Millions of people a week play Call of Duty multiplayer online on some console or PC, tens of millions purchase the yearly updates to the franchise, and Activision and the developers make hundreds of millions of dollars every year, but where did this all begin? Some of the younger gamers or some people newer to the series may have missed out on some of the brilliant earlier titles in the series, but this article intends to fix that (Please note, this only lists the major titles in the main series, and not the ‘spin-off’ titles like Call of Duty 2: Big Red One and Call of Duty: Roads to Victory, among others). Please note that the listed release dates are for the North American release date.
Call of Duty – October 29, 2003 (PC version)
Back in its time, Call of Duty 1 wasn’t seen as such a massive title as today’s games, but this is where it all started. This was what would now be referred to as “just another WWII shooter” because of the massive amount of WWII shooters available now, but in its time Call of Duty was different. This was because it was played from the perspective of British and Soviets as well as Americans, and Call of Duty was also one of the early shooters to allow players to aim down their weapon’s sights for greatly increased accuracy. Also notable for its time: the game featured many AI-controlled allies in each mission to aid you, and these allies would help with defeating enemy soldiers and would move up with the player, which was different to many other games of the time where the player controlled a ‘lone wolf’ soldier tasked with completing missions. The first title in the Call of Duty series was also the only one to utilize a health points system, in which the player’s health decreased as they took damage. The player had to find medikits scattered throughout the game’s missions to recover health, unlike the system used by all the later games in which the player’s health gradually recovers if they avoid taking damage for long enough.
Call of Duty 2 – October 25, 2005 (PC version)
Almost two years after the original game, developer Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 2 which was also set during World War II, and added many new features to the game, most notably the now common but then controversial health system of recovering health automatically after taking damage, instead of having to find health kits. This health system has since been used for every Call of Duty title since, and has been adopted by many other games. The game also used an updated version of the heavily modified Quake 3 engine that was used to develop the original Call of Duty. Now dubbed the “IW engine”, this title used what was called the IW 2.0 engine, and since this game the IW engine has been used for almost every major Call of Duty title since, being updated every year to run smoother or faster. The second title in the series also featured more heavily developed multiplayer, as an addition to the campaign which had always been criticized for being generally short compared to many other games of the same type.
Call of Duty 3 – November 7, 2006 (Xbox, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 versions)
The third Call of Duty title was the only major title in the CoD series to date which was not released for the PC, much to the chagrin of many fans of the series, which was not a good start for new developer to the series Treyarch. Treyarch used their own game engine to develop CoD 3, the Treyarch NGL engine (this was later abandoned for Treyarch’s later games as they opted to use a modified version of the IW engine). For the first time in the series, the campaign was one combined campaign which switched between several different perspectives, instead of being several different campaigns. Call of Duty 3 was also the first game to feature several premium multiplayer map packs to download to extend the lifespan of the multiplayer portion of the game and keep it fresh.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – November 5, 2007 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
This was where everything changed. CoD 4 was the first title of the main series not to be set during world war 2, and it was a welcome change for players to be playing a first person shooter not set during the second World War, in the future, or in a horror setting. This fourth title in the Call of Duty series also massively changed multiplayer gameplay, adding many things that are now in every CoD game, such as perks, killstreaks, weapon camouflage patterns, and a detailed multiplayer progression system. Call of Duty 4 was also the first title in the series to receive a ‘Mature’ rating by the ESRB. Finally, this was the first game to have actual sequels – Modern Warfare 2 and 3 were released a few years after.
That’s the first four Call of Duty titles. Those are where everything started and went on to evolve first-person shooters as we know them today.