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.