Call of Duty
Since its debut in 2003, almost two decades ago, Call of Duty has become such a global household name that the franchise barely needs any introduction. With over 33 releases since the birth of the series, including 17 mainline titles, Call of Duty is one of the biggest and most profitable entertainment properties in the world.
Call of Duty History
The Call of Duty series has gone through countless changes over the years, taking players through a huge variety of settings and showcasing, the work of several development studios. It can be said, without any exaggeration, that the popularity and financial successes of Call of Duty has defined the entire first person shooter genre, with the original franchise still standing out in a crowd of imitators.
World War 2
It all began with the first game in 2003, during a time when World War 2 shooters were living their second golden age, when Call of Duty first took the world by storm. Following Allied and Red Army forces during a campaign with stylings typical of a Hollywood blockbuster - something that has become a staple of the franchise - the first game launched to rave reviews and widespread praise from gamers.
It was clearly the beginning of something major, but we doubt anyone at the time could have predicted the heights that Call of Duty would reach in the years to come. Two sequels followed both set in World War 2, and it was already this early on in the series' history that Treyarch joined in alongside Infinity Ward to co-develop the franchise for Activision.
Defining the Genre
As a standout military first-person shooter with a focus on pseudo-realism, many of the design elements of Call of Duty went on to inform the way modern FPS games evolved. Replacing the gameplay-first mentality of the previous arena shooter era, players would be severely limited in the number of weapons they could carry at any given time, and the health system was changed across multiple iterations, eventually turning into the current "standard" in the genre of regenerating after a short while without taking damage.
The next major breakthrough came with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which transported the series into the present day, leaving World War 2 behind. The game was a colossal success, garnering even greater praise than the previous three titles and arguably being the most definitive entry in the series. The success of Modern Warfare was so great that it spawned its own sub-series, and is also considered by many to be the end of the golden age of the WW2 shooter, replaced by more or less a decade of "modern military shooter" dominance on the FPS scene. Major rival Battlefield would also switch to a modern setting alongside a colossal laundry list of copycats wanting a slice of this very profitable pie.
While technically the subsequent return to World War 2, called World at War, is the first installment of the Black Ops series as it were - WaW is a prequel to Black Ops and canonically takes place in the same fictional universe - it wasn't until the release of the actual game called Black Ops that we can truly mark the start of yet another new era in Call of Duty history. Modern Warfare and Black Ops went on to be the most popular sub-series in the franchise, with dedicated fanbases lapping up the over-the-top storylines.
Occasionally, Call of Duty would deviate from these two major sub-series, though often to lackluster results. The franchise made some brief segues into sci-fi territory with Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare, as well as the latter Black Ops titles, usually to greater criticism than the more grounded entries. The series' low-point, however, is almost universally considered to be Ghosts, which tried to be an even grittier take on Call of Duty, god knows why. They kill a dog in it, so naturally it's despised by many.
Over the many, many years of releases, Call of Duty has branched out across the video game industry as well as beyond it. With more than a dozen spin-offs on various mobile and handheld devices, the grand total of platforms which have at some point supported a Call of Duty game is a whopping 21 (though this metric counts all the various versions of the Nintendo DS as one platform, so technically the number is even higher). As the franchise spread its wings, more development studios joined Infinity Ward and Treyarch, with newer titles having been developed and co-developed with Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software.
For years now Activision has kept up a yearly release schedule ensuring that a new mainline Call of Duty game would be released every November or so, with various spin-offs peppered in between. Considering this release frequency, coupled with unprecedented levels of mainstream success, it is no surprise that as of May 19, the whole franchise has sold over 300 million copies worldwide, and since then, the 2020 release of Black Ops Cold War is bound to have boosted that number significantly - and keep in mind that these sales numbers typically do not account for digital sales.
Call of Duty has the honor of being verified by Guinness World Records as the best-selling first-person shooter game series, the 6th best-selling video game series in general, and the single most successful video game IP originating from the USA. Considering this measure of popularity, it's only logical that Activision has merchandised CoD like crazy - collectible figures, high-end statues, clothing items, playing cards, tie-in novels and comics, a building toy line from Mega Brands (the focus on realistic military themes made any hope of collaborating with The LEGO Group impossible), licensed promotions with food and drink brands like Doritos and Mountain Dew and much, much more. We're frankly surprised there hasn't been a movie, yet.
Though this meteoric rise, Call of Duty has entered the mainstream, and people who otherwise have no clue about video games in general would still know, at least in broad terms, what Call of Duty is. The series has had many highs, some lows and a few controversies over the years - mostly spawned by the seemingly mandated "one shocking scene per game", spawned by the Nuclear Explosion in Modern Warfare and further popularized by the No Russian mission in Modern Warfare 2.
Modern Warfare & Black Ops Cold War
After a rather middling release with Call of Duty: WWII - the game was still a major commercial success and moved millions of copies, but in terms of the franchise didn't make a big splash despite returning to the roots of the series - momentum was regained in a huge way by returning to the two big sub-series: Modern Warfare and Black Ops.
Released in 2019, the confusingly named Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a soft-reboot of the on-going series set in the present day. With some characters and plot elements returning, Modern Warfare is set in a new continuity and features a multi-national coalition striving to prevent the deployment of a superweapon by a rogue faction. Modern Warfare launched to both critical and financial success.
In time, it was revealed that the rebooted Modern Warfare title takes place in the same continuity as the Black Ops series, and has direct narrative ties with the subsequent release - Black Ops Cold War, which launched in 2020. A direct sequel to 2010's Black Ops and before Black Ops 2 (the canonicity of which is now in question), Cold War put a spy-thriller twist on the blockbuster franchise, but didn't dial back the number of explosions. This latest release managed to outperform even the Modern Warfare reboot, and has cultivated an immense player base.
Featuring the return of Frank Woods and other characters from Black Ops, the story focuses on an attempt to hunt down a dangerous Russian secret agent codenamed Perseus who hatched a plan to devastate western Europe with a nuclear onslaught. Over the course of several twists and turns, the same superweapon featured in Modern Warfare - a gas called Nova 6, also appearing in the first Black Ops game - becomes involved as well. Since the storylines of these two latest games continue in 'seasons' released after launch, the plot of Cold War has yet to conclude.
Black Ops Cold War also marked the triumphant return of Zombies, with a brand new storyline beginning that is separate from the previous - and rather convoluted - Zombies storyline. This too, is being continually expanded upon as seasonal content is added to the game, with the latest mode called Outbreak bringing Zombies action to an open-world map - a first in the sub-series.
Aside of a shared narrative, another common thread ties Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War together: Warzone. Warzone is Activision's second attempt to jump onto the battle royale bandwagon, and this time they were infinitely more successful than with Blackout. Warzone is a standalone, free-to-play battle royale mode set in the Call of Duty universe, sharing the gameplay of the Modern Warfare reboot.
Following the release of Black Ops Cold War, Warzone was adapted for this new era instead of being replaced by a sequel. While the action was initially restricted to a single map - a huge open world location centered around the fictional city of Verdansk, which played a pivotal role in the story of Modern Warfare - a new map called Rebirth Island was added as the game moved ahead with Cold War integration.
Despite strong competition from the titans of the genre which have been around longer - like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite Battle Royale and Apex Legends - Warzone has carved out a major share for itself and continues to flourish, with the new Black Ops content injecting further life into the already popular game.
Warzone follows the typical battle royale format - a large number of players jump into the huge playing field with no equipment what so ever, forced to scrounge up weapons, attachments, armor and more while hunting down or avoiding the other competitors. As the match drags on, the "safe zone" keeps shrinking to prevent camping and force confrontations.
Various game modes allow for different team compositions, and sometimes spiced up rulesets to bring a bit of freshness to the gameplay loop. The strategic element of the game is further deepened by contracts and a unique Gulag system that means elimination doesn't necessarily take you out of the game. Warzone also often reflects the events that take place in the 'main' storyline - for example, a minor Zombie outbreak occurred in Verdansk at one point.
The accessibility of Warzone, as it is free to play, has contributed hugely to the player count exploding the way it did, making it a welcoming prospect for anyone interested in the genre without wanting to invest blindly. With season progression, Battle Passes and shared loadouts between it and the regular multiplayer mode, the hardcore fan also has plenty to enjoy. The developers make sure to prevent the game from ever getting stale by constantly updating and subtly changing the maps, as well as introducing limited-time game modes.
Warzone has also achieved major popularity beyond player number. In the realm of influencers and content creators, the Call of Duty battle royale has climbed up to be a top game for streaming and video, with some of the biggest names in the biz drawing millions of viewers as they drop into Verdansk.
Popular, live-service games are fast changing, with every update potentially kicking the "meta" to the curb and all kinds of news popping up all the time; players are also frequently looking to get an edge over the competition, making tips and guides highly sought after. Here at Downsights we seek to cover the entire spectrum of Call of Duty and Warzone related content, be it in-depth guides, breaking news or something more casual like easter eggs.
All you need to do is keep an eye on our feed to have your hand on the pulse of the Call of Duty world.