Call of Duty Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
“This is for the record.” — Captain John Price, Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® 2 (2009)
First launched in 2003, Call of Duty has a long and interesting history. Now a massive global experience synonymous with the first-person action genre today.
October 29 marks a major milestone for this storied franchise, as we celebrate Call of Duty’s 20th anniversary, along with Activision's Studio partners and development teams.
This milestone is only possible thanks to all these teams and all developers past and present – as well as the incredible Call of Duty community.
Whether you’ve played Call of Duty since October 29, 2003, or only joined us recently, we want to thank you for being part of Call of Duty’s 20-year history, which will continue with the launch of Modern Warfare III on November 10, the first time in back-to-back years that the franchise has released a direct sequel.
For those not familiar with that history, allow us to introduce the Call of Duty franchise in video form:
Let’s take a moment to recognize all the Studios and teams all (in alphabetical order):
Activision Central Design, Activision Localization Dublin, Activision QA, Activision Shanghai Studio, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends Entertainment, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Solid State Studios, Team Ricochet, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch.
Here's a look at every major release in the Call of Duty franchise, with new innovations and memorable moments from every game:
Call of Duty (2003)
Release Date: October 29, 2003
The one that started it all, at Infinity Ward, the studio that celebrated its own 20th anniversary last year.
A small initial team at Infinity Ward all looked to push boundaries in the first-person action genre and did so by retelling the story of World War II.
In 24 Campaign missions, players fought as Private Martin of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, Sergeant Evans of the British 6th Airborne Division, and Alexei, a Russian citizen drafted for the Battle of Stalingrad.
The inaugural game also introduced Captain Price — yes, the handlebar-mustachioed soldier who looked a lot like Captain John Price today and his classic look was one of the recent Daily Login Rewards for this year’s Modern Warfare II title.
Outside of Campaign, its arcade-style Multiplayer became an instant classic. It featured maps like Carentan (where, as everyone knows, you don’t snipe), Harbor (remade as Suldar Harbor in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ), and Neuville (remade as Taraq in Modern Warfare II).
This first game reminds us of Call of Duty’s roots as a PC game, not least because the game won the AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences) Game of the Year award that following year – but it can be replayed today on consoles as part of Call of Duty Classic.
Call of Duty: United Offensive and Call of Duty: Finest Hour (2004)
Release Date for United Offensive: September 14, 2004
Release Date for Finest Hour: November 16, 2004
Call of Duty returned the following year with two games prior to an industry-defining game console generation.
First came the release of Call of Duty: United Offensive; an expansion pack which was the first Call of Duty title to have a rank system, where players earned XP to go from Private to Platoon Sergeant and received additional ammunition, grenades, and abilities like artillery strikes for their in-game efforts.
Two months later, Call of Duty came to consoles for the first time. Call of Duty: Finest Hour, launched with a new storyline based on the Western, Eastern, and North African fronts, as well as early online console Multiplayer support, with one console boasting Multiplayer lobbies of up to 32 players.
Finest Hour also had the first female playable character in Call of Duty history with Lieutenant Tanya Pavelovna.
Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (2005)
Release Date for Call of Duty 2: October 25, 2005
Release Date for Call of Duty 2: Big Red One: November 1, 2005
The “sequel to the Game of the Year” and record-breaking launch title for the seventh video game console generation (which initially included releases on PC and Xbox 360), Call of Duty 2 cemented the franchise as an exceptional FPS experience.
It was the first Call of Duty to have auto-healing and “map pack” DLC, a collection of new Multiplayer maps and additional maps from the first game. It also fine-tuned its Campaign and Multiplayer experiences with more missions and modes.
Not to be outdone, there was also Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, a full-fledged game for previous-generation consoles released on November 1, 2005, which featured additional and distinct storylines to Call of Duty 2. As the name suggests, it specifically covered the legendary Fighting First Infantry Division, and had the distinction of being the first Call of Duty game developed by the legendary Studio Treyarch, who would go on to deliver the iconic Black Ops franchise.
Call of Duty 3 (2006)
Release Date: November 7, 2006
Prior to working on Call of Duty, Treyarch developed many Activision games during the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2006, the studio – fresh from the successes of Call of Duty: Big Red One – continued to deliver with the release of Call of Duty 3.
One of the main points of focus for Treyarch was vehicular combat. Whether on foot or tanks, players could explore new Multiplayer locales in Poisson, Les Ormes, Mayenne and more. . . .
As well as a host of other features, for the first time ever players could select their “class” in Multiplayer — a year before “Create-a-Class” became a franchise staple.
In previous games, players selected a weapon, but Call of Duty 3 had preset classes with specific weapons and features, such as the ability to revive allies (which contributed to team score), deploy ammo boxes, or get smoke grenades and a sniper rifle for sharpshooting.
These preset classes are similar to Default Classes today, which is what every player uses until they unlock Create-a-Class at Level 4 (and can still use, or take inspiration from, at any point after unlocking Create-a-Class).
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Release Date: November 5, 2007
Simply a true classic, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the original Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward introduced a plethora of features we now take for granted in Call of Duty:
- Task Force 141
- Collectable Intel in Campaign
- Secret, Post-Credit Levels (“Mile High Club”)
- A “Third Game Mode” (Arcade, for completing the Campaign)
- The first song made for Call of Duty (shoutout to Mark “Dirtymouth” Grigsby for the end credits rap)
- Perk System
- Weapon Camos
- Gold Weapons
- Vacant, Broadcast, Killhouse, Crash and Backlot (which were all remade as late as Modern Warfare )
- Showdown and Strike (which were both remastered for Modern Warfare II)
The game garnered impressive praise, including an AIAS Game of the Year Award, the first time the same franchise had won this award twice.
Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
Release Date: November 11, 2008
While Treyarch went back to World War II, the studio also gave the player something the Call of Duty community cannot live without.
A secret mode accessible only after completing the Campaign or going online, Zombies is a four-player co-op experience — outside of the Campaign, which also boasted four-player co-op for the first time in franchise history — that brings soldiers right into the fight against undead foes.
The Zombies storyline is one of the most epic tales in the franchise, and it all starts here with the original Aether canon. Call of Duty: World at War featured the Ultimis version of Edward Richtofen, Takeo Masaki, Nikolai Belinski, and Tank Dempsey. It also introduced Power Ups, Perk-a-Colas, Pack-a-Punch, the Ray Gun, Element 115, and the beginning of Easter Egg Quests to Call of Duty.
And that all was introduced on top of a memorable Campaign (that Vendetta sniper on Veteran was no joke), as well as Multiplayer maps such as the original Dome, Castle, and Makin Day (and Makin night, simply called Makin).
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Another record-breaker, originator, and all-around legendary entry in the franchise, Modern Warfare 2 defined a generation of FPS gaming.
Its Campaign included players defending Burger Town and witnessing a shocking betrayal before banding together as Task Force 141 to fight Ultranationalists.
There was also Special Ops, a highly replayable two-player co-op mode that included The Pit, a true FPS speedrunner’s dream.
And, of course, there was Multiplayer. It coined the term “1v1 me on Rust” and introduced Terminal, Scrapyard, Highrise, Quarry, and many others, including post-launch maps Carnival and Trailer Park.
It became the origin point for competitive GameBattles with many high-stakes Search & Destroy matches. It brought on a golden era for “trickshotting” and “quickscoping” with its bolt-action rifles and ridiculous jump spots for game-ending Killcams. It brought in a match-ending Killstreak that many a content creator used as a gold standard for gameplay commentaries.
Remember that this year’s Modern Warfare III title celebrates the 20th anniversary of Call of Duty with one of the greatest collections of Multiplayer maps ever assembled: all 16 launch maps from this game modernized with new modes and gameplay features.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Following Modern Warfare 2, Treyarch was ready to declassify the Black Ops missions that took place two decades after World at War.
Strapped to a chair and hearing mysterious numbers, Alex Mason, alongside Frank Woods, Jason Hudson, and Joseph Bowman, had to face the past and learn what Viktor Reznov and his “revenge” was all about.
Alternatively, the screen could go red, and players rejoined in the next chapter of the Zombies Aether Ultimis storyline . . . which included notable political figures in the Pentagon, as well as slasher film stars in the middle of Siberia.
Or perhaps they went to Multiplayer, where there was Nuketown, Firing Range, Stadium, Standoff, Summit, Array, Jungle, Grid, Drive-In, Villa, Zoo, Hazard, and other memorable maps. Players could customize their Operators for the first time with face paint, or even use the currency for unlocking items to participate in Wager Matches on new modes Gun Game, One in the Chamber, Sticks and Stones, and Sharpshooter.
Or, with the right knowledge, players could break out of the chair and play Zork on the Terminal, which began a tradition of classic Activision-published games appearing in Call of Duty. Players could also unlock the Dead Ops Arcade, a hidden twin-stick action Zombies mode.
In terms of Activision history, this was also the first Call of Duty game that benefited from the exceptional talents of Raven Software; the first independent studio to join Activision, and instrumental in the origins of the FPS genre itself, creating the seminal Heretic and Hexen franchise back in the 1990s.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Release Date: November 8, 2011
The “definitive” Modern Warfare experience returned to complete the original Task Force 141 trilogy story as Soap, Price, Nikolai, Yuri and other allies finally put an end to a global destruction plot.
This record-breaking game was developed in tandem by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games. In fact, this was Sledgehammer Games’ first Call of Duty development game credit.
Multiplayer introduced Pointstreaks via Strike Packages; when using the Support Package, players earned streaks based on objective play and kills, similar to Scorestreaks today.
There was also the Specialist Strike Package — for every two eliminations made without dying, players earned an additional Perk. At seven kills in a row, the Strike Package granted every Perk in the game plus all Gun Proficiencies, which included an additional “attachment” for most weapons. Specialist frequently reappears in Call of Duty to this day.
In addition, Multiplayer introduced hybrid scopes, modes like Infected and Drop Zone, the Prestige Shop (and 20 Prestiges), and iconic Core maps like Dome, Arkaden, Hardhat, Seatown, and Resistance, as well as Face Off (3v3 game modes that preceded Gunfight by eight years) locales like Gulch, Boardwalk, and U-Turn.
It was also the subject of the first $1 million Call of Duty competitive tournament at Call of Duty XP, a legendary fan experience that featured a Scrapyard paintball course.
For the co-op mode, Special Ops was “reinvented with an all-new Survival mode” where players faced waves of enemies while upgrading their arsenals with higher-caliber weapons, Killstreaks, and more.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
Release Date: November 12, 2012
Call of Duty’s first trip into the future — the year 2025 — featured branching storylines and sandbox gameplay via Strike Force missions.
Depending on how missions were cleared, characters could permanently die in the story and the game’s ending would change. There was even an ending where Frank Woods and villain Raul Menendez were in a rock band.
Multiplayer introduced the first ranked system known as League Play that, combined with the first ever Call of Duty Championship, gave the grassroots Call of Duty competitive scene a true proving ground for becoming the best in the world.
In addition, Multiplayer introduced the Pick 10 system to redefine Create-a-Class in Treyarch games, as well as some fine-tuning of the Weapon Levels innovation (first introduced in Modern Warfare 3), a concept still used today as players can unlock functional benefits (attachments) and cosmetic benefits (Camos) by gaining experience on a specific weapon. It even had the first post-launch weapon addition in the deadly Peacekeeper SMG.
It also had maps like Express, Hijacked, Slums, Standoff, Turbine, Grind, and Rush, all legends brought back from the future over the next decade.
Meanwhile in Zombies, the Aether story continued with the Victis arc, introducing characters like Marlton Johnson, Misty, and everyone’s favorite robot bus driver T.E.D.D. to go on a Green Run or fight with (or against) other squad survivors in Grief mode.
This game also marked a bold step for cosmetics; for the first time, you could slap Bacon or Benjamins on your preferred weapon via downloadable camouflage, making the game more inclusive of the global culture it helped create.
Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Call of Duty: Ghosts put players under the spectral mask of Logan Walker and his German shepherd companion, Riley.
Multiplayer brought features like squad members that allowed players to play in Squads modes, where all (or all but one) of a player’s characters were used as AI combatants in deathmatches and other modes. And in terms of maps, there was Strikezone, Freight, Bayview, Octane, and more.
It also established licensed guest stars in the franchise at a point where crossovers in AAA video games were unheard of outside sports games. If you wanted a drill sergeant or a rap icon as your in-game announcer, you could have them roasting your every move. Or, if you wanted to slash around the Fog, then there was a mask waiting for you. . . .
As for the co-op game mode Extinction, four players could fight against the Cryptids in an offshoot of the game’s main Campaign two weeks after the mission “Ghost Stories.”
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Sledgehammer Games first worked co-developing Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer. But in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer took boots off the ground to begin the “jetpack era” in Call of Duty.
With the power of Exo movement, players became Jack Mitchell in a Campaign where he had to help take down the nefarious Atlas Corporation, upgrading their suit along the way with technology from 2054–2061…
Players were also asked to press “F” to pay respects.
In Multiplayer, Weapon Variants, a predecessor to Weapon Blueprints, were introduced, granting players over 350 armament options between base and variant weapons. It also included Exo Abilities, a chargeable and powerful move or weapon that would ultimately become the Field Upgrade system today.
And it had a new memorable game mode (among others) in Uplink, a one-flag Capture the Flag variant where teams had to pass, shoot, or dunk a ball into a goal to score points.
Memorable maps from Advanced Warfare include Riot, Solar, Bio Lab, Detroit, and Retreat . . . All put on a pedestal by what some call a renaissance for competitive Call of Duty.
In addition, there was Exo Zombies, a mode developed by Raven Software. Here, players fought through familiar locales to stop “Atlas’ new pet” created by the Manticore bioweapon, which would eventually become a full-on global infection culminating in the hunt for Oz (no relation to the current Operator).
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015)
Release Date: November 6, 2015
The “jetpack era” of Call of Duty continued, as Treyarch boosted us farther into the future.
With the game set in 2065, players could join up with the Winslow Accord in Campaign or perform some Free Run exercises, a speedrun experience that tested a player’s movement abilities across four courses.
This game marked the first time a Call of Duty Campaign had a player-determined character with a chosen gender.
It also introduced several Specialists who had their own backstory, much like Operators today, and they had either a special weapon or a special ability, like Field Upgrades today. These Specialists include Outrider, Seraph, and Spectre, who were brought back, among other Specialists, in future games.
In addition, this game introduced the Gunsmith for the first time; here, players could use up to five attachments onto a weapon to create a powerful armament. It also had notable maps like Fringe, Combine, Redwood, Stronghold, and a whimsical map Micro that shrunk Specialists down for a battle on a picnic table.
Meanwhile in Zombies, Call of Duty: Black Ops III began the Primis arc of the Aether Zombies story, introducing new experiences like Shadows of Evil and Revelations while also bringing every World at War and original Black Ops map back in the legendary Zombies Chronicles.
This title also marks the first time that Beenox provided their incredible development expertise to a Call of Duty title.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
Release Date: November 4, 2016
The final futuristic Call of Duty game was set the farthest into the future: 2187.
Its Campaign featured a villain who may take the throne for this game franchise’s most notable in history. Combine that with the Jackal transforming fighting vehicle, which had its own free VR experience; a hub world in the Retribution; and the incredibly punishing #YOLO difficulty with hardcore game settings and permadeath enabled and you get a major, ahead-of-its time, single-player experience from Infinity Ward.
Multiplayer continued developing the Specialists concept of Black Ops 3 with Combat Rigs, and introduced Factions. It also introduced locales such as Precinct, Scorch, Throwback, and even a mini-golf course in Fore!
Then there was Zombies, where Fate and Fortune and boots-on-the-ground combat set the stage for a true master of the macabre: Willard Wyler. This is where Call of Duty met Hollywood; from fighting alongside action film stars to appearing in a cult classic horror B-movie, this experience holds a meaningful place in Call of Duty’s overall Zombies legacy (but not its canon) to this day.
This game was also paired alongside a full remaster of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare developed by Raven Software with additional development from Beenox.
Call of Duty: WWII (2017)
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Sledgehammer Games put boot firmly back on the ground, to where it all started: World War II and, in a return to the Big Red One, the Fighting First Infantry.
As Ronald “Red” Daniels, players fought alongside AI squadmates who could now directly interact with the player, granting them extra ammo, medical kits, and target spotting upon request.
In Multiplayer, players could explore the Headquarters, an ambitious hub world where they met Carver Butcher, a newer legend of the franchise that would return for Vanguard, as the Quartermaster. In his first appearance, he doled out Contracts to complete along with Collection Bonuses. Another Headquarters’ feature was a Rest and Relaxation station that featured 15 classic Activision games.
This game also had intricate weapon customization that featured an extensive and rewarding Weapon Camo Challenge path, where the most dedicated players could earn Chrome Tiger camo. There was also its Divisions system and War, a narrative-driven massive squad Multiplayer mode, as well as new classics in Ardennes Forest (subject of “treegate”), USS Texas, London Docks, Valkyrie, and even a Sandbox.
In addition, this marked the first time the franchise had seasonal events, including a Winter Siege, the Resistance, and even a little Shamrock & Awe.
Meanwhile, Zombies took its darkest turn yet with its own original storyline and horror elements developed by Sledgehammer Games with respect to Treyarch’s foundations. It also had two forms of Easter Egg Quests for its first experience, the Final Reich. Here, it offered both a step-by-step Casual path exclusive to the on-disk map for newcomers, and the classic “Hardcore” track for those looking to dig deep into the story.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018)
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Black Ops 4 focused on Multiplayer, and continued to push weapon customization boundaries with Operator Mods, which significantly altered weapon functionality. Players could use these across classic maps like Jungle, Slums and Nuketown, or battle on new favorites like Arsenal, Hacienda, Contraband, and Seaside.
For Zombies, Black Ops 4 delivered four maps at launch — the most for any Call of Duty game thus far — split between the final chapters of the Aether Story and a mini-arc in the Chaos Story. Players resolved the Aether paradox with Tag der Toten and threw themselves into the Gauntlet, a round-based mode with an additional challenge in each of its 30 rounds, increasing difficulty and fun with new ways to play these maps.
Black Ops 4 also released the first-ever Call of Duty Battle Royale experience: Blackout. It featured two maps: One hosted 100 players, the most players in a Call of Duty map up to this point in its history, and featured Nuketown, Turbine, Firing Range and more as points of interest.
The other Battle Royale was Alcatraz, which preceded what is known now as Rebirth Island and was based on the signature Zombies maps Mob of the Dead and its sequel, Blood of the Dead. This also brought in an early version of Resurgence in Alcatraz Portal Quads, where – just like Resurgence – eliminated Operators could get back into the fight (outside of the match’s final minutes) so long as their other squadmates were still alive.
As for playable characters, there were plenty: from Frank Woods and the Ultimis crew to Classic John Price from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, T.E.D.D., and the Replacer (featured in Call of Duty advertisements), there was a soldier in all of us.
Black Ops 4 also brought Call of Duty back to its PC roots, as Beenox took the role as leading PC developer. From this point forward, dedicated PC versions of each major Call of Duty release offered a vast array of options that continue to be innovated on, to this day.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) and Call of Duty: Warzone™ (2020)
Release Date: October 25, 2019
Infinity Ward rebooted Modern Warfare in 2019, retelling the story of how Task Force 141 — Price, Ghost, Gaz and Soap — formed with the help of CIA hero Alex Keller and ULB leader Farah Karim.
This game featured a new version of the Call of Duty engine, which allowed for a total visual overhaul through processes such as photogrammetry and ray-tracing. That immersed players in a Campaign that included “Clean House,” where they aimed for the “Golden Path” achievement by clearing the level without being hit and not wasting a single bullet.
The story then continued in Special Ops, a four-player co-op mode featuring multi-objective Operations as well as “Classic” experiences, similar to the original Special Ops.
Meanwhile in Multiplayer, Operators, playable characters with dedicated biographies and alternate attires in “Skins,” were made. Gunfight became the 2v2 random Loadout proving ground for duos on new maps like Speedball, Stadium, King, Docks, Gulag Showers, as well as returning classics like Rust and Shipment. There were also new household-name Core maps like Gun Runner, Hackney Yard, Khandor Hideout, and, of course, Shoot House.
And in Ground War, it saw an expansion to 32v32 players, which is more players than any other Ground War Multiplayer map has hosted up to this point.
Field Upgrades were also formally introduced, and the Gunsmith was open for serious weapon customization, including Weapon Blueprints, which are special cosmetic variants of base weapons. The Gunsmith is where you can add attachments alongside a slew of cosmetic options in Stickers, Reticles (only with Optic attachments), Charms, and Camos, including the classic completionist camos Gold and Platinum along with gorgeous newcomers in Damascus and Obsidian.
Modern Warfare was also a massive moment for Call of Duty in general: It introduced the Battle Pass, cross-platform play and progression; free post-launch content like maps, modes, and functional weapons; and the inaugural season of the Call of Duty League for competitive players.
And, of course, ushering in Call of Duty: Warzone, a franchise-changing, free-to-play, free-for-everyone massive online experience — one that broke franchise records: remember when over 100 million players — and 125+ million players in just over a year — were a part of the first iteration of Call of Duty: Warzone?
Call of Duty: Warzone featured the fan favorite “big map” known as Verdansk and its many infamous points of interest (drop into Superstore, anyone?), redefined the Battle Royale experience, and featured many a guest Operator appearance along with a host of memorable events, from the opening of the Stadium to the fun and frights of The Haunting, as well as an all-out Zombie invasion and the return to an earlier version of the map once Verdansk ’84 arrived during Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
This was also a defining moment for Raven Software, which after years of developing their own games and supporting Call of Duty releases since Black Ops, collaborated with Infinity Ward to create and update this experience, and to this day helps spearhead Call of Duty: Warzone development.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (2020)
Release Date: November 13, 2020
This tagline for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is also a reminder to read this entire retrospective on the franchise, because as the Call of Duty franchise entered a new decade, Treyarch was ready to continue Call of Duty’s history of innovation.
Drawing people in with Pawn Takes Pawn, the Black Ops Cold War Campaign, led by Raven Software, directly followed the original Black Ops Campaign’s story. It struck a new tone with the player character, Bell, who had a customizable background, including “physiological profiles” that came with in-game bonuses. It also allowed players to choose their gender, including a nonbinary option for the first time in franchise history, but Bell was not the first nonbinary Operator.
Multiplayer introduced Fireteam, where 40 players — up to 10 squads of four — fought on massive maps for squad supremacy. For Core Maps, Black Ops Cold War reintroduced classics while also creating Checkmate, Satellite, Miami, Moscow, Diesel, Collateral, and Amerika, among others.
It was also significant for continuing cross-progression with Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare, a franchise first that will continue with Carry Forward in 2023. Call of Duty: Warzone itself brought all weapons and Operators from both Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War into Verdansk ’84 alongside Rebirth Island, a reimagining of Alcatraz.
In terms of Modes, Beenox introduced the Resurgence game mode that amped up the traditional Battle Royale formula with respawning capabilities.
As for Zombies, the game introduced the Dark Aether saga. Here, any Operator could join Requiem to discover the Dark Aether and the element known as Aetherium. Requiem agents could uncover Easter Eggs across maps like Die Maschine; an extended reimagining of the first-ever Zombie map Nacht der Untoten from World at War; or Forsaken, the 37th traditional Zombies map in Call of Duty history.
They could also enter Outbreak zones, a franchise-first way of experiencing Zombies. Here, Operators could move between regions to complete mandatory objectives, scavenge supplies and find chests, and partake in optional World Events, all while completing new Easter Eggs. Modern Warfare III Zombies is set to innovate from this point, with players cooperating in a vast open-world, player-versus-environment setting.
And then there was the fact that Black Ops Cold War came a year after Activision’s 40th anniversary. To celebrate, players could unlock the most classic Activision games than any other Call of Duty title before it, with 19 in total, including Keystone Kapers, Ice Hockey and, of course, Pitfall!
Call of Duty: Vanguard (2021)
Release Date: November 5, 2021
Taking place five years after WWII is Call of Duty: Vanguard, with Sledgehammer Games saying it’s “World War II combat like never seen before.”
Players could change the face of history in its Campaign across four fronts as members of the first (canonical) Special Operations Task Force: Lucas Riggs, Arthur Kingsley, Wade Jackson and Polina Petrova.
Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Multiplayer introduced a large variety of maps at launch, including day one standouts like Das Haus, Hotel Royal, and Eagle’s Nest, and added Gondola, Mayhem, and Paradise post-launch. For a brand-new Multiplayer experience, players could attempt to conquer Champion Hill, a “king of the hill” style 2v2 tournament where eight squads (or solo Operators) build their Loadout by winning matches and collecting Cash during each bout.
It established Ranked Play as we know it today; developed by Treyarch in collaboration with Sledgehammer Games, and with support of the Call of Duty League, this mode set the pace for the future of competitive modes across the franchise.
Treyarch also wrote another Dark Aether chapter in Zombies. Demonic Fountains took the place of Perk-a-Colas, while the Altar of Covenants doled out a selection of random permanent boosts to make it a unique “roguelike” experience compared to previous Zombies modes.
And in Call of Duty: Warzone, we welcomed Caldera, where Operators could decipher Morse code messages to uncover bunkers and where monsters and cyborg assassins entered the fray later in 2022. This was also the origin point for the Call of Duty: World Series of Warzone, whose Global Grand Final for the 2023 season took place on September 16.
In addition, the incredible talents at the award-winning High Moon Studios developed Fortune’s Keep, a completely original map that went toe-to-toe with Rebirth Island as the community’s fondest Resurgence experience before the current game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022)
Release Date: October 20, 2022 (Campaign Early Access), October 28, 2022
This is modern history in the making. Because the ultimate weapon is team.
The sequel to Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare II had a record-breaking reveal off the port of Long Beach and followed up with several franchise firsts:
First up was Campaign Early Access. Now players could experience the single-player Campaign up to a week before the game’s launch, learning what made Task Force 141 true legends shrouded in clandestine operations…
And they were so legendary, they earned the honors for Call of Duty’s first-ever corrido, which came 14 years after the franchise’s first original song, in 141 by Banda MS:
Players could also earn rewards like functional Operators, Double XP Tokens, and a Weapon Blueprint for completing this single-player experience, which allowed them to stockpile their arsenal prior to the full game’s release.
Another first was in Multiplayer, where new modes like Knockout and Prisoner Rescue; new legendary Core Maps like La Casa, El Asilo, DRC Zone 1, and Mercado Las Almas, to name a few; and Gunfight maps like Alley, Exhibit, and King all provide a deep experience that recently received its latest Seasonal update.
In Special Ops, a new experience for trios called RAID Episodes continues the Campaign’s story through Atomgrad, challenging Operators with difficult enemies and complex puzzles.
If you have yet to experience it, we highly suggest getting familiar with the Modern Warfare story up to this point in this exact order before diving into Modern Warfare III:
- Campaign (Modern Warfare )
- Special Ops (Modern Warfare)
- Campaign (Modern Warfare II)
- RAID Episodes (Modern Warfare II)
- DMZ (Modern Warfare II)
And in Call of Duty: Warzone, brand-new maps in Al Mazrah, Ashika Island, and Vondel became featured battlegrounds for modes like Battle Royale, Plunder, Lockdown, Resurgence, and Ranked Play, as well as a completely new extraction game mode Beta experience in DMZ.
DMZ (Beta) is a PvPvE mode that saw constant growth through each seasonal update. It’s also a great way to dive deeper into Modern Warfare lore by completing Faction Missions and reading Notes found in exclusion zones, especially those in Building 21 and the Koschei Complex.
You can learn more about Modern Warfare II through the Call of Duty blog, which details all the news and updates about this game and more.
Last, but not least, Modern Warfare II served as the soft launch for Call of Duty HQ, where all future Call of Duty titles can be played from the same location. This makes deploying to the battlefield even more straightforward, with players and squads worrying less about where to launch and focusing more on how to score their next victory.
Call of Duty: Other Ways to Play
All of the previously mentioned games tell an almost-complete story about the last 20 years of Call of Duty. But there have been other ways to play, too:
Remember using motion controls or two screens to control your in-game character?
Or maybe you played a collection of older titles — some of Call of Duty’s first, or the Modern Warfare titles, or even some Zombies — on a portable console or smartphone?
All these experiences, and more, were in addition to Call of Duty’s main releases.
Or maybe you’re anticipating the worldwide rollout of Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile, where players will drop back into Verdansk as well as Rebirth Island to play against real players in up to 120 payer count matches, and experience classic Multiplayer maps in a truly world-class Call of Duty experience to enjoy wherever life takes you.
Or perhaps you’re experiencing the future of Call of Duty: Warzone through Modern Warfare II and are preparing for what is to come with Modern Warfare III.
A Look Ahead to Modern Warfare III and Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile
Call of Duty’s history will continue with the release of Modern Warfare III on November 10.
Then a few months later in Spring 2024, prepare to join over 45 million fans who have already pre-registered Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile and prepare your squad to drop into two painstakingly-recreated Battle Royale maps – Verdansk and Rebirth Island – along with shared progression and Battle Pass integration with Modern Warfare III and Call of Duty: Warzone, and an authentic multiplayer experience including maps like Shipment and Shoot House to complement Battle Royale.
But, for now, thank you for being a major player in the 20 years of Call of Duty history.
Here’s to 20 more and beyond.
© 2023 Activision Publishing, Inc. ACTIVISION, CALL OF DUTY, CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS, CALL OF DUTY VANGUARD, CALL OF DUTY WARZONE, MODERN WARFARE,and PITFALL! are trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. All other trademarks and trade names are the property of their respective owners.
For more information, please visit www.callofduty.com and www.youtube.com/callofduty, and follow @Activision and @CallofDuty on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For Call of Duty Updates, follow @CODUpdates on Twitter.