Join us as we chart the history of the Call of Duty series via the visual medium of Call of Duty box art, from 2003 to 2012. Along the way we will discover many fascinating things and make many artistic observations. You might learn something. You might not. But one thing's for sure, by the end you will have seen 13 different Call of Duty box arts.
Call of Duty | 2003
The first game from developer Infinity Ward. The first Call of Duty in the series. And - consequently - the first Call of Duty box art. Apart from slight cosmetic tweaking, bevelling, scuffing and so on along the way, the Impact font logo introduced here remains pretty much unchanged on all Call of Duty covers. The art itself is stirringly heroic under fire, reminiscent of Commando comics and the like. The soldier pointing pulls us brilliantly into the scene, practically ordering us to join the action.
Call of Duty: Finest Hour | 2004
A desperate looking picture with soldiers from the American 1st Infantry Division staring down the dangerous end of a German tank with nothing more than Thompson submachine guns for protection. Again, we’re included in the drama by being directly addressed and pointed at by the dude with the big phone.
The Japanese cover is on the right. As you can see, apart from the bits that are in Japanese, it’s identical to the US version. Interestingly, every Call of Duty box art is the same regardless of region.
Call of Duty 2 | 2005
This dramatic image of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion during the battle of Point du Hoc shows rangers scaling the cliff from the beach below in an attempt to reach the Nazi casemate at the top. A depiction of a key moment of the Normandy landings, it’s a particularly poignant piece of box art for a video game.
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One | 2005
Can you see the big red one? Yes, there it is on the arm of cover star Sergeant Roland Roger of the US 1st Infantry Division. That’s why it’s called ‘Big Red One’ - because you play the entire game from the perspective of the 1st Infantry Division and they have a big red number 1 sewn on the sleeve of their uniform. Informative and interesting, that’s GamesRadar.
Call of Duty 3 | 2006
The first time a Nazi had featured so prominently on the cover – he’s there locking rifles with someone from the US 29th Infantry Division – hints at the new QTE-based close quarter combat feature which was introduced for the first time in the game. Despite players also switching between protagonists from the British, Canadian, and Polish armed forces, the box art sticks with its preference of portraying the US campaign on its cover.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory | 2007
The only Call of Duty game for PSP and - as the series looks to other, non-World War II conflicts for inspiration - it’s the last time Nazi’s appear anywhere on a Call of Duty cover. It’s also the final time the traditional, classic comic-book style box art is used, with a whole new art direction introduced with the next release, which is...
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare | 2007
The current Call of Duty box art trend of shadowy, faceless, indefinable cover man with gun begins here. The logo is given a slightly shiny update to remain consistent with the modernising but otherwise remains completely unchanged. Amazingly, this is the only Call of Duty box art to feature helicopters. And that *could* be Captain Price (when he was a Lieutenant) on the back cover, although it could also be Captain Macmillan. It’s hard to tell because of the ghillie suit.
Call of Duty: World at War | 2008
One of the more striking of the shadowy Call of Duty covers – the central figure is nicely framed by the dark jungle foliage and the blurred debris gives the image a real dynamic quality that’s evocative of the classic comic-book style of the earlier box arts. The dominant monochromatic palette is peppered with flashes of blistering oranges and reds, neatly highlighting the appearance of the M2 Flamethrower in the game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 | 2009
With the sandstorm colours and protective face gear of the US marine, at first glance this appears to be an image of conflict in some war-torn Middle-Eastern country, but closer inspection reveals the very faint outline of Washington’s Capitol building in the background. This is the only cover where the Call of Duty logo is smaller than the subtitle.
Call of Duty: Black Ops | 2010
Deliberately covert yet still offering enough visual clues that leave no doubt Vietnam is included in the game’s tour of duty. The featured M1911 handguns are the nickel-plated versions found only in the multiplayer and Zombies modes (the ones in the campaign have a Parkerized finish, which isn’t as shiny).
Side-note: It’s possible to upgrade to dual-wielded M1911s in multiplayer and have ‘Sally’ joined by a second gun ‘Mustang’, which is a reference to the Wilson Pickett song 'Mustang Sally' released in 1966 (originally recorded in 1965 by Mack Rice).
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | 2011
Easily the starkest Call of Duty box art - shadowy, faceless, indefinable cover man with gun, against a blindingly white backdrop (and possibly standing in a waist-high snowstorm). Not a classic. Besides the lack of much to look at, the cover is notable for altering the call of Duty logo by joining up the ‘T’ and ‘Y’. Also, ‘Modern Warfare’ is reduced to a conjoined ‘MW’, the inverted symmetry a play on ‘WW3’. Finally, the shadowy, faceless, indefinable cover man with gun bears a passing resemblance to a gunned-up version of singer George Michael.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II | 2012
Clearly a continuation of the Black Ops box-art theme, although the gear is obviously upgraded and the ‘Black Ops’ logo has a suitably futuristic quality. This is the first time Roman numerals (i.e. II) have been preferred to Arabic numerals (i.e. 2) on any of the Call of Duty box arts. There’s also another slight change to the Call of Duty logo, with the Impact font being given a dog-tag style makeover.
Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified | 2012
Again, like the Black Ops II box-art, with the exception of the sub-title orange this cover is completely achromatic. The dog-tag stencil applied to the Call of Duty logo is absent, although the conjoined ‘T’ and ‘Y’ from Modern Warfare 3’s box-art is present. Overall the image is more ambiguous than its predecessors - it has an eerie, ghostly quality and could easily adorn the box frontage of a game about alien invaders without looking out of place.
There we are. A history of Call of Duty box art. Do you have a favourite Call of Duty cover? Or perhaps there’s one you have irrational feelings of hate for? Either way, if you feel compelled to comment, please do so in the comments section.
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