Call of Duty is one of the biggest franchises to ever exist in video gaming history. It is quite interesting to note this almost annual series started with developers from EA’s market-winning first-person shooter game series, Medal of Honor. Though it started as a second fiddle to other first-person shooters on the market in 2003, the first CoD game remains among the most influential titles to this day. The series has had best-selling titles multiple times and gave us some of the most nerve-wracking plots and the best missions in first-person gaming history.
However, no matter how great this series is, we must agree: not all titles are created equal, and not every year was equally successful for Treyarch and Infinity Ward. The series has seen some ambitious titles fail miserably. In contrast, modern on-ground urban combat has sometimes won the hearts of gamers. Overall, Call of Duty is a first-person gaming phenomenon. A game library is incomplete without Call of Duty in it, albeit not necessarily every title. Thus, we have ranked the worst Call of Duty games ever released. By avoiding them, you will have a library your friends will be jealous of.
How We Ranked Them
Call of Duty has had several releases to date. These include 39 releases spread over home video-game consoles, PC, handheld consoles, smartphones, and more. However, we will only consider 19 major titles in the series, launched on three main platforms: Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Personal Computer (PC). Although a good chunk of about 20 titles is left out, they were mainly spin-offs of major releases and were never under the spotlight. In other words, they didn’t do anything to start or establish the legacy of the series, and will thus be left behind.
The remaining 19 titles still form a long series that was published over 18 years. There are some great games whose memories are going to stick with you until the very last day of your life, alongside some not-so-great titles. This article lists the releases from the worst the series has ever seen to the best bad Call of Duty title. Now that you know we’ll begin with the worst choice you can make, let’s take a look at them one by one.
1. Call of Duty 3
Call of Duty 3 was a title spoiled by how little effort Treyarch put into it. The sporadic success of Call of Duty 2 was envious, and it surprised no one when Treyarch published another World War title to keep up the streak. However, the unfinished combat and gameplay were easily visible. The campaign was not alluring, and the multiplayer felt like a mix-up of aspects of what the series was moving towards with their next launch, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Overall, the game didn’t feel complete, and parts of it were extremely repetitive.
Although Call of Duty 3 is not a game that will make you regret every moment you spend in it, the things this series has been able to achieve with other titles overshadowed it. Or, better said, what Treyarch was able to achieve with other releases did. Characters and story progression aren’t polished, and at this point, feel like they just needed more time in the oven. You would want to avoid this game unless you are a hardcore fan of war games. If that’s the case, you won’t want to miss the Canadian happenings of the Second World War.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is unlike Call of Duty 3. If the proverb “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is true, this game is its perfect example. We just have to replace ‘cooks’ with ‘deviations from the already-proven Call of Duty formula’. Infinity Ward had some high ambitions around this title, which lasted until this game was released on the market. The wild sci-fi formula this game sported was not welcome by the masses. Add to that a bleak story and poor character development spread across unusual locations like spaceships and extraterrestrial lands. It all made it feel like a rollercoaster and not a Call of Duty title.
However, the extreme attention to level design, character models, and the awesome pace are all commendable features. Treyarch made a graphical marvel with this troubled release. Still, the number of problems with the pillars of Call of Duty experience makes Infinite Warfare one of the worst games ever released in this series. It is a title that you should avoid unless you are a sci-fi fanboy.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is another title spoiled by sci-fi madness. Although it was released a year before the ultimate sci-fi dinginess, Infinite Warfare, Treyarch did not learn a lesson quickly. Their inability to narrate a linear story gets accentuated in this game, as it allows players to pick and complete any mission at will. However, the more confusing fact is that the campaign mode was completely omitted on the decade-old PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game felt like a déjà vu in the sense that most features, like mind-controlled weapons and drones, are not unique. Overall, Black Ops 3 is yet another graphical marvel you would want to steer clear of.
4. Call of Duty
There are obvious reasons the original Call of Duty, the game that started it all, isn’t an enjoyable experience in the early 2020s. The game runs on the good-old PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. Both consoles imposed hardware limitations that held developers back. This title is the first thing that Infinity Ward pulled off in its entirety. The just-formed studio had numerous developers from EA’s killer first-person shooter series, Medal of Honor. This meant that this title had a strong Medal of Honor influence rather than being unique. It lacked the Call of Duty flavor the series is so famous for. This, added with hardware restrictions on twenty-year-old home video game consoles, means playing this game isn’t fun anymore.
Call of Duty: Ghosts had a strong emphasis on the storyline. The brilliant narration coupled with a strong underlying story and pacing puts Ghosts among the very few CoD titles with more focus on the campaign mode compared to multiplayer. There are adequate plot twists, potential lines of connection for a future sequel, and interesting character development, at least on the side of the protagonists. When you look at the side of the antagonist, the game falls apart. There is no strong mystery surrounding the villain, which is unlike the previous Call of Duty games like Modern Warfare or Black Ops II.
This, coupled with an unfinished Multiplayer mode, makes Ghosts a mediocre game. The gameplay is no different from the previous titles, which worsens the experience. Despite being the first Call of Duty release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the game fails to utilize the full power of these consoles. We only see this effect in poorly developed character models and draw distances. Call of Duty: Ghosts is superb if you tend to enjoy the story this title has to provide. The bottom line is: if you don’t care about the gameplay, get it. Otherwise, turn away from this game.
Black Ops 4 almost sealed Call of Duty’s coffin. It was not welcome by the vast majority of the franchise’s fans because it lacked a Campaign mode. Removing it was a pretty bold move from Treyarch. The only reason this title is so high up on this list is that the gameplay did not suck, among two other reasons.
First, Black Ops 4 had an awesome zombie mode. It has become a staple in every Treyarch release at this point, and this mode was one of the major selling points of the series. Treyarch nailed this mode with its initial release along with Call of Duty: World at War. Ten years later, the zombie mode turned far better than what it was originally.
The second reason is Blackout, Activision’s first try at a fan-favorite battle royale game mode. While shooters were dominating this newly revived genre, Activision was left behind. It simply had no competitor to Apex Legends or PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. Blackout was an initial success, as it was a blend of the already-proven Call of Duty formula with the massively multiplayer and methodical approach popularized by battle royale games. Yet, it didn’t take long for this mode to completely die out on PC. Within a year from release, it took over half an hour to find a match. Even worse, it would fail due to an insufficient number of players in the lobby.
Call of Duty games tend to be full around the time they come out. Then, about half a year from release, Multiplayer becomes a ghost town. This, added with the fact that BO4 has no Campaign for players to enjoy, makes recommending this game difficult three years from publishing. Three years is a lot for a Call of Duty multiplayer, after all.
Advanced Warfare is among the first ventures Call of Duty took into futuristic games. It was the first time Sledgehammer Games developed a Call of Duty title by itself, and the results were not that pretty. Advanced Warfare’s excessive interest in politics coupled with the absurd idea the game sold to players made it miss the mark. The game was based on the public’s growing fear of private military contractors. It goes over the role these military units will play in society.
This idea is fairly imaginative, and video games can be a safe passage to explore not-so-real aspects that strike the human mind. This creates a reasonably interesting plot. Padded with high-tech weapons and the innovative exo-suit gameplay, the result makes moving around a bit difficult to master. Thankfully, it’s incredibly satisfying once you have gotten the hang of it. This little detail is praiseworthy. After all, Advanced Warfare added a learning curve to one of the most basic activities in any game: movement.
Overall, Advanced Warfare lives up to give an enjoyable experience unlike the previous games, but the game failed in the sales charts. Thus, it does not seem like Activision will be interested in a sequel any time soon.
Black Ops Cold War is an important release in the Black Ops series, as it merges the worlds of Black Ops and Modern Warfare. The game had an extremely polished Campaign game mode but feels overdone at this point. It was the first Call of Duty title that ever made it to the current-gen PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S. Unlike previous releases, it made use of the increased performance capabilities.
Black Ops Cold War is a departure from the standard Call of Duty Campaign formula. It gives players in-game options to choose from, especially in conversations. Although the effect of these alternative dialogues barely affects the overall story, it does mean Treyarch is trying something new. Another selling point of Black Ops Cold War is Warzone and the crossover story. For someone entirely into the story of Verdansk, Black Ops Cold War might answer a lot of questions. The game does feel polished, but Multiplayer mode, although great, feels like a downgrade from what we got with Modern Warfare.
Vanguard is another return to Call of Duty’s roots, the World Wars. Moreover, Vanguard might be one of the best war games we ever got from the publisher. Its Campaign mode has all kinks ironed out and polish added on top. The game feels like Sledgehammer’s best try at cinematic gameplay. Everything from getting bombed at a Russian outpost to reliving the Berlin situation after Hitler’s death feels fantastic. That’s not the end, however.
If the fantastic Campaign fails to amaze you, you can skip your way into the Multiplayer and the Zombies mode. The Multiplayer mode of this game has a lot to offer. It is different from the previous installments in this series in the sense that it gives wide liberty of customization. Most weapons can now carry up to 10 attachment mods, up from 4 in the previous games. Additionally, an improved and enlarged arsenal makes this mode way more fun. Although all these additions might seem irrelevant to a newcomer, a Call of Duty veteran will surely appreciate the effort Sledgehammer put into it.