I remember being a little kid and having this little ritual that involved me going to Blockbuster to rent new games at least once a month, and every now and then I would rent a WWII shooter, back when they were very relevant and some would say oversaturated back during the PS2 era. After some time, however, I went to my local Blockbuster around 2006 and there was a copy of Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for the PS2. I wasn’t familiar with the series at the time because before then, the Call of Duty series was made primarily on PC. Since there was nothing else that sparked my interest available that day (it was a Saturday), I decided to give Call of Duty 2: Big Red One a shot since I had heard good things about it, but was still a little skeptical of playing through a WWII game since, to me, they always felt like the same game and I never cared for the guns.
After playing through it, I was pleasantly surprised and actually had fun, even though I really didn’t care to follow the WWII storyline at the time. I kept my eyes on the series afterwards and was able to play Call of Duty 3 for PS3 at my brother’s house around early 2007. Then it happened, Infinity Ward took Call of Duty to the next level with Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare in November of 2007, breaking sales records for the franchise. The rest is history, with this installment being the “it” game of the year and the next. I didn’t have my own PS3 at the time so I had to mooch off of my brother just to have a chance to play it. It became one of my favorite games of 2007-2008. Having a modern story dealing with the relevant terrorism acts that we were dealing with in real life, while not new in terms of games not having done this before, still turned out to be interesting and this was aided by Call of Duty’s new trade mark set piece moments that set the bar high for triple AAA shooters to come.
Around late 2008 Call of Duty: World at War, developed by Treyarch, came out and I was instantly turned off due to the departure back into the WWII era. I still had fun playing the multiplayer with family and friends from time to time. It was around this time where I really began to take notice in the differences between Infinity Ward’s and Treyarch’s development styles for Call of Duty.
When Infinity Ward announced Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I was instantly excited for the series to get back into the Modern Warfare setting, and while I was able to have fun with the multiplayer and enjoyed the story as well as the new addition of co-op Spec Ops missions, one thing that bothered me about Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer was the high killstreak spamming. After a few months the multiplayer matches in the game turned into people jumping into a match and instantly getting killed off numerous times by: Chopper Gunners, Pave Lows, AC-130s and Attack Helicopters.
While there were ways to counter act these killstreaks, it was too much of a hassle and getting instakilled right when spawning makes shooting down an attacking helicopter somewhat difficult. Another thing that bothered me about Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer and the multiplayer for the majority of the Call of Duty games as well (this can be related to the majority of multiplayer games that have come out this console generation as well), is when you join a match and not only is it almost over, but you’re on the losing team as well. Problems aside I still enjoyed Modern Warfare 2, but eventually put it aside to pursue other first person shooters.
Around 2010 Treyarch announced that they were working on the next Call of Duty game, but after World at War I honestly wasn’t that excited for it until it became apparent that the game was going to be set in the Cold War era, which meant a more slightly modern setting compared to World at War. After learning more about the game and its title, Call of Duty: Black Ops, I decided to pick it up for myself as an early Christmas present. Little did I know the impact this game was going to have on my appreciation for Call of Duty and Treyarch.
Black Ops’s story blew me away mainly due to its play on actual history and its theme of MK-Ultra esc mind control during a period in our lives when conspiracy theories were on the rise about our government and the debate of whether the Illuminati were a real organization bent on controlling the world. After playing through Black Ops, it become one of my favorite campaigns of the entire Call of Duty history and while some say that Treyarch traded in big set piece moments for a more focused story, I couldn’t have been happier. An engaging story is something that I always appreciate in games.
Multiplayer was something that I never spent a lot of time with in Call of Duty games, I would usually level up halfway through the level tree then just play the game casually, mainly if friends were playing it, but something about Black Ops’s multiplayer just clicked with me and the feeling of longevity ensued. This may have been due to the fact that, for me, Black Ops had the most balanced killstreak system since Call of Duty 4. While it definitely wasn’t perfect, with inclusions of attack dogs and chopper gunners, they were easily manageable and people weren’t spamming the higher killstreaks left and right as compared to past Call of Duty games.
The addictive zombies mode was a huge part of the game that, since I didn’t spend time with in World at War, was a brand new thing to me. Some may say that an endless wave of zombie killing isn’t that fun, it was mainly for those who wanted to test their skills and see how far they could get without dying. This was something I liked to test a lot and as a whole, Black Ops sparked an interest in the series that I didn’t have since Call of Duty 4.
Leading into the 2011 Holiday season, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was close to release and even with a departure of key staff members from Infinity Ward and having multiple developers work on the game, Modern Warfare 3 released to high sales but had a very split fanbase due to those feeling ripped off by Call of Duty Elite and those who hated the multiplayer maps, guns etc. For me, however, Modern Warfare 3 wasn’t that much of a bad game, mainly because I judge games as a whole and not on one gameplay element whether their multiplayer driven or not, and between the storyline that wrapped up the Modern Warfare story, the new Spec Ops survival and additional Spec Ops missions, and the multiplayer, I was satisfied but at the same time not as engaged with the game as I was with Black Ops.
Due to the way most fans reacted to Modern Warfare 3, the Elite service, the numerous patches and gun nerfs (fixing an overpowered gun), Modern Warfare 3 just had a bad vibe all around it. With the way the fans treated Modern Warfare 3, it’s now up to Treyarch to show people that Call of Duty developers can make a great Call of Duty game and win back those who were disappointed with Modern Warfare 3. It looks like Treyarch is really trying something new with Black Ops II.
With the addition of a branching storyline that will, for the first time, mean a Call of Duty campaign will not be linear, expanding on their zombies game mode by turning it into its own game and multiplayer getting issues of past games addressed, Black Ops II looks to be a great addition to the Call of Duty franchise and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on it.