As the latest – and frankly, hysterical – ad campaign is reminding us, today hails the return of Call of Duty time, with the hotly anticipated installment, Call of Duty: Ghosts. Although the single-player campaign promises to bring plenty of excitement and jaw-dropping experiences to the table, let’s be honest here – if you’re playing Call of Duty, you’re probably in it for the multiplayer. With that in mind, let’s count down twenty of the best Call of Duty multiplayer maps.
The only map from World at War to make the Top 20 starts off our list. Castle offered players a primarily close-range experience, with only a few spots to effectively snipe from. This kept combat frenetic, but also served to highlight a lot of the more glaring balancing issues that the game’s weapons had.
A strikingly narrow map, Summit provided players with loads of nooks and crannies in which to hide. While the main research facility was the primary battleground, the variety of paths you could take to navigate the map allowed players to catch enemies napping and take them out.
Fallen saw players duking it out in an abandoned Soviet compound that is in the process of being overrun by vegetation. One of the larger maps in Modern Warfare 3, there were plenty of buildings to set up in, as well as a large number of long lanes for sniping. The overrun courtyard in the center of the map presented a way for players to cross the map safely, provided they weren’t noticed entering.
Seatown brought players a great variety of environments all within a small town in Morocco or Algeria. Buildings and tight alleyways open up into a marketplace in the center of the map. Taken together with the castle in the back of the map, the possibilities for overwatch style teamwork are many, as Seatown presents a much larger degree of verticality than it might initially seem.
Mission had players battling across the ruins of a church near Sierra Leone, Africa. This mid-size map had a pretty severe change in elevation right in the middle, with lines of sight to nearly every portion of the map that were great for sniping. Because of this, the center was often the most contested location, seeing the vast majority of combat focused around taking the high ground. Fortunately, though, there were plenty of ways to get to the top, making for loads of fun tactical flanking maneuvers.
On Villa, combat took place on the grounds of a large house. The house was the main attraction, with a courtyard situated directly in front of it, and some more covered lanes to the sides. Most of the action tended to focus on gaining the house, as it provided the most cover and ease of access to the rest of the map. Unfortunately, because of how open it was, the courtyard tended to remain empty; however, savvy players could occasionally find that right time to make a run through and enter the house, bringing the pain to its unsuspecting occupants.
Expanding on the model that Call of Duty 4’s Wetwork set, Black Ops 2’s Highjack takes the notion of combat on a boat and perfects it. The small size ensures that spawns are continually swapping, creating a swirling, circular motion to the way in which the action plays out. Additionally, with a surprising variety of ways to get from one end of the ship to another, there was almost always a way to get the drop on your enemy.
Underpass embodied the Call of Duty multiplayer experience, bringing players from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, often within the span of a single match. With several easily fortified buildings on the map’s outskirts, sniping lanes abounded. However, due to the almost serpentine nature of many of the paths around the map, it was rarely difficult to find some new way to get around your enemy’s defenses. Combined with the chronically underused center building, this map was a smart player’s paradise.
Combining some clever urban combat with all out open field combat, Call of Duty 4’s Overgrown was an instant classic. With enough room for snipers to find a quiet spot in the corner, but still intimate enough for the folks who enjoyed a more personal approach, the asymmetrical terrain of this map had something for everyone.
Where a lot of the more recent Call of Duty maps have become overburdened with verticality and accessible buildings, Black Ops 2’s Slums makes a move towards simplicity. Much like many of the maps on this list, there is a central courtyard, surrounded by a variety of buildings. Combat always seemed to center in these off-center lanes, particularly in the blue room at the map’s southeast side.
Popular enough to be given its own playlist, Black Ops’ Nuke Town kicks off the Top 10. Insanity is the only word that even comes close to describing combat on this map, as its minuscule size results in a fury of spawn swaps, vehicle explosions, and everything in between. The mannequins lend both a level of creepiness to an otherwise tame board, in addition to doing a wonderful job of looking just like an enemy when you’re barreling around the map.
Frantic close quarters combat was the name of the game on this map. With multiple levels in all of the buildings and any number of ways to get from point to point, it was possible to literally drop in on enemies and surprise them with a quick knife to the back. For players who took advantage of Modern Warfare 2’s Commando Pro perk, Favela could really become the ultimate playground.
Perhaps this fact will reveal some of the reasoning behind the rest of this list, but Pipeline is my favorite map from any FPS ever. From the hill that provided an excellent point for camouflaged snipers to sit to the multi-level warehouses, to the silos and trains that flanked the map, Pipeline had its own rhythm, separate from the rest of the game. While many of the other maps on this list are bastions of the kind of twitch reflex combat that Call of Duty is known for, Pipeline always seemed somehow more serene. A truly wonderful board to play on.
Close quarters is the name of the game with Vacant, as players took each other on inside of an abandoned Russian office building. With boatloads of corners that begged to have flashbang grenades tossed around, SMGs, and shotguns were definitely go-to weapons here. However, for those who wanted a little more room to move, the outside of the building offered some flanking choices, in addition to several shipping crates for cover.
Set outside of the US Embassy in Afghanistan, Invasion was one of the more fun maps in Modern Warfare 2. With a number of potential camping spots on each of the outer lanes and a series of buildings in the center that it was possible to sprint through for easy movement from one end of the map to the other, there was rarely a match on this map that played like the last one. One of the most interesting portions of this map is the Embassy itself, as it was so rarely used that it was the perfect spot to hang out in when calling in killstreak rewards.
With a lack of many long lanes or secluded areas, assault rifles and SMGs were fairly standard fare here. The thin wooden walls were easily fired through, opening up much of the map to those who favored some higher caliber weapons. Firing Range’s fairly large number of single story buildings also offered a number of interesting movement options, making outmaneuvering opponents you were engaged with much easier than some of the other maps in the game.
Hands down the best option for multiplayer in Black Ops 2, Standoff exemplifies classic Call of Duty combat. With a multitude of long lanes and opportunities for flanking, this map plays host to some of the most enjoyable encounters in Black Ops 2. Rather than the overcrowded and overstimulating maps that often populate more recent shooters, Standoff takes things back to basics in the best of ways.
Terminal’s maze-like interior populated with security checkpoints, bars, and small shops made for a great deal of excellent interior combat. However, unlike most of the other maps that focus on interior combat, the space inside the airport terminal was quite large, making ranged weapons more of an option than they may initially appear. All of the glass windows and skylights also open up the interior of the map to a great deal of air assault.
A little bit smaller than some of the other mid-sized multiplayer maps, Crash offers an abundance of fast-paced infantry combat with a plethora of blind corners and dark alleys that were just begging to be camped. The downed helicopter presented a wonderful centerpiece to the map, with the adjacent buildings proving to be the most hotly contested spots on the map. Fast, aggressive, but still beautifully controlled, Crash is a real masterpiece.
The most entertaining map on the most entertaining entry in the franchise, Call of Duty 4’s Backlot provided players with just about every experience they could ask for. With areas perfectly suited to close quarters combat, long lanes for sniping, and several buildings to navigate without the environment becoming overly crowded, this map was one that was eternally welcome in the matchmaking rotation.
With these wonderful maps in the history books, it’s now time that we look forward to what Infinity Ward is going to bring to the table with Call of Duty: Ghosts. Dynamic maps and a totally revamped class system look to change the way that we play the game (hopefully for the better). I’ll be seeing all of you on the battlefield.