Women of the world (at war)
How many women star in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? To save you time, they're all stood in the picture above – sporting variants of the same hairstyle – in the infamous No Russian scene. It's bewildering, if not surprising. Call of Duty (opens in new tab)'s roots stem from the machismo of World War I and II conflict – and while broadly historically justifiable, presents a narrow view of reality. Activision's shooter has broadened its sights in recent years, with Call of Duty WWII set to star a female French resistance fighter (opens in new tab). Back in 2013, Call of Duty: Ghosts looked to redress the balance with multiplayer characters representing both sexes, although there aren't any women the campaign besides an unplayable astronaut. Digging deeper, we've found that the series is (slightly) more inclusive than you might give it credit. Here's the women who have served bravely under the Call of Duty banner, from 2003's original Call of Duty to 2016's COD: Infinite Warfare (opens in new tab). Like their male counterparts, they come from all walks of life, and are mostly just handy with a gun. Albeit with a limited range of haircuts.
Tanya Pavelovna (Call of Duty: Finest Hour)
Release date: 2004
Who is she? The matriarch of the Call of Duty series is Tanya Pavelovna, a Russian sniper who played a key role in Call of Duty: Finest Hour (PS2, Xbox, GameCube). After her village was taken by the Germans and she was separated from her family, she joined the Red Army, becoming an adept fighter. She once picked up a sniper rifle laying next to a fallen comrade and, without any training whatsoever, took down four enemy soldiers before being rescued by the Reds. Tanya joins up with protagonist Aleksandr during the Finest Hour campaign, providing cover fire for her comrades and most notably serving as a distraction for a German Panzer tank. It takes a lot of gravitas to put oneself in the crosshairs of a tank, but Tanya did just that and lived to tell the tale.
Josefina Menendez (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2)
Release date: 2012
Who is she? Poor, poor Josefina. The younger sister of Black Ops 2 antagonist Raul Menendez suffers a cruel fate, severely burned by a backdraft during a barn fire as a child. As Raul cared for her, American troops stormed his compound, with protagonists Mason and Woods inadvertently killing her in a grenade explosion. Her death fuels Raul's hatred for the USA, hatching his plan for revenge and making Josefina the catalyst for the entire Black Ops 2 storyline. In a way, there is no Black Ops 2 without Josefina. Raul mentions her throughout the game, and we see her at different stages of her incredibly tough life. The vision of her disfigured face is one that we won't get out of our minds very soon, reminding us of Maria in Gears of War 2. Josefina plays a critical part in Black Ops 2, despite not having a lot of screen time at all.
Abigial "Misty" Briarton (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies)
Release date: 2012
Who is she? When the first Black Ops 2 posters came out, one of them was a picture of a woman holding a Winchester rifle in one hand and a skull in the other, surrounded by rubble and debris. We didn't know who this woman was, but we had a feeling she'd be part of whatever new Zombie campaign Black Ops 2 would throw at us. Abigail 'Misty' Briarton is her name, and her official job description is 'Hurting zombies'. Perhaps. We don't have a whole lot of background on Abigail, except that she grew up on a farm. However, when we're knee deep in the undead, Abigail is happy to oblige with a shotgun in her hands and a smile on her face.
Samantha Maxis (Call of Duty: Zombies)
Release date: 2008-present
Who is she? Samantha here isn't so much a part of the core Call of Duty campaign, but rather the Zombies storyline seen in World at War and both Black Ops games. She is possessed by Edward Richtofen, the mad doctor antihero responsible for all of the countless undead we've been shooting since 2008. In short, she controls the zombie hordes. For a while, we only hear Samantha's voice as the "Demonic Announcer," but we finally get a chance to control her in the Moon stage of the original Black Ops, replacing Richtofen after completing a certain 12-step Easter egg. It's a lot of work, but getting the chance to play as the girl that's been terrorizing us with her voice since the original Zombies game is worth it.
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Call of Duty: Zombies)
Release date: 2010
Who is she? It's, er, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Y'know: Buffy. The Call of the Dead DLC for the original Black Ops' zombie campaign was tremendous fun. Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, and Robert Englund add B-movie pizzaz, but to control Buffy the Vampire Slayer against a horde of zombies was beyond thrilling. Sarah was a blast to control; shooting her way through the undead while shouting lines like "How's this for a close-up, dead head?!" was… well, it's better than it sounds. We still think that Call of the Dead may be the best of the Call of Duty Zombie chapters, with Sarah Michelle Gellar being a major reason for it, despite – or because of – those one-liners.
Captain Pelayo (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
Release date: 2007
Who is she? Ah, Captain Pelayo, the expert helicopter pilot of Call of Duty 4 who found herself in quite a jam. If by 'jam', you mean 'nuclear blast'. Having been shot down by a Stinger missile, Sgt. Jackson goes to the site of the crash to save her, a decision that cost him his life. Soon after she is shot down, a nuclear device is set off, killing everyone aboard the chopper and in the immediate area. Captain Pelayo plays an integral part in the lore of Call of Duty, as she set the stage for one of the iconic moments in the entire series.
Chloe 'Karma' Lynch (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2)
Release date: 2012
Who is she? Chloe Lynch, codenamed 'Karma', may seem like an ordinary NPC support character in Black Ops 2. However, Chloe is actually a benchmark for the entire CoD series: she is the first character in any Call of Duty game who will survive or die based on the player's progress throughout the campaign. Others have died throughout the series' storylines, but none of their fates were entirely on us. We didn't want Chloe to die, not least because she's the only person who can crack the virus launched against America, so we made sure we did everything we could to ensure her survival. We failed in our play through, however, and now this sentence reads like we're mentally unravelling, with limited benefit to yourself, dear reader.
Female multiplayer character (Call of Duty: Ghosts)
Release date: 2013
Who is she? Less a person, than a long-overdue equal opportunities measure. CoD Ghosts allowed players to create female multiplayer characters for the first time. Better yet, you have a more varied choice of garments than 'Purple Shirt'. With this glaring oversight finally rectified, we can now shoot each other in the face over and over again. What a beautiful world we live in.
Operative (Call of Duty: Black Ops 3)
Release date: November, 2015
Who is she? Treyarch was proud to announce that you could actually play as a woman for the entire Black Ops 3 campaign, a first for the CoD franchise. The team promised a gender neutral script and compared their lead to Alien’s Ripley who was originally written as a man before Sigourney Weaver’s inspired casting. While the end result does mean we get actress Abby Brammell reading the script instead of Ben Browder, the campaign itself is littered with other characters calling you “boy scout” or just referring to you as “him”. Points for immersion, Treyarch. Throw in the fact that romantic relationship with operative Rachel Kane just isn’t changed at all for the female perspective and even with the best intentions, it feels like the franchise’s first female playable gay protagonist was a bit of a last minute decision. A good step but perhaps one that could have done with a bit of QA testing.
Audrey 'Mac' MacCallum (Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare)
Release date: November, 2016
Who is she? Of all the CODs, Infinite Warfare has one of the best rounded casts when it comes to representation, with several prominent women. However, of all of them, chief engineer Audrey 'Mac' MacCallum is perhaps the most interesting. As a former commander turned chief engineer she’s a voice of wisdom that speaks to you from the position of having sat in your chair. She’s made the kind of difficult life and death decisions that test you during the game’s campaign, so she knows what you’re going through. She’s almost the game’s Yoda in terms of providing wise counsel and guidance. There’s a depth to her character from her life experiences, something that works exceptionally well thanks Claudia Black grounded and understated performance.
Ilona (Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare)
Release date: 2014
Who is she? Ilona is an ex-Spetsnaz sniper who works for Atlas, a powerful private military organisation (PMC) of spies and scientists who work together to promote world peace. During the campaign, she pops up as a team mate, who assists the lead playable character Mitchell. What’s most refreshing, is that Ilona is one of the brightest and most multi-talented characters in the game, who works out the ‘bigger picture’ plot twist before anyone else – and, if you look closely in the ‘Atlas’ mission, tops the score cards in the company firing range.