Call of Duty Modern Warfare: Campaign deserves to be considered among the best

The latest campaign offering is excellent, but how does it compare to CoD campaigns of old?

by Remy Cabache

With the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare fans saw the return of a single-player campaign.

The mode had been a staple of the FPS, with some of the best single-player campaigns of any title, until Black Ops 4 removed the mode in favor a battle royale mode, Blackout. That mode was great fun, but the lack of a campaign left a lot of fans disappointed.

Now the dust has settled after the initial release of Modern Warfare, and there has been time to really digest the game for all that it is, how does the new take on Modern Warfare’s story stack up against previous CoD games?

There have been 13 CoD games since and including CoD 4 – the start of the game’s prime. This is the definitive ranking off all Call of Duty campaigns since then.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Seeing as Black Ops 4 didn’t have a campaign, it is not included.

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12. Infinite Warfare (2016)

11. Advanced Warfare (2014)

10. Black Ops 3 (2015)

FANTASY: Black Ops 3’s campaign felt too removed from Call of Duty

These three campaigns were forgettable. With the focus on exo-suits, space travel, and all-together far-future technologies, these campaigns just didn’t feel like Call of Duty. The gameplay felt more arcade like and took away from the gritty FPS feel of CoD from just a few games before.

The storylines were too far removed from reality to really buy in, which was a huge difference from the earlier campaigns which are remembered so fondly. Advanced Warfare did bring one of the most recognizable memes into the world, and BOPS 3’s coop zombie version of the campaign was a good time, but these two factors aren’t enough to lift these games any higher.

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9. Ghosts (2013)

8. WWII (2017)

These two campaigns were closer what fans expected of CoD Campaigns. They had more interesting stories with some good characters. But, they both had their own issues to leave them a far distance behind other CoDs’.

Ghosts issues were with the game overall. It is one of the least popular CoDs because the game was caught in a weird place between trying to recapture the Modern Warfare magic, while being a separate story. It didn’t accomplish either very well. What’s more, the story did become more questionable as it went on, and its climax was wholly disappointing.

The issue with WWII’s campaign was that it felt more like a movie with some playable moments. It was visually stunning, and a very welcome return to the World Wars, plus the story was engaging, it just really didn’t feel like you had done all that much playing by the time it ended.

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7. Black Ops 2 (2012)

RETURN: Black Ops 2 didn’t quite match the original campaign, but it wasn’t far off

Black Ops 2 picked up with the welcome return of Woods, Mason and Hudson from Black Ops one, and took them down two storylines, one in the 1980s, just after Black Ops, and the other in 2025.

The time jumps worked well and both storylines were engaging and intense. Importantly, each mission left the player wanting to find out where it would take them next.

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One particularly cool feature, which made the campaign even more replayable, was the inclusion of multiple endings. Depending on your actions there are eight possible endings. The gameplay was good enough to justify replaying it, but this meant each run through could be different and you could experiment with every decision.

6. Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

SOAP: Has anyone recovered from this moment?

In truth, the gap between MW3 and the game at the top of this ranking is not that big. From here on out the campaigns are all great.

MW3’s campaign was an excellent ending to the old MW story. The continuation of iconic character’s stories was excellent and the game only strengthened each fans’ connection with them.

The entire campaign felt like a MW campaign. Each mission was interesting, exciting, intense, and enjoyable. The story was diverse and took you to many countries and terrains. All in all it meant it was very replayable.

The ending, though, was superb. Forgetting everything else about this campaign, the ending alone makes it one of the best. There are few moments in any game more satisfying than watching Captain Price sitting back and lighting a cigar having just killed Makarov in the game’s final sequence. The entire mission is excellent, and is the perfect ending to the trilogy.

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5. Modern Warfare (2019)

Can we take a second to appreciate how visually stunning this campaign is? The transition from cut scene to mission is almost seamless and really looks real a fair number of times.

While the visuals are one thing, the gameplay is amazing. MW was marketed as a reimagining of the MW franchise, with a heavy focus on bringing the game to the current day with very real issues and stories, and they succeeded.

The gameplay and story is very engaging and sucks you in from mission to mission. It feels like an old school CoD with all the perks of modern games.

Several missions are jarring and prompt visceral feelings because it looks and feels so real. Several scenes seem taken directly from news channels. While old CoDs were celebrated for being gritty, these scenes and the campaign take that to a new level.

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At the same time, this campaign does touch on very real issues that hundreds of millions of people are facing at a global level. It touches topics of terrorism, rebellion, occupation, and the difficulty civilians and armed forces face in current combat.

It is all done so well, the story, gameplay, and visuals. It deserves to be considered among the iconic Call of Duty campaigns.

4. Modern Warfare (2007)

ORIGINS: CoD 4 kicked off the franchises dynasty

The original MW, or CoD 4, set the bar for all future CoDs in terms of campaign and multiplayer.

Each mission was exciting, and the storylines with both the US Military and Task Force 141 were engaging. Each character could be appreciated in different ways, and the relationships between them felt legitimate – which made the campaign even more enjoyable for the player.

Much like every MW campaign, it had so many iconic moments. Starting with Crew Expendable, traveling back to All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill, and fighting through the streets in War Pig and Shock and Awe, this campaign had everything you needed in a campaign.

What’s more, the ending in ‘Game Over’ is one of the most iconic moments in the entire franchise. The added bonus of getting to replay this campaign with remastered graphics was also a great experience.

The fact that, between two copies of the game, this campaign can be played over and over again is its biggest testament.

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3. Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

CAPITAL: Washington D.C. falls in MW2

One of the biggest calling cards of this campaign was the number of iconic missions it had. Think about it: Cliffhanger, No Russian, Wolverines, The Gulag, and the entirety of Act III.

This campaign had it all and took the MW series to a level I didn’t think was possible after CoD 4. They took characters who were already loved and made them even more loved, while also creating genuine hatred for characters like Makarov and Shepard.

The feelings the campaign prompted made it impossible to stop playing. As soon as the next mission name popped up you had to play it, which is an incredibly important factor when it comes to evaluating these campaigns.

Much like MW3, the ending is enough to make this campaign one of the best ever. You find yourself on the edge of your seat as Soap clings to life and Price fights a seemingly losing battle. Then, when all seems lost, you find a way to kill Shepard with one of the grizzliest moments in the franchise. It was the ultimate ending, and the cliffhanger left fans craving MW3.

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What sets this campaign apart from CoD 4 is the way it managed to take the story and characters to a new level, while providing so many truly iconic missions.

2. Black Ops (2010)

While Black Ops on the whole may have disappointed some fans coming off the high that was MW2, the campaign certainly had nothing to do with any ill-feelings.

While not outwardly being a sequel to World at War, it offered a great continuation of Viktor Reznov’s storyline, arguable most popular character in CoD history, while introducing Woods, another iconic character of the series.

The journey this campaign took you on; from reliving past events through the prism of stress induced flashbacks in the torturing of the playable character, Mason; to uncovering the truth of what happened to Reznov and Dimitri Petrenko after the events of World at War; and finally resolving all storylines in the game’s present day; was an experience.

The campaign lived up to the game’s name, Black Ops, in creating a very tough, gritty, and shady experience. The characters had an edge to them and all had interesting backgrounds and arcs through the campaign as you worked to uncover many truths.

Set during the Cold War and the USA’s unsuccessful campaign in Vietnam, it also offered a new era for CoD fans and felt fresh. This made it unique to any other CoD, and also helped it become one of the most replayable single-player stories ever.

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1. World at War (2008)

REZNOV: One of Call of Duty’s most iconic moments as the WaW campaign ended

Every positive things that was said about all of the above campaigns rings true for this game. Gritty, visceral, intense, exciting, replayable, iconic. This campaign had it all.

Starting in 1942, the campaign takes you through to the end of the war fighting as the US Army through their campaign in the Pacific and the Russian Army in their fight to taking Berlin.

Both storylines are incredible. They included diverse gameplay; from storming beaches to storming the Reichstag; taking out Banzai soldiers to hiding among dead bodies to kickstart a Russian resistance; and fighting off Japanese Kamikaze bombers to tank warfare on the Eastern Front.

What’s more, does any character have a better entrance than Reznov in Vendetta? Then, does a character command more respect, awe, and fear through a campaign than Reznov? No. To both questions. From that moment until he helps you raise a Soviet flag atop the Reichstag he is one of the best characters in any FPS. Ever.

CoD 4 may have started the era of CoDs dominance, but World at War ensured it would continue. It still stands up as an awesome campaign compared to any more recent WW2 game, and will likely remain as the best CoD campaign forever.

Remy Cabache