The Call of Duty games are well-known for their fast-paced and fiercely competitive multiplayer experience. However, the developers behind the Call of Duty games have also worked diligently to create campaign stories that are compelling, engaging, and offer plenty of surprises.
Although many gamers may feel the storylines in Call of Duty are recycled and unoriginal, the campaigns still provide shocking moments that stick with players long after they’ve finished playing. Whether it’s plot twists or unexpected endings, the games rarely fail to stun players and pull at their heart strings.
Here’s a list of our top six most shocking moments in Call of Duty history. It goes without saying that the below list includes spoilers.
Nuclear Explosion – ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’
The success of the first Modern Warfare helped make the franchise the sales juggernaut it is today. The game introduced players to a fresh view of modern combat and opened the door to the fast-paced multiplayer action that would continue for almost a decade.
However, it was more than just the game’s multiplayer experience that impressed players. During the campaign, players experienced the dreadful realities of nuclear warfare when a bomb went off during a mission.
The moment was so surprising and intense it caught many players off guard. But beyond the suddenness of the moment was the fact that players got to experience the final moments of the player’s character, Sergeant Paul Jackson. In the scene, players drag themselves out of the chopper, only to die staring at the flames around them.
Activision showed they weren’t afraid of heart-breaking moments, or of sending main characters to an early grave. This moment in Call of Duty history was only one of many impactful moments to come for many years afterward.
London Attack – ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’
As was shown in previous Call of Duty games, developer Infinity Ward and publisher Activision had no qualms with showing the gruesome truths of war. One of those truths is the sad reality that innocents are often caught in the crosshairs, or even directly targeted, as terrorists and warring nations strive to crush their enemies.
In Modern Warfare 3, players experience this in a very personal way when they watch a video of a family enjoying a vacation in London just before an explosion goes off in the city. From the beginning of the video, it’s apparent something big is about to happen. As players watch, it’s easy to focus on London’s famous Big Ben clock in the background and expect something to happen to the tower.
However, what really happens is far more impactful. As a young girl runs around chasing after birds, a truck pulls up and stops in front of the family. The driver then leaps from the truck and leaves it idling in place. Moments later, the truck explodes, killing the girl and mom on screen.
The personal nature of this short clip is enough to pull at the heartstrings of any gamer. It was also enough to incur a response from British Parliament, with MP Keith Vaz stating “this House is deeply concerned about the recently released video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, in which players engage in gratuitous acts of violence against members of the public.”
Space Station – ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’
As the story lines in the Call of Duty games progressed farther into the future, the developers found new ways to show massive destruction and shock players using futuristic technologies. One such situation was during the opening scene of Call of Duty: Ghosts. When terrorists take over control of a space station outfitted with enough firepower to take out entire cities, players work desperately to stop them. However, despite players’ attempts to keep the terrorists from using the weapon, the bad guys are successful and rain hell on the United States.
What makes this moment so shocking is that the new technologies of the day aren’t always around us, but in some cases are kept hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface. Not knowing when an attack could come from the skies can be a scary thought. Sure, Call of Duty greatly exaggerates this idea, but the stories don’t seem too far-fetched when we realize many countries have many of the capabilities shown in the games.
General Shepherd’s Betrayal – ‘Modern Warfare 2’
Throughout Modern Warfare 2, players work closely with General Shepherd to complete missions and destroy the enemy. During that time, Shepherd gives no hints that he is anything but a true patriot and supporter of everything the players were doing.
So it comes as a huge shock when at the end, Shepherd reveals himself to be the game’s primary antagonist, out to take down the player and rest of the team. His betrayal comes shortly after the General has set himself up as a war hero by helping the team track down Vladimir Makarov, the main bad guy throughout the game.
What makes this moment even more shocking is that Shepherd executes Ghost and Roach, two beloved characters in the game, in cold blood. Many gamers were understandably upset that the developers so easily killed off two hugely popular characters. However, doing so had a big impact on the memorable nature of the game and made killing Shepherd so much more satisfying in the end.
Brainwashing – ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’
Throughout Call of Duty: Black Ops, players experience the struggles, challenges and wins of Alex Mason. As the game progresses, players have the opportunity to work alongside Resnov to take down the enemy. Toward the end of the game Resnov loses it and kills Steiner while Mason watches.
However, players learn from the viewpoint of Mason’s fellow soldiers, Hudson and Weaver, that it wasn’t Resnov that killed Steiner, it was Mason himself. Turns out, Resnov died early on in the game, but with his mind broken, Mason hallucinated Resnov and acted as Resnov would, including executing Steiner.
The moment was a shock for many Call of Duty players, and undoubtedly led to quite a few replays of the campaign. The twist was so good it led many gamers to consider Call of Duty: Black Ops the best story so far in the series.
No Russian – ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’
By far the most shocking and impactful moment in any Call of Duty game – and the most controversial even today – was the ‘No Russian’ mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
In the mission, players take control of an undercover CIA agent, who, along with Russian terrorists, attack innocent people at an airport. Even though players weren’t required to shoot down innocents (though they could), they still had to watch as the terrorists massacred hundreds of people. The whole scene is almost painful to watch as innocent people scatter in every direction, only to be gunned down by the merciless group of terrorists.
The ‘No Russian’ mission was the first time players had the ability to take control of a gunman in such a massive terrorists attack against civilians. The mission was so controversial that some regions changed the game so players would fail if they participated in the shooting. The developer also made it possible for players to skip the mission by choosing to avoid “Disturbing Content” from the beginning.
‘No Russian’ still stands as one of the most controversial moments in video game history, and likely will for many years to come.
More to Come
We have no doubt Activision and its partner developers will continue to push the envelop with Call of Duty. We surely haven’t seen the end of the controversial and shocking moments in the series. Hopefully Activision and Treyarch have some special twists and surprises in store with the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
What were the most shocking moments in Call of Duty for you? Let us know your favorites in the comments.