As of late, there’s been a flourish of Call of Duty tier lists going around. It caught my interest as a long-term player of Activision’s hit FPS series. I’ve technically played every mainline Call of Duty game but for the sake of this list, we’ll keep it to just the multiplayer era of games. Specifically, that’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare up to the most recent addition to the series, Black Ops 4.
I’m going to give you all a heads up now and tell you this list is not going to be one that agrees with most people’s opinion. My taste in Call of Duty titles differs a lot to many other fans and certain cult classics will likely be further down on this list then you may expect. I’m going to say things you probably aren’t going to like so if that’s something you don’t feel you can deal with, turn away now. This is just Part 1 of the tier list with Part 2 dropping tomorrow.
Black Ops 1
Yes, I am listing Black Ops 1 as the worst Call of Duty title ever made. I realize to many this is probably sacrilegious but as far as I’m concerned Treyarch’s 2010 installment of the series was awful.
The guns were terrible, spongy pellet shooters with no weight behind them. The maps weren’t much better either. Others might love Nuketown and Firing Range but I’d call the latter average and the former atrocious. Tiny maps aren’t all that fun on any game but Nuketown, in particular, seems to encourage spawn killing like nothing else. Perhaps Shipment edges it out in that regard but that’s just an absolute meme of a map. The story is, at best, a narrative mess that tried to pull something off that no Call of Duty writer was talented enough for. The Party modes were a welcome addition with One in the Chamber being especially fun but the core multiplayer experience itself just didn’t synchronize with me.
Black Ops 4 and Ghosts are both featured on this tier of the list for the exact same reason. Irrelevance. I consider these two the least Call of Duty-like of the CoD games ever made. You’d think that might be a good thing with CoD’s infamy of lacking innovation but most of the times that they try to do something different, it just doesn’t go well. Ghosts felt empty. It was the corpse of Infinity Ward and what was left after they all went to form Respawn Entertainment and work for EA instead. Not to mention its PC port, which is to this day the worst CoD PC port we’ve ever seen. That game’s inability to hold a decent frame rate on most machines is laughable considering it didn’t even look nice for the time.
The large maps and horribly slow paced gameplay encouraged camping over free-flowing movement. This wasn’t helped by Ghosts’ rapid time to kill, which meant players who tried to actually run around were often punished for doing so. Extinction Mode was okay but overall, an inferior version of the already established Zombies.
Black Ops 4
Black Ops 4 is the best of the three in this tier but fails fundamentally as a Call of Duty game. For me, CoD has always been about the cutting edge multiplayer experiences that offer both a competitive and fun environment to tear opponents apart in. Considering that, Black Ops 4’s dry as they come multiplayer is one of the most disappointing things I’ve seen. The server issues plagued the game early on and I can’t believe just how bad the spawning is on certain maps. I know older CoDs had this problem too but I thought we were over basic flaws in map design. The lack of a single-player isn’t that big a deal to me personally but I know others were left very disappointed.
Sure, the Battle Royale mode is decent enough but trying to sell me a game based on its battle royale is like trying to sell Lebron James a ‘Cleveland is a %$#@-hole‘ shirt. I’ve played PUBG, Fortnite, Realm Royale and just about every other significant battle royale game you could name. The only one I’ve ever truly enjoyed was Apex Legends, which is a very good game. Strongly recommend it for those looking for a battle royale game with actual gunplay and teamwork. Unlike the other two in this tier, Black Ops 4 isn’t actually a bad game, it’s just a bad Call of Duty.
Modern Warfare 3
From here on out, I’m happy to say that I don’t dislike any of the titles. These three are by no means great games but I played them a fair bit in their heyday and got some my fair share of fun out of them. Modern Warfare 3 is probably the best of them just because it managed to keep true to what made past titles so good. The maps haven’t aged amazingly with many being forgotten with time but a certain few like Carbon, Hardhat and Underground still feel fun to play to this day. Most of the gunplay, movement, and general feel of the game is ripped out of its predecessor. This is understandable considering how much Modern Warfare 2 did for the franchise.
Modern Warfare 3 is still the best selling Call of Duty game to this day, shipping over 30 million units worldwide. Unfortunately, there’s no doubt that MW3 was the beginning of the end for the Call of Duty series’ mainstream popularity. Infinity Ward did not innovate at all with this title with the shameless amount of reused assets and samey feel to both Modern Warfare titles before it. The sad part is that there’s little reason to pick this over Modern Warfare 2 or even Modern Warfare Remastered as you’re just getting an inferior product overall.
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3 is actually one of the more mechanically interesting and developed games in the series. Despite scaling back Advanced Warfare‘s superior movement system, Black Ops 3 still offered players a decent range of options on how to get around. Maps were specifically designed to reward players who used sliding and wall running to the best of their abilities. The maps themselves weren’t all that special with Combine and maybe Fringe being considered memorable but I don’t think there were any awful maps either. Well other than Nuk3town of course because any version of that map is naturally bad.
My biggest problem with Black Ops 3 was that its the most pay to win CoD ever released. This was when Activision was at their most aggressive in trying to get you to buy loot boxes if you wanted to stay competitive. Unless you threw hundreds of dollars at the game or spent the rest of your life grinding, there was no way you could ever expect to use every gun available. There was too much trash in loot boxes and the odds of getting weapon drops were, and still are, embarrassingly low. Having weapons locked behind a paywall is always going to feel terrible but in Black Ops 3‘s case, it was Activision taking a full-on diarrhea dump over their customers.
Did you know Infinite Warfare had an auto aim sniper-shotgun hybrid added that was available through supply drops? To be fair, it got patched a day later but it’s still a fun fact. For those 20 hours or so, the Proteus was undoubtedly the best hardcore weapon in Call of Duty history. You could literally just slide around and hit that sweet right trigger every time you saw someone on your screen. A bug, at least that’s what they claimed, meant that one of the four pellets in shotgun mode would always hit someone. A literal auto-aim, instakill weapon, in an FPS.
I don’t think many are all that fond of Infinite Warfare but I actually didn’t mind it. Alongside Modern Warfare 2, it’s probably the least competitively balanced Call of Duty released but at least it didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t. The gun variants were crazy with a personal favorite of mine being the R3K – Spearhead. That thing fired so fast considering the base damage it could put out. Infinite Warfare‘s maps were very forgettable and it’s simply known for many as the CoD that came with Modern Warfare Remastered. It’s unfortunate that Activision felt the need to hold MWR hostage with Infinite Warfare as I think it tainted the opinion many had of this futuristic installment. A surprisingly decent addition to the series.
Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 is the most iconic Call of Duty to date. It had a serious impact on gaming culture as a whole and is the CoD most likely to spark up a conversation between fans. Even when its considerable amount of flaws are taken into account, Modern Warfare 2 is undoubtedly a cult classic of the 2000s. Boasting one of the series’ strongest map lists, many Modern Warfare 2 maps are still considered fan favorites to this day. Afghan, Highrise, Scrapyard, and Skidrow are all top-tier maps. Modern Warfare 2 also gave birth to a wide range of cheesing play styles that you either love or hate. ACR, grenade launcher, One Man Army and Danger Close. Rinse and repeat. By resetting your class over and over with One Man Army you can fulfill every noob-tubers dream of having infinite grenades to fling across the map at the enemy team.
I used to run around with my SPAS-12 shredding everything within 15 meters. Coupled with Marathon and Lightweight Pro that range is no joke. The most ridiculous combo in their prime was the pre-patch akimbo Model 1877s. Those things had an effective range of at least 20-25 meters and a one-shot kill percentage that just hasn’t been seen on another shotgun since. Unfortunately, Modern Warfare 2 was plagued with awful gun balancing. Weapons like the ACR, UMP, and Scar were far too strong. It got even worse for killstreaks where momentum would often single-handedly win games over actual player skill. It might have been a whole lot of fun back in the day but revisiting Modern Warfare 2 today is not as great an experience. Now I understand the need for balance to facilitate a competitive environment, Call of Duty: MW2 just feels like an unbalanced mess where everything dies far too quickly. Just thinking about the Harrier, Chopper Gunner, Nuke combo gives me gamer PTSD.
World War 2
World War 2 had an awful launch and was, for the longest time, a pretty bad Call of Duty title. Very few maps featured at release and the ones that were there are best described as underwhelming at best. The release of World War 2 was always a disappointing one to me as I had my fingers crossed for Sledgehammer to deliver Advanced Warfare 2. To this day, I believe if they had then we’d have ended up with a better game all around. It hurts to know Sledgehammer actually wanted to do just that but got turned down because Activision didn’t think there was a market for it.
Reading all of this you’re probably confused why World War 2 is this far up the list. Call of Duty: WW2 has come a long way since its launch day dilemmas and is now a fine FPS. It features a crazy impressive range of guns, totaling 64 weapons to choose from. They even brought back the Blunderbuss from Advanced Warfare, which was the best risk vs reward gun design in Call of Duty’s 16-year history.
Additions and tweaks to the Divisions system made it far less restrictive and unbalanced too. The base map list is still as bad as ever but most agree that the DLC additions to the game were all pretty good. Egypt, in particular, stands out as one of the better maps in CoD history. We even got a mirrored reimaging of peak Advanced Warfare map Detroit. Although to this day, I don’t believe they actually disclosed it was a remake. In typical Activision fashion, they tried to pawn it off as a completely new map. Putting everyone’s “favorite” publisher’s actions aside, WW2 is a game well worth revisiting if you happened to buy it when it came out. Sledgehammer Games have done some admirable work at supporting and improving it to the point where I can confidently say it is now a good game. It’s just a shame that the PC version still has numerous issues which are unlikely to ever get addressed, including cheaters and frame freezing.
That’s all for Part 1 of my Call of Duty tier list. You can expect Part 2 to go live tomorrow where we’ll be looking at the best games in the series with some inclusions I’m sure you’ll find surprising.
What’s your favorite Call of Duty game? Let us know in the comments below!
I’m a passionate games critic who has been writing actively since 2015. I have a particular interest in both racing games and JRPGs as well as a love for Overwatch and its eSports scene. I consider gaming and writing my two big passions in life. So much so that I’m currently studying a one of a kind degree that covers both in one! My goal in life is simply to become a renowned critic who is respected for his opinions.