Call of Duty has been around for quite some time. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Activision found the tactical shooter goldmine that the franchise could be when developer Infinity Ward unleashed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (COD4) on the market. With developers who previously worked on the Medal of Honor franchise for Electronic Arts, Infinity Ward made something that resonated with gamers for years to come. They created a brilliantly addictive and fast-paced military shooter that kept players coming back for more. COD4 boasted the smoothest controls, best graphics, and highest frame rates available on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Furthermore, it included a progression system that thrilled players. Many sought to achieve the highest prestige rankings possible, which required countless hours of play.
We’re 11 years removed from COD4, and another Call of Duty is upon us this fall. Regular series entries have become as annually routine as holidays such as Halloween or Christmas. At this point, most young teenagers can’t remember a year in their life when a Call of Duty game wasn’t being released. Activision has 3 studios rotating development, and this year’s studio is Treyarch. This studio is famous for introducing the popular zombie onslaught mode first debuting in Call of Duty: World at War in 2008. Now, Treyarch is bringing us the fourth entry in its Black Ops series with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. In honor of the upcoming release, let’s take a retrospective look at the five best innovations in the multiplayer aspect of this franchise since COD4.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) was the highly anticipated sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. COD4 impacted the industry in such a way that the publisher opted to number its sequel based on its predecessor’s subtitle, Modern Warfare. MW2 sought to do everything COD4 did, but bigger and better.
Killstreaks and perks reached a new level of depth. Options for perks increased two-fold, allowing players a larger selection. Additionally, Killstreaks became semi-customizable as players could select the specific Killstreak reward they wanted for different levels of kills. New Killstreaks such as the sentry gun, a guided drone missile strike, and the famed tactical nuke were all new additions to MW2. Many of us remember matches that were ended abruptly with the detonation of a nuclear bomb once a skilled player had achieved 25 kills without dying. Some of us may even remember being the one to push the nuclear button.
This is the moment when Treyarch truly came into their own as a respected developer of the franchise among fans. Until this point, Treyarch’s previous titles, Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: World at War, weren’t as well-received as Infinity Ward’s offerings. The multiplayer gave players a fresh set of options for going toe to toe with each other. Perks were now upgradeable. Emblems were fully customizable, allowing players to bring out their artistic skills to create something unique (or crass as some tend to do). Additionally, a new currency system was put into place where gamers could purchase weapons, accessories, and gear with in-game “COD Points.” These points could also be gambled in wager matches. Contracts could likewise be purchased with these points to gain more XP or currency.
Future tech in the Call of Duty franchise was first featured here in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The game still largely retained a boots-on-the-ground feel that later futuristic games lost with the advent of high-tech suits. Black Ops II introduced the “Pick 10” system to its Create-a-Class menu. Pick 10 provided players with more freedom to customize their loadout the way they wanted. For instance, a player could choose to add more perks to the 10-item loadout, sacrificing gun attachments or other items such as grenades.
Black Ops II also took a step forward in increasing the franchise’s accessibility to broader audiences. Let’s be honest–Call of Duty has become a franchise that largely caters to hardcore players with skill. Casual players are typically blasted into oblivion when entering the multiplayer landscape. Killstreaks were now called Scorestreaks. Ergo, the benefits were two-fold. On one hand, it paid to complete objectives and bolster your Scorestreak that way. On the other hand, it emboldened less-skilled players who preferred to achieve streak rewards through objectives instead of kills.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was the first entry in the franchise from Activision’s newly acquired developer, Sledgehammer Games. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The game’s setting took place in 2054, so naturally, everything was advanced as the name implies. All soldiers were equipped with an Exoskeleton suit or Exo. The Exo suit alone vastly revamped the Call of Duty we know by introducing verticality to the series. Players could jump up to rooftops with ease. Additional Exo suit movements also aided in varying the series from its traditional formula. In addition to revamped gameplay, Sledgehammer Games also built the game’s engine from scratch for the first time since before COD4. The visual upgrade was desperately needed, and critics took note.
Following the popularity of Advanced Warfare, Activision and its developing studios seemed to lean heavier into futuristic settings. After Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare, the old Call of Duty formula was no longer present. The games heavily featured future-tech that involved suits enabling wall-running, double-jumping, and hovering. Additionally, Killstreak rewards were highly overpowered, enabling mass casualties with technological ease. Once again, highly skilled players ruled the day and casual players were pushed out. As a result, Infinite Warfare was one of the most underperforming titles in the past decade.
Enter Call of Duty: WWII. It was Sledgehammer’s chance to change the downward slide. And change it, they did. The developer not only brought the game back to its roots in the World War II setting, but simultaneously gave it the old familiar boots-on-the-ground gameplay again. Fans appreciated this change as sales of the game soared back to the heights of the franchise’s more popular entries. COD: WWII innovated by making the game more social, introducing a hub where players can connect. Additionally, multiple divisions such as infantry, airborne, or armored were included that provide different progression options and perks.
With Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 on the way, what are your hopes for the franchise? Do you think Black Ops 4 can recapture excitement for the shooter series like COD: WWII did? Are you excited for Call of Duty‘s version of Battle Royale? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And, as always, check back often for the latest on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night. Somewhere in between all of that, I’m a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too. If a game is all about action, there’s a safe bet I’m playing it. I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin’ on the ol’ Atari and haven’t stopped since.