Shocking reality of Call of Duty ratings

The yearly Call of Duty release always churns a frenzy of praise and criticism, sales figures and player numbers, and graphics and gameplay comparisons.

2014’s release of Ghosts has been no less contentious, and has possibly been the most fractious of the current-gen Call of Duty era since Modern Warfare (Call of Duty 4) turned the franchise on its multiplayer head back in 2007.

While post-Modern Warfare Call of Duty games have generally received good scores on the review front, and fans have remained loyal, there is of course a vocal contingent of gamers who cry foul every year.

The games are often slated for barely innovating; using an outdated 3D engine; having lacklustre visuals; increasingly relying on set-pieces and gimmicks to carry the single-player campaign; having the same shallow run n’ gun multiplayer with a yearly coat of new game paint; and of course the pricey DLC map packs that offer “fan-favourite” maps spruced up for the latest iteration of the game.

That’s before we even get into the nitty-gritty of no dedicated servers, peer-to-peer matchmaking issues, and hackers galore.

Call of Duty Ghosts - Riley

Call of Duty Ghosts – Riley

Despite those who would point out its flaws, there are plenty who are happy with the yearly iteration of CoD – at least if sales figures and player numbers are anything to go by. Activision isn’t phased – always quick to proudly proclaim their latest CoD a financial success, and early indications are that Ghosts will be no different.

But was Modern Warfare the high-water mark, and is Ghosts now feeling the undertow of the shifting tide?

To get an idea of the critical progress of the Call of Duty series we can turn to arbiter of all scores aggregate, Metacritic. The charts below represent scores retrieved on 12 November 2013 for both official Metascore reviews and user reviews. It is worth noting that, for Ghosts, there are only 4 PC reviews listed, while most large publications have their console reviews in. Scores for previous CoD titles will have stabilised by now.

Call of Duty franchise – Metacritic Scores (12 November 2013)

PC Xbox 360 PS3
First released Metascore User Score Metascore User Score Metascore User Score
Call of Duty October 2003 91 84 72* 73 78* 73
Call of Duty 2 October 2005 86 83 89 82
Call of Duty 3 November 2006 82 65 80 69
Modern Warfare November 2007 92 84 94 84 94 84
World at War November 2008 83 72 84 74 85 73
Modern Warfare 2 November 2009 86 39 94 61 94 59
Black Ops November 2010 81 47 87 60 88 60
Modern Warfare 3 November 2011 78 23 88 33 88 30
Black Ops 2 November 2012 74 36 83 44 83 47
Ghosts November 2013 68 17 74 21 75 18
*Call of Duty 1 launched in December 2009 on Xbox 360 and PS3

Plotting these scores to charts provides an interesting view of the Call of Duty franchise on the three major platforms (PC, Xbox 360, PS3).

Call of Duty series - Metacritic score 12 November 2013

Call of Duty series – Metacritic scores (12 November 2013)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare does seem to represent a peak for the franchise on all platforms. Post-Modern Warfare, review scores reflect a gradual decline while, in contrast, user scores show a drastic negative reaction from the gamers.

The PC platform show the most evidence of unhappy gamers from the Modern Warfare 2 mark – no doubt fuelled by the “no dedicated servers” controversy, and the general PC gamer disposition that they were being neglected in favour of consoles.

For a title that promised to be ushering the Call of Duty franchise into the next generation of gaming, Ghosts represents a low-point for the series. The way review scores go these days, for a mega AAA flagship action game with the financial might of Activision behind it to hit the mid-70’s, should set alarm bells ringing. The user scores are obviously a grim representation of the general Call of Duty milieu.

Will this be enough to spur Activision to reinvent Call of Duty, or will the franchise go the way of Guitar Hero?

Activision has already confirmed there will be a Call of Duty game in 2014 – and for the hope of a grim spectacle akin to a tired Hollywood action hero being dragged out one more time to recite their famous one liners, I can’t wait to see it in action.

More Call of Duty news

720p Call of Duty: Ghosts for Xbox One confirmed

COD players aren’t “hardcore gamers” – Infinity Ward

Activision on South Africa, Ghosts, and Chuck Norris

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