Whether some of us care to acknowledge it or not, the fact is undeniable, and that fact is that the Call of Duty franchise has hit unimaginable heights. Its recent release, Call of Duty: Black Ops, has defied previous records and become the best selling video game during its release. Now, I am not going to go through the numbers on how much money Activision has generated from this title – I am sure we are all sick to death of hearing it. But, what I would like to look at is how this series came to be so successful. Let us take a tour from the very first war, and all the way up to what the future holds.
Call of Duty
The series began back in 2003 by the developer Infinity Ward and was based in World War II. It presented the style that is well known in today’s releases of Call of Duty; fast paced and intense action. It was praised by critics all over the world, scoring an average of 9.2.
At the time of release there was a trend for WWII shooters with no shortage of titles. Call of Duty had to directly compete with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and Battlefield 1942.
Call of Duty 2
Following the success of the first release, Infinity Ward decided to take a second tour of duty and returned to the battleground in 2005. The theme was WWII again and brought with it many of the successes that its prequel had. The story became more focused on being just one soldier in an immense war. The game again was widely successful with critics averaging a score of 8.8.
Call of Duty 3
If you weren’t tired of the WWII theme by now, then this release may of put you over that bar. Call of Duty 3, released in 2006, was the first game in the series to not be developed by Infinity Ward, but by Treyarch. Although the game saw a relatively high average score of 8.3 by critics, it was starting to show its repetitiveness. The single player was identical, but it did see improvements to its multiplayer side and also some stunning visuals that were unseen in the previous titles.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
In 2007 Infinity Ward was back at the helm again and created a Call of Duty unlike any of the previous releases – WWII was shelved for the modern day theme. The game produced a highly fueled single player action story; even though it was on the short side. It was acclaimed for its great multiplayer which resulted in critics giving this title a high 9.2 average.
Call of Duty: World at War
The series returned to familiar grounds (WWII) and personally this was one of my favourites. Treyarch was back at the helm for the 2008 release of Call of Duty: World at War and received praise for delivering the same recipe for an exciting single player campaign, and the multiplayer was familiar to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Critics scored this title an average of 8.5.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Infinity Ward, in 2009, released the most popular Call of Duty in the series; according to sales figures at the time. The game took everything Modern Warfare had and put it into overdrive. This was seen in the ridiculous single player campaign to the kill streak frenzied multiplayer (nuke FTL!). There are many that claim the original Modern Warfare still reigns supreme over this release even though this title just edged out with an average critic score of 9.3.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
The most recent instalment in the Call of Duty series saw the return of the developer Treyarch who have brought the game to the Cold War era. It is the most popular title in the series with sales records beating all previous games. This Call of Duty game was no different to its predecessors; it brought an action packed campaign coupled with thrilling multiplayer madness. Although, critics welcomed the game by complimenting it with a high average score of 8.8, gamers criticised it for its many bugs upon release.
The future is still very bright for the series, but ultimately the series needs to change direction. Throughout its history it has maintained a style in both its multiplayer and singleplayer, but I believe it requires some new radical ideas if it wants to stay in front of the pack – perhaps Modern Warfare 3 can deliver this. There has been many legal issues between Infinity Ward and Activision which has put delays into when this title might be released, but the good news is that fresh new talent has been employed by Infinity Ward to ensure a possible release in 2011.