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Ranking The Call Of Duty Series

by Dan Ryckert on Sep 16, 2013 at 08:32 AM

All month long, we're covering Call of Duty: Ghosts in conjunction with our October cover story. When it releases in November, it will mark the tenth release in the core series. Throughout all of those games, Infinity Ward and Treyarch have managed to maintain a steady bar of quality that rarely dropped. It's not the easiest franchise in the world to rank because of this, but we're going to try anyway. Read on to see where we placed each of the previous nine Call of Duty games.

9. Call of Duty 3

The lowest point in the franchise came with its third entry in 2006. While it was still a solid game, its globetrotting World War II campaign began to feel repetitive after the two similar entries that preceded it. Awkward quick-time events during scripted melee segments didn't help, either.

8. Call of Duty: World At War

If World War II felt tired by the time Call of Duty 3 came along, it was disappointing to return to the same era after the amazing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. On the plus side, Treyarch's campaign was better than their previous effort, and this entry marked the first appearance of the popular Zombies mode.

7. Call of Duty 2

When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, Call of Duty 2 was many gamers' go-to launch title. Its multiplayer seems basic by the standards set in later entries, but it was a blast in the early days of the new console. Impressive smoke effects and overall visual quality were also a nice reminder that we were about to embark on a new generation of console gaming.

6. Call of Duty

2003's original entry in the series seems dated ten years later, but it immediately landed on the radar of shooter fans with its impressive campaign. For one of the first times, an FPS actually made gamers feel like they were just one man in a larger war. Friendly AI actually helped in shootouts, and an impressive amount of characters could be onscreen at once. The big set piece moments that became large parts of later entries were also in place, via smaller-scale memorable moments.

5. Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Treyarch had hit their stride prior to last year's Black Ops II, and this sequel was the second-best entry in the studio's portfolio. Multiplayer introduced the flexible Pick 10 system, and its campaign featured one of the best antagonists in the franchise. Outside of poorly-implemented sandbox levels, Black Ops II introduced some fun new elements (alternate endings, multiple decisions, etc) to the series' increasingly-formulaic campaigns.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

When Jason West and Vince Zampella had their very public, very messy falling-out with Activision, many were left wondering what it would mean for the quality of the upcoming Modern Warfare 3. Thankfully, the turmoil surrounding those events didn't result in the train wreck that some feared. Modern Warfare 3 was solid on all fronts, with new strike packages added to multiplayer and the culmination of plot threads that were raised in previous entries.

3. Call of Duty: Black Ops

This was the entry that made many stop viewing Treyarch as Call of Duty's "B team." A new currency system and fun party games helped to liven up multiplayer. After two World War II titles, the studio seemed to relish the chance to get a little crazy with a new storyline and universe.

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Infinity Ward's follow-up to the massively successful Call of Duty 4 was a slam dunk on both critical and commercial fronts. West, Zampella, and the rest of the team at Infinity Ward took elements that made the original Modern Warfare such a success and expanded on them greatly, especially on the feature-packed multiplayer front. Its campaign delivered as well, with a sometimes-shocking story that brought the conflict stateside.

1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The first three Call of Duty games were impressive on a technical level and from a gameplay perspective, but the World War II setting quickly grew tiresome. With Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward gave the franchise an immediate shot in the arm with a storyline that takes place in the present day. Tons of new technology and weaponry was immediately made available thanks to the setting, and it made for the best overall title in this consistently-solid series. Multiplayer was greatly expanded upon, and the single player campaign was filled with jaw-dropping moments. Later entries in the series may have expanded upon the groundwork that Modern Warfare laid, but none have dramatically raised the quality bar like this one did.