With over 188 million copies sold as of 2014, the Call of Duty franchise remains one of gaming’s most enduring and successful series to date. This year’s installment, Advanced Warfare, injects some much-needed innovation into the brand, thanks in no small part to the addition of the Exo Suit; a powerful, extra layer of protection that not only introduces verticality into the mix thanks to the ability to double-jump and scale new heights, but also activates shields and evasive manoeuvres.
Sure, Call of Duty’s main pull these days is arguably the multiplayer component, but the series has also managed to produce some fantastic, adrenaline-pumping spectacle from its main campaign over the past few years—and that’s reason to celebrate in our eyes.
With the franchise now over a decade old, and a new era set to begin if all things go well with Advanced Warfare, PSU decided to cast a reflective glance back at some of the most iconic single-player missions the franchise has churned out to date. Let’s take a look back at seven defining levels from Call of Duty.
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ALL GHILLIED UP (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
This flashback mission from the original Modern Warfare is a masterclass in stealth and tension, as players control a young John Price through war-torn Pripyat, Ukraine in winter 1996. Flanked by Captain MacMillian, Price must surreptitiously eliminate foes while avoiding being spotted, as well as taking care to evade the radiation zones dotted throughout the stage. Infinity Ward doesn’t just do stealth great either; the stage is punctuated by some massive shootouts, as players find themselves gunning down a Hind D and taking on hordes of on-coming troops as they await extraction in the middle of a dilapidated fairground. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue punchy, and the combat as fluid and satisfying as the rest of the game.
VENDETTA (Call of Duty: World at War)
Set in the ruins of Stalingrad during World War II, Vendetta’s opening recalls the infamous sniping scene from the film Enemy at the Gates, as you lay silent among the corpses of your fallen allies as Luftwaffe bombers glide overhead. Flanked by Victor Reznov, you creep through the mud and dispatch nearby guards before making a run for it into a nearby network of buildings. Again, the stealth aspects of this mission are second to none, and the atmosphere chilling as you witness the devastation that Hilter’s war machine has done to this once-mighty city. Reznov remains one of the best AI companions CoD has ever seen, and he’s at his best here, helping you cap unsuspecting Nazis while filling you with encouraging words of wisdom. If ever there was a mission to capture the desperation of WWII, this is it.
KARMA (Call of Duty: Black Ops II)
Set in one of the most evocative locations in the series, namely a floating city titled Colossus, Karma is one of the many highlights of Black Ops II, which broke away from the series’ traditional linear story progression. Here, we find Mason, Harper, and Salazar on the hunt for the stage’s eponymous weapon—later confirmed to be a girl named Chloe—with gunfire soon erupting on a dance floor. Colossus is a beauty to behold, and easily one of the most aesthetically-pleasing levels Call of Duty has seen, which makes fighting your way through the stage that much more enjoyable. It’s also a fine showcase for villain Menendez, in particular just how much of a vile abomination he is, making you all the more determined to put a stop to his nefarious doings.
THE BATTLE OF POINTE DU HOC (Call of Duty 2)
While the World War II-era Call of Duty games generally lack the Hollywood spectacle of contemporary shooters, there’s no denying that CoD 2’s D-Day mission is among the best of the series has to offer. There’s a palpable sense of urgency and dread as you storm the beaches of Normandy with your AI-controlled buddies, machine gun and mortar fire peppering the ground at your feet as you fight tooth and nail for the relative safety of the nearby cliffs. It’s a brief respite, though, as you have to quickly scale the rock face and take the fight to the Germans, who make deadly use of the trenches and bunkers that punctuate the war-torn landscape above. Not only is this mission the quintessential WWII combat experience pre-Modern Warfare, but it’s also one of the toughest firefights in the entire series. There’s no running-and-gunning here; it’s a methodical, deadly slog that fills you with a sense of accomplishment as you conquer the next few feet of land, let alone an enemy bunker or outpost. Few games have managed to replicate that iconic opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, but CoD 2 is as close as it gets.
VORKUTA (Call of Duty: Black Ops)
Prison-break Call of Duty style at its very finest, Vorkuta reunites you with grizzly Russian war hero, Victor Reznov, as you and fellow inmates instigate a full-scale riot with hopes of busting out of the clink. Things soon escalate into a massive gunfight, which sees you mowing down security guards with gattling guns and a giant slingshot-type weapon. In stark contrast to the stealth-based missions elsewhere on our list, Vorkuta is fast-paced, blood-pumping action at its best, with little room for error as concrete walls are blown apart and bullets fly inches from your delicate features. If the prison escape wasn’t enough, the level culminates in a frantic motorbike chase as gun-toting goons try and blow you off the road; make no mistake, this is Cold War-era CoD in top form.
WHISKY HOTEL (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)
Yes, No Russian would have been an obvious choice, but that’s more to do with shock value than anything else. Whisky Hotel, however, encapsulates the very best of CoD firefights, and packs them into one iconic location: Washington DC. You and your squad storm the White House in a final assault, under blackened skies, against an overwhelming Russian force who have reinforced the President’s former abode with heavy machine guns and RPG nests. Whisky Hotel is frantic, blood-pumping action at its very best, and requires you to make the most out of your head-shot skills as you push forward, taking pot shots at distant targets and eventually making your way into the White House and taking on the resistance inside. The stakes have never been higher.
TURBULENCE (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3)
Echoing the Modern Warfare bonus mission, Mile High Club, Turbulence is a claustrophobic jaunt through a posh airliner as you control a bodyguard of the Russian president, as the aircraft comes under attack from terrorists. The whole mission feels like a scene from Air Force One as you cap legions of bad guys while ducking and diving in corridors and behind passenger seats, but that’s not half of it. Towards the end, the whole level turns bullet-time as the plane flips in midair, and you’re soon blasting stunned-looking goons before surviving a fiery death as the aircraft hits the deck near a forest. Unfortunately, your character meets a bloody end after coming face-to-face with the game’s chief antagonist, joining the ranks of a handful of CoD playable characters who have met their end under the player’s control.
-No Russian (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)
-Saint Lo (Call of Duty 3)
-Black Tuesday (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3)
-Project Nova (Call of Duty: Black Ops)
-Crew Expendable (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
-Federation Day (Call of Duty: Ghosts)
Let us know your favorite Call of Duty single-player stages in the comments section below.