Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – (Re)Fresher Part Two

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareContinuing where we left off yesterday, today we’ll look at the maps that were featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This is all to get ready for this fall’s remastered version of the game that will be bundled with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. We know that we’re getting ten maps with the remake – that means six maps are being left behind from the initial release. Instead of trying to guess which those six  will be, because there are a couple that I think are potential cuts, I’ll just run through the full list quickly. The standout maps I’ll talk a little more about, while the lower tier maps we’ll hit quick.

First on the list is Ambush. It’s a fairly large map, great for long-range encounters and sniping. It’s not actually symmetrical, but it’s pretty close, to the point where I don’t that one side has a huge advantage. It works in Domination, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and if the remake has newer modes, Kill Confirmed. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to appear, it’s one of those fan favorite maps on the original disc. I definitely think this one of the best maps to help get your long-range combat skills better. Grab a M40A3 or G3 and watch the side roads. Next up is Backlot, which is one of the few maps that we know is in the Remake. Unlike a lot of modern maps in FPS games, this one is all about the center location. There’s one – technically – three story house right in the middle of the map that is really important to control. It’s got great sightlines on the other two major landmarks – the destroyed building and the construction site – which means a good shot can helps control the flow of a game. I like playing it on Team Deathmatch the most, since it tends to revolve around those landmarks instead of trading spawn sides. Next let’s look at Bloc. Bloc is one of those maps that I think gets overlooked when we talk about great Call of Duty maps. I love this map – it’s everything I like in a shooter map. It’s balanced – basically symmetrical, with two blocks of apartments on either side. Sure, some games will descend into firefights from building to building, but playing the flanker role can be a huge amount of fun. This was always one of the few maps that I felt comfortable using the shotguns on without being at a disadvantage. If you can get into the apartments and other close range situations, those weapons can really make a power play.

The next map on the list is Bog, which is another one that I think is all but a guarantee to appear in the Remake. It’s a pretty open map, not a huge amount of cover so timing your runs is pretty important. Sniping is really great on this one – as is running with Frag X3 if you know the angles. Domination is good, Search is potentially very frustrating with those grenades, but the map works across the board. Next up is Countdown, another one I could see being included. This is one of the bigger maps in the game, and has some pretty crazy sightlines. It’s got  lots of long lines, but it’s dotted with cover so setting up to snipe can be tricky. Domination is lots of fun, with pretty intense games. Expect spawns to flip a lot with this one, and air support to be more effective than usual. Next on the list is Crash, which is one we know is coming forward. At this point you should probably already know all about Crash. I think it’s the perfect Call of Duty map for that Modern Warfare style combat. Long lanes, tight corners, interior combat and plenty of alternate routes make it a tough map to predict how games flow. I still think it’s Infinity Ward’s best map they’ve ever made, and I’m super excited to revisit an old friend. Next on the list is Crossfire, another one we know is coming forward. Crossfire was another map that I always really enjoyed. It’s essentially a giant “S” shape, with the outer edges made up of buildings you can move through. Snipers can lock down the center lane, as well as potentially make some buildings dangerous to go in. If you do manage to close the range down, fighting building to building is always tense and fun. This is another one I’m really looking forward to playing.

Moving on down the list, we have District next. I think it’s one that might be left behind – it’s not a bad map, but it doesn’t really stand out in any way. It also had a pretty bad glitch where there was a building that had no collision so you could shoot through it. There’s the market too, where the combat tends to funnel toward, but it’s nothing standout. Next upon the list is Downpour. Downpour is set on a rainy rural farm, and it’s not exactly a huge map, but it’s a good size. It’s asymmetrical, so it’s important to try and grab the high ground.As much as I like this map, I could easily see it being left behind. On the other hand, the next map – Overgrown – is probably pretty likely to show up. Overgrown is a huge map – set on a massive farm with a pretty good size main farm house, a two level barn and a filed with hay bales.  It’s a great sniper map, and if you’re a good flanker it can be a perfect map for it. You definitely need to pay attention to the alternate routes that this map is full of. Same goes for the next map – Pipeline. It’s apparently a favorite since it showed up in Advanced Warfare, just tweaked a little for that game’s mechanics. It’s another big one, but sniping is tricky since there are plenty of interior routes to take to get closer to the snipers. I think there’s a good chance it’ll show up, and if it does, get ready to pick out enemies from farther away and then close on them.

Moving on down the list, we get to Shipment. This is probably the smallest map in the series, and it’s another fan favorite. It’s a great Free-For-All map, and just about any match on this map is total chaos. It’s full of tight corners, medium range sight lines and plenty of angles to toss grenades on. I really doubt this one won’t show up – it’s too damn popular to not. Hopefully it shows up in more playlists though. With only a few more maps to go, let’s talk about Showdown. It’s another simple map – it’s a big rectangle/courtyard with a couple levels to it. Lots of mid-range combat, a couple good ambush places, and it’s a great map for Helicopter support. I’m on the fence with this one – I could definitely see it moving forward, but at the same time, I could easily see them leaving it behind. It’s just not overly special. Next up is Strike, another really popular map. This one is tough for me to call. I had a lot more fun with the map when they put it in Modern Warfare 2. It’s not a bad map, it’s got a good mix of interior and road combat and I think plenty of different loadouts work well. Our second-to-last map to look at is Vacant. Another that showed up in the sequel, Vacant is a great close range map. There’s lots of tight corners, combined with a couple mid-range hallways. It’s the other map that I used to like using shotguns on – running through the halls with Juggernaut and RPGs with a shotgun was a lot of fun. I definitely hope that this one comes forward. Our final map is Wet Work – which we saw portions of in the reveal stream, or at least assets that were in Crew Expendable and probably could be used in the map. I definitely see it moving forward, even though it’s not my favorite map. It’s not bad – symmetrical in nature, with longer range combat definitely the more common action. My problem is just that when I first started playing MW, my friends wanted to play Search, and this map in particular had some camping issues. There was also a way to get out of the map and snipe from above the control room. I definitely think this one is coming forward, but I would really rather see something like Bloc show up.

There’s still a lot to learn about Infinite Warfare as well as the Modern Warfare Remaster before this November’s launch. But that just means that there’s plenty of time to talk about one of the best FPS games of the last ten years. If you can, I definitely think you maybe hopping on the old game isn’t a bad idea.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – (Re)Fresher

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareWith the official word that we’re going to get an updated, remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I thought I’d talk a little about the game for people who either didn’t ever play the original, or haven’t in a while. The franchise has evolved a lot since the original launch, so players who have come into the franchise since then might be a little surprised when they load up the classic. I’m looking mainly at the multiplayer side of things, specifically the weapons today. I’ll look at the maps tomorrow, since we’re getting the ten original maps in the remake.

The big thing that could really throw people for a loop is probably with the Create a CLass system from the original Multiplayer system. Now, we don’t know for sure if that’s what we’re getting, but it’s a safe bet that we’re getting the original multiplayer across the board. We’ve been spoiled over the last handful of games with the pick-ten system, but that’s not how it worked in the good old days. We had a primary, a secondary, tactical and grenade, and three perks – that’s it. A lot of what we’re used to in terms of flexibility wasn’t there. When you combine that with the smaller number of weapons, I can see how newer fans might go into the remake with some negative opinions. What I think actually ends up happening is that a lot more power is put into the players’ thumbs. Yes, there were a couple weapons that were a little stronger than the rest – M16, M4, MP5, M40A3 – but pretty much every weapon was competitive. It’s a lot easier to put in the time to become familiar with the weapons, since there aren’t as many to work on. The drive for camo completions also isn’t quite there, because Gold camo only existed for one gun per class. That’s one of those things that I could see changing for the Remaster, the challenges in general were pretty threadbare compared with the later games.

COD 4 Create a Class

The weapons themselves I don’t think will be a huge hurdle for newer players to get over. There isn’t a huge difference between the weapons within a class like now – between burst-fire SMGs, autobursts, semi-auto, burst fire snipers, it can be hard to really get good with a gun. The old set though really only had a couple things to deal with – two semi-auto assault rifles, one burst fire one, and that’s about it. You’ve got the typical mix of bolt-action and semi-auto snipers, and different fire-rates for the SMGs mainly to worry about. The weapon classes all feel pretty good – or at least did back then – they fit their roles to a tee. There aren’t as many attachments to really worry about either, so the barrier for entry for higher level play isn’t as high as it might be now. What becomes more important as you continue playing is map knowledge and game flow awareness.

A couple last quick points that new players might need to get used to with the remake. First is the pace of the game. Pretty much every Call of Duty since Black Ops has been focused a lot around fast infantry combat. Even Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III with the boost jumping and wall running is still infantry and plays super fast. Modern Warfare not so much – it’s a much slower pace than what we’ve been playing for the last handful of years. You might need to take a few games to get used to the slower pace and more emphasis on cover useage. Second is the killstreaks present. We’ve had a plethora to use ever since Modern Warfare 2. The original only had three though – UAV at 3 kills, Air Strike at 5 kills and a Helicopter at 7 kills. They don’t stack like they do now, you have to use them in order and they can be overwritten if you die and go on a second streak. Again, that’s a system that I could maybe see them retool, but if it doesn’t change, you’ll probably have to get used to calling those streaks in more frequently.

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.

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.

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.