From the late 90s to the late 00s we were bombarded by the game after game reenacting World War II in various ways. From heavy hitters like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor to simulators like Silent Hunter and Microsoft Combat Simulator. There was even a slew of strategy games like Hearts of Iron and Company of Heroes. Not all of these games were good, in fact, a majority of them were very bad. Towards the mid-2000’s everyone was tired of the WWII genre yet they still kept coming. The Medal of Honor series fell flat early on starting with Rising Sun, Call of Duty kept making the same game over and over again. It became deja vu when it was the same game with just better graphics, sound, and which series could push the dating consoles the most. I want to give you a bit of history about these games of history starting with the shooters. There were many of them, but what about the bad ones too? Were the little guys any good? Could they stand up to Call of Duty and Medal of Honor?
Call of Duty
Release Date: 10/29/03 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 91%
Xbox 360: 72%
Almost 2 years after Medal of Honor: Allied Assault blew PC gamers away, Call of Duty came out. A lot of people were weary because the WWII onslaught was already in full force. What could Call of Duty do that Medal of Honor couldn’t? It pushed PCs to their limits at the time and delivered a fully cinematic experience that Allied Assault didn’t quite bring. It was a fantastic game with solid mechanics and played through some of the most memorable moments of the war. This was a game that started a revolution in the WWII series and would go on to be one of the most hated series in gaming history. In 2009 an HD remake was made for PS3 and Xbox 360 but received lukewarm reception because the game just didn’t age well.
Release Date: 9/14/04 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 86%
After PC gamers heard that the next game in the series is going to be for consoles only they were furious. However, anger resided when the expansion was slated just a few months before the next release in the series. United Offensive was fantastic, probably even better than the original. Following Paratroopers this time as well as some highly cinematic events, United Offensive was solid and spectacular. While Medal of Honor was starting its quick descent into mediocrity Call of Duty was still holding strong. United Offensive remains one of my favorite Call of Duty games.
Call of Duty: Finest Hour
Release Date: 11/16/04 — Xbox, PS2, NGC
GameRankings: PS2: 77%
Finest Hour wasn’t Call of Duty 2 but was a highly anticipated spin-off until the sequel came. I remember being very excited about this because I didn’t have a PC that could run Call of Duty at the time. I remember watching all the preview videos on the OPM demo disc every month. Then I finally got it for Christmas that year, it was one of the most memorable World War II shooters I ever played. My only issue was that the grenades bounced around like rubber balls and the physics were awful, but it looked damn good. The game was highly cinematic and I had a blast and spent countless hours in the multiplayer. While this was the first Call of Duty game I played, critics were slamming the game for being another WWII shooter (which it was) and had technical issues. With that aside, it’s still worth a playthrough and is very fun.
Call of Duty
Release Date: 11/23/04 — N-Gage
GameRankings: NGE: 67%
While Finest Hour was at the top of sales charts, Activision thought it would be cute to help support the hot new phone: The N-Gage. This was more of a toned-down shooter and phones really weren’t that powerful back then. Java games on phones were the hot new thing. Porting the original PC game to the N-Gage was a huge mistake and suffered many technical issues that were expected. The game looked good for the N-Gage but suffered from draw distance issues and the character moved too fast. With that aside, it shows that games just can’t be dumbed down this much.
Release Date: 10/25/05 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 87%
Here it is! Even though everyone was sick of World War II shooters by now and Medal of Honor kept digging a deeper grave, Call of Duty 2 was a must-have for PC owners. It was a new benchmark game that sold graphics cards and pushed hardware to its limits. It had high-resolution textures and great lighting effects, but could it stand up to the last game? Not really. It turned out to just be more of the same and lacked the cinematic moments of the first game. It didn’t do anything different at all but did show us some new sides of World War II that other shooters didn’t touch. It did have a strong multiplayer following for a few years until it died after everyone finally got tired of the genre.
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
Release Date: 11/1/05 — PS2, Xbox, NGC
GameRankings: PS2, Xbox: 79%
With the next generation about to kick off with the Xbox 360, previous generation consoles were concerned about the Call of Duty series and how long it would last on these consoles. With just Finest Hour console owners were given a side game of Call of Duty 2 which was highly anticipated for Xbox 360 and was just released for PC. Big Red One was really fun but was given criticism for being so short and having mediocre multiplayer. I remember playing this and enjoying the large variety of missions and weapons, but you could beat it in about 5 hours. This would actually be the last Call of Duty to grace the GameCube due to Nintendo’s abandonment.
Call of Duty 2
Release Date: 11/17/05 — Xbox 360
GameRankings: Xbox 360: 89%
While the Call of Duty releases bombarded the holidays of 2005 Call of Duty 2 was one of the most highly anticipated shooters of the year for future Xbox 360 owners. It was one of the best launch titles for the system and garnered higher praise than its PC counterpart. It went on to sell millions and nearly every 360 owners had a copy. The only issue was that the game reduced multiplayer in half down to 8 players, but was still fun. The graphics were intact and looked just as good as the PC version.
Release Date: 11/7/06 — PS3, X360, Wii, Xbox, PS2
GameRankinsg: Xbox, PS2, X360: 82%
Call of Duty 3, is the sequel no one asked for. By the time the end of 2006 rolled around everyone just wanted WWII to die already. Call of Duty 2 was fine and dandy, but Activision wanted one more hoopla for next-gen consoles and, surprisingly, PS2-era consoles. It pushed previous consoles to their limits and was praised for being a solid shooter. The next-gen versions were fantastic and featured amazing visuals. I remember playing this and being blown away by the rain effects and how great the textures looked. It looked way better than Call of Duty 2 even did on PC. This also pissed PC fans off because they never got to see Call of Duty 3, but they didn’t really care. Despite all the criticism, the game was still solid and had really fun multiplayer. Call of Duty’s sales were weird with this being the best-selling game in the series so far at almost 8 million copies. The push of the next-generation consoles helped and surprisingly the Wii version was the second best selling.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory
Release Date: 3/13/07 — PSP
GameRankings: PSP: 64%
The PSP was going strong in 2007 but still hadn’t received a Call of Duty game. nearly 3 years after the handheld’s release Roads to Victory comes out which was a modification of Call of Duty 3. Being released on its own, and near the tail end of the WWII Call of Duty run, it didn’t have anything left to offer. Roads to Victory was mauled by game sites claiming it was too short, was the same thing yet again, and was way too short. It also suffered technical issues but had some really fun multiplayer. I personally enjoyed the game when it came out because FPS games on the PSP are scarce and 99% of them aren’t very good (Coded Arms). Roads to Victory is worth a look at if you are curious about this entry on PSP. The game sold surprisingly well and was a huge success on PSP despite the poor reviews. However, it didn’t quite sell as well as Medal of Honor Heroes.
Release Date: 11/10/2008 — PC, X360, PS3, Wii, DS, PS2
GameRankings: PS3, X360: 85%
Activision had a lot of guts doing this. The World War II shooters were finally phased out, Medal of Honor became a laughing stock, and Call of Duty had several good entries even late in the genre’s life cycle. Here comes Treyarch digging the genre up again, but to everyone’s surprise, it actually does something different. Building off the success of the Modern Warfare series, Treyarch takes you to the frontlines in Japan. This was a theatre of the war that was never really touched. The engine was based on the Modern Warfare one so long gone was the old Call of Duty engine. The graphics were fantastic and the multiplayer was addictive. People welcomed this older timer with a warm embrace, but no one else followed suit, no one had the guts. World at War was very cinematic and highly enjoyable. People who hate the genre should actually give this one a spin. Surprisingly, the series was still on PS2 (deemed Final Fronts) even in late 2008, however it was considered nearly unplayable, was extremely ugly, and was just no fun at all. World at War was the best-selling game in the WWII series and the best-selling WWII game of all time at 16 million copies. The game sold surprisingly well on PS2 for being the worst version of them all, and did well on DS as well with almost a million copies sold. It did the worst on PC.
Call of Duty Classic
Release Date: 12/3/2009
GameRankings: PS3: 78%
While World at War signified the end of the series’ World War II games, Call of Duty Classic tried to reignite that flame, maybe to test the waters for a whole new game? Classic had many technical issues and the first game just doesn’t hold up like it used to. Everyone was so sick of the series by this point that a remake of the first game was not a smart move. World War II shooters are a touchy subject with gamers, and unless you do something like World at War they won’t care what highly acclaimed classic your remake. A WWII shooter is a WWII shooter.
Call of Duty’s WWII series has sold over 35 million copies making it the best-selling WWII series of all time. It sold a few million more than Medal of Honor thanks to World at War making up nearly half the sales. Despite having fewer games they were of higher quality and that’s what gamers wanted. 6 long years of constant Call of Duty releases with 2005 being the strongest. It had some highs and lows but was also the most successful World War II series ever made. Its rival Medal of Honor didn’t do so well despite running for a longer streak, however, no one knows if Call of Duty will return to World War II again, hopefully not.