With Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 being the first game in the COD series to release with no single-player campaign (not counting the “campaign” in the zombies mode), us fine folks here at Gaming Respawn have decided to take a look back at the campaigns of the previous games to see which ones we found to be the best. It was quite the process since several of us are big fans of the series, and we all have our favorites that we say are the very best and that we’ll defend to the death. But we all made our votes, and the numbers are in. Here are the top 5 Call of Duty campaigns.
5. Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty: WWII has one of the greatest campaigns in COD history for many reasons. For one thing, it has one of the most intense and action-packed opening missions in FPS history as it opens on D-Day. It is arguably the best depiction of the D-Day landings in a video game, hitting a perfect middle point between realism and fun shock factor, something that can be hard to do with such a sensitive subject. Throughout the campaign, the player will likely find themselves very invested in the characters and on edge if they suspect a main NPC was about to meet their demise. At no point in this campaign did a mission drag, and it was entertaining as hell from start to finish. Perhaps a reason so many fans love this campaign so much is due to the fact that it was the first boots on the ground game after a long string of futuristic titles that many others found to be more tedious with each release.
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty: Black Ops II was an amazing game. Almost every Call of Duty fan will agree with that statement. However, one aspect of the game that often gets overlooked by many people is the campaign and just how revolutionary it was for the whole franchise. The campaign for Black Ops II was something that had never been seen before or since due to its branching storyline. Yes, this game gave you, the player, different choices that you had to make throughout the campaign that would change future events. There are also many references and reoccurring characters from the first Black Ops, which made the game feel like part of a longer running story. You see, the campaign for Black Ops II takes place in two different time periods, namely the 1980s, where you follow the characters from the first Black Ops, like Alex Mason and Frank Woods, and the year 2025, where you follow David ‘Section’ Mason, Alex Mason’s son, as he tries to find and take down Raul Menendez, the main villain of this game, and his arc stretches over both time periods.
This is where the multiple choices come into play. Over the course of the game, there are a lot of different decisions you have to make that will directly affect the outcome of it all. One of the most intriguing of these has to be when you are ordered to kill someone who is supposedly Raul Menendez, but it turns out it was Alex Mason. If you shot him in the head, then Mason obviously ends up dead, but if you instead shot him in the leg, he will survive and show up at the end of the game in a post-credits sequence where he reunites with his son, David, after he comes to check on Woods in his retirement home to see if he’s alright. This whole mechanic added a lot of replay value to the campaign since you could make different choices and get different endings, unlike with most other Call of Duty campaigns which are mostly one-trick ponies. It also helps that all the characters are very well written and performed, and they take the time necessary to explain to you why they are the way they are and why they are doing what they are doing. This all adds up to be an absolute rollercoaster of a campaign and one that you will always want to ride again.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops
When looking at Call of Duty campaigns, Treyarch’s Cold War thriller has to be near the top of the list. The way the story was told was superb. By starting in an interrogation setting with a man shouting, “What do the numbers mean, Mason?!”, you are already thinking that this is not going to be any ordinary FPS campaign. Alex Mason then recalls the failed assassination of Fidel Castro that he was involved in, after which Mason got captured and sent to a Russian worker camp. The next mission then brings back a character from Call of Duty: World at War, Victor Reznov. Mission 2 is the escape from this camp with Reznov, and it is up there with one of the best missions in any COD campaign. As time goes on, you try and piece together how you ended up in this interrogation chair. You take in all parts of the Cold War from snow-topped mountains in Russia to a rain-soaked escape deep in Vietnam.
The best part of this campaign are the twists and turns the story takes. Throughout the campaign, Mason is rescued by Reznov, but by playing sequences with other members of the army, such as Frank Woods and Hudson, you learn that the Russian camp was actually used to create sleeper agents to release a chemical called Nova 6 throughout the USA, and that Reznov never made it out of the camp; it was actually Reznov who disrupted the brainwashing and told Mason to kill those who betrayed him. In the end, you figure out the numbers were the code to activate the sleeper agents, and the next task was to find where the transmission was coming from. Only eagle-eyed players would have spotted and guessed this place: It was the same ship that Mason saw after he was captured in the beginning of the game, the Rusalka.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is possibly the most fun many fans of COD can have as they will likely not see the twists coming, and the different battle locations really do keep things varied. Also, the weapons really felt like amazing homages to the actual weapons of the time.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Following on from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2 makes things more personal as we learn that Vladimir Makarov, a former lieutenant of the new hero of Russia, Imran Zakhaev, launches an all-out takeover of Europe and North America. As much as the story is as brutal and personal as it is, it’s the abundance of breathtaking moments that occur within Modern Warfare 2 that makes it one of the most standout campaigns of the series.
Starting off with a clean-up of Afghani insurgents with an oh-too-real ambush of an American convoy, the battles that follow take place in civilian locations, such as a school. It’s an example of how things can turn from a gentle patrol to a fight for survival in an instant. After it’s over, we’re then placed in control of a couple of familiar faces, Captain Price and Soap, as we scale an icy mountain summit to a remote military base under the cover of a whiteout blizzard. This mission is one of the best remembered missions of the series because of the high production value and the incredible way it turns from a stealth mission to a Mission: Impossible-style escape climaxing to a super enjoyable snowmobile chase.
With our pulses are racing, we exhale after holding our breaths for the better part of 20 minutes, and the game’s tone takes a very dark turn as we are about to take part in a mission that brought shed loads of controversy to not only the game itself but Infinity Ward as a whole. This particular mission is the infamous “No Russian”, which is the last thing you’re told by Makarov just before you take part in a worldwide tragedy. There is no handholding or cinematic cutscene to explain it, you literally walk at a slow pace, armed to the teeth, as you unleash a massacre at a civilian airport. People run for their lives, security and police fight back in vain, but they fail to take you down as your onslaught continues. It’s not for the fainthearted, and it certainly separated audiences, with a lot of people saying that it was unnecessary, but it was an interactive window into events that sadly occur in the real world.
Once the tragedy is over, we are soon assaulting the Favela of Rio de Janeiro in search for an arms dealer with an extraction that doesn’t go as planned. Pulses raise sky high once again as we fall through a collapsing makeshift gangway just before making it to the waiting chopper. What follows is an unarmed scramble to safety, dodging bullets the whole way.
The fight then gets placed in America’s suburbs as you are tasked with fighting Russian invaders in a normal, albeit shot-up, street, finalised by taking refuge in a burger joint as waves of soldiers attempt to take you down. We are then granted access to the Predator missile in this mission, a huge explosive shell that is guided to its target via infrared. It’s seriously cool, and the camera whips back fast enough for you to spectate the explosion from the ground too. We finish up by assaulting the ruined White House, clearing up Russians and tracking down Shepherd, whom we now know to be a defector hiding out in an Afghan cave system.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an incredible single-player experience with a campaign jam-packed with both famous and infamous memorable moments. Where’s that remaster?
1. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
The pinnacle of the Call of Duty campaign comes down to taking the grade-A cinematic moments and awesome set pieces into outer space. The story of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is an action-packed thrill ride from beginning to end as we play as Nick Reyes (played by Brian Bloom), Commander of the UNSA who are at war with the Settlement Defense Front, a rogue state that plans on taking all the solar system’s resources for themselves. At the head of the SDF is Admiral Salen Kotch (played by Kit Harrington), who stays safe aboard his juggernaut warship, the Olympus Mons. The star-studded cast plays a blinder here. Kit, of Game of Thrones fame, plays a brilliant baddie, and you shudder every time the Mons makes an appearance. As good as the acting is, which makes a superb story, it’s the countless number of memorable moments littering the campaign that set it apart from the rest. Key moments such as an SDF attack during a parade on Earth, the starting mission on Pluto and a hard-fought battle on an asteroid spinning out of control are but a few of the outstanding moments in Infinite Warfare.
It’s a campaign that can be replayed over and over. Each time you take your seat in your Jackal aircraft and prep for launch, you know you’re in for a real visual treat. It’s hard to top playing through a chase on the edge of Venus’ notoriously deadly atmosphere at breakneck speeds and taking down wanted ace pilots in a Star Wars-style dogfight in the reaches of space; it’s truly remarkable. Many gamers didn’t take to the fact their beloved boots-on-the-ground series took a giant leap to the stars, but it has done the series a huge justice by granting one of the most spectacular single-player campaigns of not only the series but of the first-person shooter genre.
There you have it, our top 5 Call of Duty campaigns. At the risk of inviting a series of flame wars into our comments sections (let’s face it, given COD’s fan base, insults and threats are inevitable), we invite you to comment below and let us know what your favorite COD campaign is and if you agree with our list.