about a couple top level things that need to be looked at. First, get rid of built-in attachments. That’s a big part of what killed the meta – in particular in the assault rifle class. The Honey Badger, because of its built in silencer and really not reduced range was just too powerful. So get rid of that kind of weapon – just doing that already puts the gun game in a better spot. Second, the create-a-class system needs to be more traditional. Sure Ghosts had a lot of options to try out – you could load up on perks, or go with a really powerful weapon with lots of attachments. But it allowed for too easy creation of very over powered classes. Go back to a classic, ten item system and you bring balance back to the game. If you’re bent on having multiple perks possible, go ahead and put those Wildcards from Treyarch’s games in. In truth, those perks really need to be honed down a bit – there were way too many in there to mess around with. Less isn’t necessarily better, but less is when each option actually has utility. Finally, the big thing to really look at are killstreaks – in particularly the map-specific ones. Those streaks broke games just as much as over powered weapons. I’m fine with keeping the reward streak for completing the in-match missions, just take away huge ones that can kill entire teams. Replace them with a standard Care Package, maybe with the 7-10 kill streaks weighted higher. I think that goes a long way to bringing balance back to the meta across the board. No Michael Myers, no Predator, no Nuke that breaks the map. It all goes back to my core design philosophy with this particular fantasy development idea – simple works better. In the Call of Duty series in particular, simple is almost always better. The more variables you introduce, the more likely one of them will break the balance and seriously damage the longevity of the game. That’s a big part of why I am enjoying Black Ops III so much – there are only a couple guns that don’t measure up (I’m looking at you VMP) the rest are all totally viable. There will always be a gun or two that gets overly popular for whatever reason, but in this case there are a lot of them which keeps the games pretty well balanced. I hope that Infinity Ward has kept that in mind, and looked at what worked with Ghosts, and what didn’t and will give us the game that Ghosts could really have been – the true follow up to Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – The Best Call of Duty?

Black Ops 3I know that we’ve been talking a bit about The Division Beta and Destiny‘s future lately, but the game that I’ve been playing the most over the last month or so has been Call of Duty: Black Ops III. And that’s had me thinking – is it the best Call of Duty since the modern era of CoD games started? So with that in mind, let’s rank the modern games and find out. By modern games I mean any Call of Duty console/PC release since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, mainly because it completely changed the formula for the series.

Before we hit the rankings, there is one little caveat to get out of the way. I can’t put Call of Duty: World at War on the list because I’ve never actually played it. It came out while I was still playing a whole lot of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, among other games. In hindsight I do wish that I had picked it up when it was relevant, but oh well. With that said, let’s move on to the Official Infinite Lives Call of Duty Rankings.

Advanced Warfare Cover

At the bottom of the list, I’m going with Advanced Warfare. Yes, it’s Sledgehammer Games’ first full Call of Duty game, but the formula for what makes a CoD game work isn’t exactly a secret. Advanced Warfare just didn’t really pull it off – the campaign was forgettable, the co-op experience was pretty threadbare and the multiplayer had a weapon meta that never really got balanced. The problem really is that there were two or three weapons that were just head and shoulders above the rest – the BAL, ASM1 and Tac-19 all were essentially required to have a shot at performing well. The movement changes were a step in the right direction, but now that we’ve seen Black Ops III take them further, I think it’s kinda evident that that was what Advanced Warfare should have done; regardless of the Titanfall comparisons. I do think that Sledgehammer can make a real good CoD title, but Advanced Warfare just wasn’t it.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Moving a little up the list, we get to the last Infinity Ward developed title: Call of Duty: Ghosts. This one hurts a little because it was so, so close to being great. The campaign, while predictable, was fun the whole way through. The Extinction mode was fantastic, in truth it was my favorite part of the game. What killed the game for me was, much like AW, a broken online meta. The Honey Badger was just too powerful in any engagement, and IW never really addressed it in a way that fixed the problem. There’s a reason that it was banned from competitive play. What kinda blows my mind though is how with the DLC season, IW kept moving in that direction with map-specific killstreaks that were just insanely powerful. Michael Myers and The Predator totally broke any semblance of balance in matches, even with Honey Badgers all over the place. Since Infinity Ward is putting out this year’s game, and I would expect to see Ghosts 2 (despite reports I’ve seen to the contrary – it just makes too much sense not to), I really hope that they look at what works with their style games and what the community has embraced with the last two titles.

Call of Duty Black Ops

Next up, I’m going with a somewhat unpopular opinion here – Call of Duty: Black Ops. Since I’ve been playing the new BO title, I’ve been keeping an eye on Reddit as well. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen with comments putting the first Black Ops title up on a pedestal. I am very much not one of those people. And I think I can explain why – I was the only one in my group of friends I play with that had Black Ops. That meant no Zombies mode for me, which I think is the strength of the first game. The campaign was really good – something that Treyarch is great with across the whole BO series. The multiplayer was solid. There was one weapon – the Commando – that was a little stronger, but in general it was fine. My problem looking back was that the maps really weren’t that memorable. Aside from Nuketown, and arguable Firing Range, I really don’t think there were any amazing maps there. Considering that it had to pull me away from Halo Reach and Modern Warfare 2, I just never got to that same level of love for the game. Still a good title, just not my favorite.

Modern Warfare 3

Moving up the list, another Infinity Ward title, Modern Warfare 3. A game that is near and dear to me, as it was one of the few titles I actually was able to create content for G4tv.com for, I can’t really put it higher up the list. I think the best way to really describe the game is just plain solid. Everything in the game was good, and arguably great, but the game as a whole just didn’t blow me away. The campaign should have been this huge blow off to the story that was told over three games. Instead, it felt like those huge set-pieces were forced in, along with the big twist with Yuri and Makarov. The multiplayer did something different with the Call of Duty: Elite system to deliver the DLC. And that DLC was actually pretty strong – a good mix of new maps and classics, along with a whole new Face-Off mode for small matches. I played it for about a full year, and enjoyed it all the way through – it was the first Call of Duty that I actually wanted to stick with to hit Prestige 10. I just think that compared with the four remaining games, it’s not quite as strong across the board.

Modern Warfare 2

One step up the list, the previous game in Infinity Ward’s lineup – Modern Warfare 2. This one is a little tricky for me. I love this game – in truth I think it’s my favorite of the series. I had more fun playing this game than just about any other Call of Duty. But looking back at it, it absolutely had its flaws. Not having a really fleshed out co-op aside from Spec Ops missions I think now seems like a big miss. The multiplayer had its fair share of relatively major issues – the Javelin glitch, One Man Army abuse, Marathon-Lightweight-Commando knifers, infinite care-packages and care-package marker speed boosts all contributed to some frustrating moments. But IW was good about fixing them as best they could. Add in that the map selection was phenomenal, made for really fun games. Increasing the customization options to players with Callsigns and Emblems tied to challenges helped push the players to actually try to do challenges that maybe they wouldn’t have normally. It’s still a game that I look back on and get the itch to load up from time to time – I actually did play a few games of it last summer.

Black Ops II

Pulling the bronze medal on my list, I’m going to go with Black Ops II. Treyarch is really good at crafting a story mode that is actually worth playing through. In this case, they really stepped it up with branching paths that could impact the ending of the game. That not only shows that Treyarch was taking something, a campaign, that a lot of players brushed off really seriously; but it also added replayability to something that typically doesn’t really have it. Zombies mode – which again I didn’t really play – took the formula and cranked it up to 10. The Easter Eggs were super in-depth, with multiple demanding steps to unlock them. And the meat of the game – the multiplayer – was just as solid as ever. I think this is the game where Treyarch really nailed their style of multiplayer. It’s not as fast paced as Infinity Ward’s, with a little slower time to kill and more focus of simple map design with little flairs to try and control. Sure there were powerful weapons – the M8A1 in particular – but they weren’t game breaking ones. It’s the first game that I felt compelled to complete gold camo challenges for entire weapon classes – diamond camo will do that. After how lukewarm I felt about Black Ops, this game was a complete 180 for me – I really enjoy the hell out of this one.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Finally, I’m going to take a bit of a cop-out. There are two games left to look at – Modern Warfare and Black Ops III – fitting since that was the question that I really set out to look at. And here’s the thing – I don’t really know that I have the answer. From a content standpoint, Black Ops III is way ahead of Modern Warfare – as well it should be. Modern Warfare is almost ten years old at this point. Mechanics-wise, again, Black Ops III shows ten years of development learning. But there’s still something really special about Modern Warfare. It was a landmark game in FPS progression. It was a seismic shift for a franchise that dates back to the early 2000’s. It showed that modern set games could be just as gripping as World War Two shooters. But most importantly, it gave us the blueprint for the way multiplayer shooters would evolve and grow into. We’re still playing games that borrow, sometimes directly, from that first Modern WarfareBlack Ops III is, I think, the peak of that evolution. It takes everything that Infinity Ward put out, spins it forward those ten years, and makes it all work with the extra moving parts we’ve come to expect. Is it the best Call of Duty game in the franchise? I think it’s the best Call of Duty that we can have right now – it is the perfect combination of all three phases: Campaign, Co-op, and Multiplayer. The question I’m looking at now is what Infinity Ward, the original guys on the franchise, can do to continue evolving the franchise this year.