It’s not just about the multiplayer.
Call of Duty has become one of the defining modern video game franchises, and has been a multiplayer staple for years now. Ever since the original Modern Warfare, it’s set a precedent for shooters, and others have followed suit. For how popular its multiplayer is, though, we can’t forget that each game features a full-fledged campaign that really shouldn’t be missed out on.
Because of Call of Duty’s huge multiplayer popularity, the campaign is something that can get overlooked at times. Honestly, the main reason I pick up every Call of Duty game is to play the single-player, and maybe touch the multiplayer and other modes for a little while after. The campaign has always been my focus, though.
Like many shooters’ story modes, Call of Duty’s campaigns are usually short affairs high in action and intensity. You’re not going to find some deep character development and head statements like you would in an RPG or something like that, but the campaigns are purely distilled action and fun. Each game also employs enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.
Modern Warfare was the first game in the series that really drew me in, and showed me the pulse pounding excitement that a shooter can have. Every mission of the game was almost pitch perfect, amping up the stakes and action intermittently. Modern Warfare knew when to slow things down however, with tense missions like “All Ghillied Up,” that had you sneaking through ranks of enemy soldiers. Characters like Captain Price and Gaz were elite soldiers you could feel confident running into battle with, and Modern Warfare made you feel like you could take on anything.
This is a theme the Call of Duty series would run with, ramping up the ridiculous set pieces, and making you feel like a superhero. In part, this is what’s so attractive about the single player. Modern Warfare 2 was a nonstop pulse-pounding campaign that kept things going the entire time, and Modern Warfare 3 upped the stakes even more. Then Black Ops came around and had a massive twist involving Viktor Reznov, that took tons of players by surprise. Black Ops 2 also introduced a dynamic choice system, that was fairly interesting in the way it altered the story.
Call of Duty also generally does something else well with its campaign; it creates despicable villains. It’s true that villains in the series aren’t exactly well-rounded characters, but boy are they easy to hate. The series isn’t afraid to blow up cities or other things with its villains, making them enemies you really do want to bring down.
Vladimir Makarov is the one that comes foremost to mind, a villain who came into power because of your actions in the first Modern Warfare. He’s an imposing character who commits unspeakable atrocities, and takes down quite a few of your allies and even a character you play as.
These villains feel robust, and honestly each Call of Duty game really feels like an open war you’re fighting in. The series has done a good job of capturing the scope of not only wars, but individual battles, as well. After all, it was one of the first series to give us a realistic game version of World War II, besides Medal of Honor, of course. To this day, I will never forget storming the beaches at the beginning of Call of Duty II. That almost felt like the same scene portrayed in movies.
There’s definitely a place in the film industry for the big Hollywood action blockbusters, and Call of Duty is just that in video games. The series is always changing, whether it’s the “futuristic mind-bending tale” of Black Ops 3, or the “traditional war story except in space” of Infinite Warfare. There’s something to be said about a game that you can jump right into and stay glued to the screen the entire time through.
Multiplayer remains a huge aspect for the series, but it’s important to not forget that there’s more to be had. Over the last few years we’ve definitely seen a shift to multiplayer focus, and more shooters could use fully fleshed out single player experiences. As long as Call of Duty keeps making intense and dramatic campaigns, I’ll keep playing them.