Call of Duty: WWII will be making its way out in just a couple of months, returning gamers to the root of the series, since it began in that era to begin with. But it’s not likely to stay there next year, as there are already reports that Treyarch is bringing back the “modern” theme with next year’s game.
And that got us thinking. The spectrum of Call of Duty games over the past few years has been nothing short of mesmerizing. First we went into the past with the World War II games, and even paid a small trip to the 60’s during Black Ops.
Then came the present games, the Modern Warfare trilogy that really brought the theme of war home, with modern weaponry and technology.
Finally, the future followed, with games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare introducing tech beyond our normal reach – even if some folks believed the series lost its way with the introduction of this era.
So there are three different settings to consider when it comes to Call of Duty. So, which one is the best? Well, there are many factors to consider, so let’s look at each one.
Past – World War II
The series got its start with the World War II setting, as the original Call of Duty became a critical darling on the PC front, before making its way to consoles with Finest Hour. Call of Duty II followed a year later, and really showed what Infinity Ward was capable of with development, as it became one of the bigger hits for the Xbox 360 launch, as well as PC.
And the series stayed that way for a little while. Even with the introduction of Modern Warfare in 2007, Treyarch kept with the theme with the 2008 release World At War, which became a big hit for the company and also introduced the world to the Zombies mode, in which players fend off against invading hordes of the undead, buying new weapons and supplies along the way.
The franchise will return to these roots this year with Call of Duty: WWII, which promises to recapture the grittiness of the war as the original games did, but with the advanced technology we’ve come to expect from Infinity Ward’s development tech.
Past -- Positives and Negatives
What negatives can come from the World War II setting? Not much, really. Call of Duty: WWII looks frickin’ intense, and makes proper use of Infinity Ward’s latest game engine, so that it looks damn wonderful.
If anything, some players may complain that the combat is too “basic” compared to the modern and future games in the series. There’s no double jump, no drone action, no wall running, just boots to the ground gameplay. But for the few that are registering complaints with that, there are many who have been waiting for the series to return to this type of play for years. Us included.
So the past has a major advantage when it comes to Call of Duty setting, mainly because that’s where the series got its start and most of its fanbase. But let’s look at the other eras before we make a final decision…
Present – Modern Warfare
The present setting for Call of Duty made its debut in 2007 with Modern Warfare, a game that changed the landscape for the series as we know it, with its dramatic events and incredible action. It continues to be a big hit today, thanks to the wonderfully produced Modern Warfare Remastered. That entry catapulted not only the single player side of the story with memorable characters, like Captain Price, but also multiplayer.
And it continued that way for a few years, as Infinity Ward released Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3 shortly thereafter, wrapping up the series arc and producing a memorable tale as a result. And it didn’t stop with shocking moments either, delivering everything from a devastating terrorist attack that wiped out a family, to the infamous “No Russian” airport assault.
Since then, the series has kind of dipped into more modern themes, but in the more distant future, which we’ll cover in the next portion of this article. But it’s hard to forget the impact of Modern Warfare, especially considering how well the developers did on the entire trilogy.
Present -- Positives and Negatives
Again, not too many negatives here. Some players that were used to the World War II settings might have been thrown off by the visceral nature of Modern Warfare, or not prepared for its evolution in multiplayer. But, again, a small minority compared to the majority that “got it” and accepted it in droves.
Multiplayer saw the biggest boost, with a number of new features that became favorites to casual and pro players alike, and the introduction of new assists, like more advanced killstreaks and specialized modes, that became an overnight sensation.
Single player, though, also had its moments, again with those shocking turns and betrayals (damn it, Shepard), and a superb style throughout.
So, again, very little negative here, so it’s tough to call if this wins the overall era period or not. It’s definitely a contender.
Future – The Black Ops Era, And Beyond
This is where things get a little bit fuzzy, as the futuristic games in the Call of Duty lexicon fared very well, though it left some fans feeling a little bitter. The future-style settings started with Call of Duty: Black Ops II in 2012, which took players into the distant future and introduced a number of vehicles, alongside its settings in the past. That theme continued in 2015 with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, also from Treyarch.
Other developers got in on the action as well. In 2014, Sledgehammer Games knocked out a great effort with Advanced Warfare, introducing a private military conglomerate and getting a wonderful performance out of Kevin Spacey. But then, in 2016, Infinity Ward released Infinite Warfare, the game that truly divided up the Call of Duty community more than any game before it, taking place even further in the future and introducing space-oriented themes.
So how does this category fare?
Future -- Positives and Negatives
The big negative here is Infinite Warfare. As great as a game as it may be, it wasn’t the Call of Duty experience that a lot of players were looking for. Some even thought it was more like Halo than Call of Duty with its setting, turning them off almost instantly. Even with its multiplayer classes and unique combat – as well as a terrific Zombies mode – it wasn’t for everyone.
So does that mean Future loses right away? Hold the phone. As much as fans may have hated Infinite Warfare, there were more than enough that truly enjoyed the Black Ops games, as well as Advanced Warfare. They accepted the new gameplay nuances and really got into them, both in single player and multiplayer.
Not only that, but Sledgehammer Games did a terrific job with its Advanced Warfare story, and created one of the series’ best villains with Jonathan Irons, Spacey’s character. It was a brave turn that showed the developer had plenty of talent, just as WWII is sure to do this November.
There’s stuff to consider here as well when it comes to the era argument, but it’s time to make a final call. Who wins?
Overall Winner – Single Player
This was tough. The earlier Call of Duty games told a great story, as did Black Ops II and Advanced Warfare years later in the series. But in the end, Modern Warfare really shook things up.
The initial release did a stunning job setting the stage for the new COD as we would see it, while at the same time really making sense in terms of modern themes. And there was always a shocker waiting around the corner, something very few games in the series did.
So when it comes to single player, the nod goes to the Modern Warfare trilogy. My only hope is that, with its next project, Infinity Ward gets back on that level, instead of taking the confusing route it did with Ghosts, or the outer space-theme with Infinite Warfare. If that means getting a Modern Warfare 4, I’m all for it.
Overall Winner – Multiplayer
This was also a very tough call. Some of the advancements in multiplayer with the modern and future games have been amazing, including the killstreaks and the increased movement for your character. But let’s be frank here – people got into this series based on a simple gameplay style, and that’s where the games from the past really come in.
Sure, there are no vehicles, no fancy gimmicks, no double jumps, but that’s what makes Call of Duty so magical – it actually feels like you’re in the heat of battle, with very little to lean on outside of your wits. And that’s where the World War II games really resonate with us.
Plus, we got genuinely excited with what the Call of Duty: WWII beta had to offer. It just feels right, when it comes to its gameplay style and visceral combat, and it has some of the killstreaks and other new tricks included as well. So we’re kind of getting the best of both worlds, even if it is back in World War II.
So there you have it. The series found its footing with classic multiplayer, and that’s where we put our vote.
That said, if we have to mention Zombies…the future games really win here. But that’s kind of a cheat, because we’re considering Zombies In Spaceland and Shadows of Evil…which took place in the past. Soooo...yeah.