Unlike its' contemporaries, Call of Duty's single-player narrative wasn't fixed a superhero soldier, hellbent on a quest to liberate Europe single-handedly, it was stitched together from multiple perspectives. The campaign flitted between an American GI, a British paratrooper, and Soviet conscript, taking in a two and half year period. (There's even an appearance of a Captain Price.)
The cover art that really tells you everything you need know. It depicts a superior officer issuing orders - he's talking to you, his hand
outstretched with a expectant finger pointing in your direction. In the background, Europe burns. It's time to do something.
Call of Duty is today rightly celebrated for its multiplayer, and it's arguably the main reason for the game's tremendous success, but these early entries in the series have a more enduring influence on the single-player experience, laying down principles which still remain largely intact to this day.
Multiplayer was less of a leap forward after the dramatic changes Modern Warfare had brought about. This time around it was about making it more accessible for the n00b. If you were spawn-killed three times in a row, you were deviously given the ability to steal your killer's load out via the Copycat Deathstreak. It was also the most customisable Call of Duty yet, with the multiplayer brimming with emblems, titles, and clan tags. It was about making it yours.
The second entry in the Modern Warfare arc brought lots to the table. Missions increasingly began to ignore the rude demands of realism, with situations becoming more preposterous; whether it was taking a leap of faith across a frozen ravine or frantically evacuating a gulag that was collapsing in on itself, Modern Warfare was bigger, bolder, and more swaggering.
Riffing heavily on exploitation movies and good old-fashioned shlock, Zombies is delightful success within the bigger Call of Duty narrative. It serves as a weird, irreverent counterpoint to the bluster of the single-player campaign and the ever-escalating stakes of the multiplayer. And yet such is the popularity of the series, Zombies has almost become a game in itself.
Call of Duty always felt like it belonged to Infinity Ward. After all, the developer created the franchise and was responsible for its earliest and most successful incarnations. But Black Ops saw Treyarch elevate its status considerably, becoming every bit the equal of Infinity Ward in the eyes of players.
People who choose to play the game should be less focused on the controversy and more interested about how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 “innovates not as much in its gameplay as in how it manipulates the emotions of players” (Schiesel).
Given the outrageous success of Modern Warfare, it's perhaps surprising that Treyarch returned to the history books for inspiration. But it was now the Sixties, the birth of the US Special Forces and the Cold War that received the Call of Duty treatment. It's a game that
multiplayer; it incentivised playing one more match before stopping, and maybe just one more before bed. Combined with other innovations like Perks - key abilities to tailor your character - and Killstreaks - the unlocking of powerful weapons by stringing together kills - and Call of Duty's multiplayer had become a game in its own right. It was quite literally a game changer.
Modern Warfare also continued Call of Duty 3's drive to improve and expand the multiplayer. It was every bit the equal of the campaign. There was now a huge array of modes available. But more important than just variety was the introduction of a powerful new concept to the genre: XP. Characters were now persistent entities that levelled up over time. Experience was earned by killing enemies and completing tasks. After levelling, you could acquire new weapons and learn new abilities. At the time, this framework was more closely associated with the burgeoning MMO space. But it was a crucial addition to Call of Duty's
It's not unfair to say that characterisation has never been a big focus for the series. Call of Duty has always concentrated on gameplay, multiplayer, and crafting sequences that wring excitement from the player. But it was now down to two familiar characters - Soap and Price - to save the world before it destroyed itself. It was the ultimate against-the-odds suicide mission. After two games, and countless near-death experiences, these two gruff avatars provided a strangely
All Ghillied Up, set in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, remains a highpoint for the game's single-player campaign. Tense, claustrophobic, yet still laced with thrills, it has everything you'd want from a Call of Duty mission. Lying on your front in the tall grass while enemy patrols walk right by is one of the most memorable moments the series has ever produced.
Modern Warfare 3's campaign continued to surpass the ambition of Hollywood. Whether it was protecting the Russian president aboard his private jet as violent turbulence created moments of weightlessness or chasing hostiles on the London Underground, Modern Warfare 3 was drenched in adrenaline and a smidge of absurdity. Proudly so.
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