This week, Call of Duty: Ghosts hit store shelves on the current-gen consoles, bringing memories flooding back from the cinematic, breathtaking, and emotionally stirring moments we've experienced throughout the series.
Starting with the original Call of Duty, the campaigns have been putting us in the boots of larger-than-life soldiers in some of the most intense combat moments you could imagine. Now, with Call of Duty: Ghosts at our doorstep, there's no better time to reflect on some of the most memorable moments that have defined the series.
SPOILERS AHEAD, read at your own risk!
13. Menendez's bloody rampage | Time and Fate | Call of Duty Black Ops II
Very rarely do you get to know the exact motivations behind a psychopathic villain, but in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, you get to witness Raul Menendez's plight from his own eyes--bloodshot, rage-filled eyes. In a CIA raid to capture Menendez, his sister Josefina is taken from him, sending the antagonist into a murderous frenzy. With nothing but a shotgun, machete, and blind rage, you rampage through the nearby town, slaughtering every soldier that stands in your way. Bullets can't hurt you, you shrug off grenades, and you attack your victims like a man possessed. What a rush.
12. The United States getting nuked from space | Ghost Stories | Call of Duty: Ghosts
To kick off the new setting for Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward brought out the biggest guns they could get: a weaponized space station orbiting right above the United States. As the astronaut Baker, you and your partner witness the Federation hijack the station, gun down its crew, and launch nuclear missiles towards southern California. But what you have to do gets even more insane. As in, get-blown-out-into-space, shoot-any-bad-guys-you-see, then commit-suicide-to-save-the-world kind of insane.
11. Deciding the fate of Alex Mason | Suffer With Me | Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Black Ops II did something that no other Call of Duty campaign had done before: it let you make choices. But one of those choices might've passed without you even knowing it happened. The young Mason and Woods have tracked down the murderous extremist, Raul Menendez, who was betrayed by his allies. With a blinding cloth draped over his head, Menendez is displayed in front of Woods, who has a sniper rifle in hand, ready to gun the madman down. You're given control. You take the shot. But as you inspect the body, you discover that you shot Alex Mason instead! Dun dun dun. Guess you should've shot him in the leg, a subtle choice which gives you a completely different ending.
10. Surfacing at New York Harbour | Hunter Killer | Modern Warfare 3
The opening Modern Warfare 3 mission Black Tuesday is an all-guns blazing mad dash through New York’s devastated financial district that offers a fairly confined street level assessment of the Russian assault on NYC. The following Hunter Killer mission momentarily shifts down a gear, with an eerie underwater sortie through a flooded Brooklyn Battery tunnel, before surfacing in New York Harbour to a smoking skyline vista that leaves no doubt in the mind of the player that World War 3 has kicked off in a big way. It’s no surprise Activision chose this mission to open the Microsoft press conference at E3 2011.
9. De-Nazifying the woods | The Forest | Call of Duty 3
A wonderfully paced, rising crescendo of a level. At first requiring a softly-softly snipey-snipey approach, with the relative peacefulness of the forest creating an edgy atmosphere, the player never quite knowing where the next Nazi’s going to spring from. Then it kicks things up a notch, with the battle intensifying as it moves between tight burrow-like trenches and wide-open spaces. Finally – and a complete contrast to the cautious way the mission starts – you’re given a mortar to play with, allowing you to merrily blow apart any of Hitler’s helmeted hobgoblins unfortunate enough to still be lurking in the forest.
8. Taking control of the AC-130 gunship | Death from Above | Modern Warfare
This unnerving demonstration of the coldly efficient, detached nature of modern warfare as seen from the perspective of an anonymous thermal imaging TV operator aboard an AC-130 Spectre Gunship has a slightly surreal feel to it. It also has an irresistibly satisfying ‘hey blowing stuff up with devastating omnipotence is fun!’ feel to it.
7. Beach landing | The Battle of Pointe du Hoc | Call of Duty 2
Starts with a fellow soldier in the landing craft having a fear-induced puke. BLEEUURGH. This is quickly followed by the sound of bullets whizzing through the air. Then clouds of red mist as those bullets thud into flesh. Soldiers fall to the ground. Spray from a near-miss explosion obscures your view. Then the ramp is down and you’re running on to the beach. MORTAR BOOM. Down you go. Cue semi-deafened shell-shocked horror of war moment as you survey the scene around you. When you regain your senses the metaphorical implications of the vertical cliff face ahead of you become apparent. Your role to this point is one of spectator, but it’s still a breathless couple of minutes.
6. Hijacked plane sequence | Turbulence | Modern Warfare 3
And there we were thinking Modern Warfare’s breathless airplane-based bonus mission Mile High Club was pretty special. But then MW3’s Turbulence comes along and takes in-flight combat to the next level with zero gravity shooting and a crash landing that rips the aircraft fuselage in two.
5. Planting the Russian flag at Reichstag | Downfall | Call of Duty: World at War
This ending has got it all. Explosions. Shouting. Smoke. Patriotism. Edge-of-the-seat tension. A surprise attack. Reznov wildly hacking a Nazi to death with a machete. A Russian flag flying as Berlin burns all around. Rousing music. Comradeship. Victory. Cheering. It’s a guaranteed vibrations down the vertebrae moment.
4. Crossing the Volga River | Stalingrad | Call of Duty
The first Russian mission in the original Call of Duty was a good indication of what developer Infinity Ward was going to bring to the FPS table, namely shock factor. The boat trip across the Volga River is loud and chaotic, disorientating and terrifying. It’s a master-class in scene setting, creating an unusual sense of powerlessness in the player even before it eventually throws you into the fray without so much as a rifle.
3. Betrayed by General Shepherd | Loose Ends | Modern Warfare 2
Whether you saw this coming or not, the moment General Shepherd is revealed as one of the bad guys is thoroughly, tangibly, affectingly bleak. Not the first time Infinity Ward has landed us with a ‘well done you survived the mission but hard luck we’re going to kill you anyway’ sucker punch, but it really doesn’t lessen the impact when it happens. The brutal, cold-hearted manner of the betrayal - Shepherd shoots Ghost and Roach point-blank and then sets light to their bodies before nonchalantly strolling away - propels the player crazy-eyed with vengeance into the game’s finale.
2. Nuclear death | Aftermath | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
One of the most talked about gaming moments probably ever and undoubtedly Infinity Ward at its cinematic finest, the dev expertly hitting all the right notes on the shock scale. The frantic preceding Shock and Awe mission ensures adrenal glands are at full pump, and its apparent successful conclusion is a fist-pumping moment. But the high is short-lived, cruelly blown apart with the force of, well, an atomic blast. Then all that’s left is the unfathomable sinking feeling of futility as Sgt Jackson crawls from the downed chopper, inevitably to his death in the dirt of a scorched wasteland. A residual sense of gloom lingers with the player long after the screen has bleached to a sickening nuclear white.
1. Behind enemy lines with Captain MacMillan | All Ghillied Up | Modern Warfare
Dressed like shrubbery for a slow-slow-quick-slow-slow dance deep in enemy territory, this is tense, terrifying, nerve-wracking and arguably *the* standout mission in the entire series, which is kind of funny as it’s so completely at odds with Call of Duty’s deafening, indefatigable shoot-shoot-and-shoot-some-more signature style. As you weave unseen through enemy patrols, stopping occasionally to stealth snipe the occasional oblivious soldier, or lie prone in the grass as a tank rumbles by just feet away from your position, it’s genuine don’t-forget-to-breath, edge-of-the-seat stuff.
Do your duty
That’s 13 of our best Call of Duty moments, but how about you fine citizens? We’re sure you have some indelible campaign memories you’d like to share. After all, there are plenty to choose from. Let us know in the comments.
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