With 13 games spanning two centuries’ worth of events across three different timelines, the Call of Duty timeline can be downright confusing to newcomers. If you’re not sure where to start, the following dissection of Call of Duty’s narrative should get you caught up just in time for the newest entry, Infinite Warfare.
Call of Duty Timeline: World War II
The Call of Duty franchise begins with historically-grounded events happening during World War II. The first three games of the series follow the campaigns of American, British, and Soviet forces. While the events occurring throughout each mission exist as works of fiction, the World World II battles are historically accurate. A majority of campaign missions take place between 1939 and 1944.
Call of Duty
Call of Duty follows the exploits of three soldiers fighting for three different nations. The American campaign features Private Martin, Baker Company’s sniper, demolitions expert, intel collector, and pathfinder. The British campaign stars Sergeant Evans, a soldier of the British 6th Airborne Division and a Special Air Service operative. The Soviet campaign centers around Alexei Ivanovich Voronin, a soldier in the 13th Guards Rifle Division.
Major and minor battles fought throughout the game include the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of Stalingrad, the Brécourt Manor Assault, Operation Chastise, the Battle of Berlin, and others based on real-life events. The first Captain Price, a popular namesake in the Call of Duty series, makes his debut appearance here. Eventually, he’s killed while attempting to sabotage the German battleship, Tirpitz.
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 contains four individual campaigns split into three stories. Each campaign concerns a World War II soldier overcoming insurmountable odds. The game’s Soviet campaign follows Vasili Ivanovich Koslov, who takes part in the lengthy Battle of Stalingrad. The British campaign focuses on Sergeant John Davis, who fights in the North African conflict against German officer Erwin Rommel. Corporal Bill Taylor leads the American campaign, which takes place in the Battle of Normandy.
After the British take control of the Caen, the final mission follows the Americans as they cross the Rhine River into Germany. Battles spill across several small towns, culminating in a major victory after American forces destroy two German Tiger I tanks. Captain Price actually survives this game, as players rescue him from a group of German soldiers in the final scene.
Call of Duty 3
Unlike other Call of Duty games in the World War II timeline, the events in Call of Duty 3 are based on a single combined campaign. This time around, the perspective switches between four characters who belong to four different nations. The single player campaign is modeled after the Normandy breakout, where the United States, British, Canadian, Polish, and French Resistance forces pushed into the village of Chambois, France. Players jump between the roles of Private Nichols (US), Sgt. James Doyle (UK), Pvt. Cole (CA), and Cpl. “Bohater” Wojciech.
The game’s events fall within the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, a major joint offensive that began after the successful breaching of D-Day. The lengthy campaign allowed Allied forces to slowly encircle a major German division, who could not retreat due to orders by Hitler. The Allied assault slowly overwhelmed the German division, leading to a clear path through the Seine river. Allied forces would then liberate Paris, helping turn the tide of the war.
Call of Duty Timeline: Black Ops
The Black Ops Timeline kicks off with the last World War II-themed Call of Duty title, Call of Duty: World at War. All told, this timeline spans from from June 11th, 1904 to 2070. Unlike previous games in the series, World at War creates an alternate timeline where the development of highly advanced technology warps world history.
Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: World at War consists of two major campaigns for both American and Soviet forces. The American campaign is set in the Pacific theater on the islands of Makin, Peleliu, and Okinawa. The Eastern Front hosts the Soviet campaign, which mainly takes place within Nazi Germany. Players take control of Pvt. C. Miller in the American campaign and Pvt. Dimitri Petrenko in the Soviet campaign.
The American campaign focuses on the brutal conflict against the Japanese Imperial Army as they attempt to regain control of the Pacific. The final battle in the American campaign takes place in Shuri Castle, where one of Miller’s squadmates (Polonsky or Roebuck) will die in combat. In the Soviet Campaign, players fight against the German forces in a major offensive push towards Berlin. The Soviet campaign begins in the ruins of Stalingrad before pushing into Seelow, and eventually Berlin, where forces place a flag on the iconic Reichstag building.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the first Call of Duty to take place after the events of World War II. The Cold War conflict takes center stage in Black Ops, with the United States and the Soviet Union being the only two playable countries. The campaign primarily follows SOG and CIA operative Alex Mason. Black Ops tells its story through various flashbacks as Mason is interrogated by an unknown assailant, who questions him about a numbers broadcast used to communicate with Soviet sleeper agents in the US.
Mason’s campaign begins with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Havana, Cuba in 1961. There, Mason is captured and given to Nikita Dragovich as a “gift.” Following these events, Mason finds himself held captive for two years at the Vorkuta Gulag, a Russian labor camp. While in captivity, Mason befriends Viktor Reznov, a former Red Army soldier, and a returning character from Call of Duty: World at War. After escaping in a prison riot, Mason is taken to President Kennedy, who tells him he must kill Nikita Dragovich.
Mason’s Next Mission
Mason’s exploits take him across North America, Southeast Asia, and the Soviet Union. He sabotages the Soviet space program, defends against the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and discovers the Soviets control a deadly biochemical weapon called Nova 6. Over the course of the game, Mason’s interrogation reveals Reznov brainwashed him in the prison camp, and ordered him to kill Dragovich as a means of revenge.
Afterward, Mason recalls the origin of the numbers broadcast: a ship off the shore of Cuba called the Rusalka. In a CIA raid on the ship and its adjacent underwater broadcast station, Mason strangles Dragovich to his death and sinks the station. His actions end the threat of sleeper agents in the United States.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty: Black Ops II takes place across two separate story arcs, one recounting events in the 1980s, and the other following characters in the year 2025. The son of Alex Mason, David Mason, visits his father’s old partner Frank Woods about an arms dealer named Raul Menendez. Through narration, Woods reflects upon several covert missions from his military career. These flashbacks also detail his previous run-ins with Raul Menendez, an arms dealer in Southern Africa and Latin America.
Three decades later, Menendez re-emerges as the leader of Cordis Die, a massive populist movement with over a billion followers. He stages a cyberattack that cripples the Chinese Stock Exchange. In response, the Chinese ban the export of rare earth elements, which kickstarts the start of a new Cold War between the Chinese-led Strategic Defense Coalition (SDC) and the U.S.-led NATO. David Mason and the JSOC embark on missions to combat cyber attacks and cripple Menendez’s power.
The storyline has several different endings. If the player spares Menendez’s life, completes all four Strike Force Missions, and both Chloe Lynch and Alex Mason survive the events of the game, the “true” ending will result. The player will have secured an alliance between China and the United States, ending the Second Cold War.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Call of Duty: Black Ops III concludes the events of the Black Ops saga, and begins after Raul Menendez’s 2025 drone strikes. Following the aftermath of the attack, warfare between countries takes the form of covert operatives fighting behind enemy lines.
The game begins on October 27, 2065, with the Player and their new CO, Jacob Hendricks, infiltrating an NRC Airbase in Ethiopia to rescue Egyptian Prime Minister Said from the NRC. The rescue mission goes awry when the player is viciously attacked by a Grunt. Afterwards, the player is cybernetically augmented .
The campaign of Black Ops III follows the player and Hendricks as they attempt to piece together a trail of deceit and technological misinformation. The twisted trail leads to Corvus, a sentient AI created by a bug in the Direct Neural Interface software. Due to this bug, many characters meet their deaths throughout the campaign. Corvus corrupts them and forces them to act against their will, ultimately leading to their demise.
Call of Duty Timeline: Modern Warfare
The events of the Modern Warfare timeline stretch from October 25th, 1917 to January 21st, 2017. The conflicts of the Modern Warfare timeline take place from the modern day to the near-future. The trilogy spans the formation and eventual dissolution of World War III.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare begins in 2011 with two major conflicts. A civil war breaks out in Russia between its government and Ultranationalists who seek to restore Russia to its Soviet-era glamor. Meanwhile, in the middle east, Khaled Al-Asad begins a coup on an oil-rich country. Players take the role of various characters, including John “Soap” MacTavish, who is the latest recruit of the SAS under the leadership of Captain John Price.
After Al-Asad kills the acting prime minister, taking control, the USMC raid a television station where Al-Asad is believed to be broadcasting. While this is happening, the SAS infiltrates a ship in the Bering Strait. Soap and his squad discover Al-Asad is in control of nuclear weapons. The television station is deserted and erupts into a fiery explosion. The SAS captures Al-Asad and discovers the Russian ultranationalist leader Imran Zakhaev is the real enemy.
A joint task force of SAS, Force Recon, and Russian Loyalists attempt to capture Zakhaev’s son, Victor. Upon discovering this, Zakhaev attempts to detonate intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles on the United States’ eastern seaboard. The SAS and Force Recon seize the launch facility’s command room and remotely detonate the missiles over the Atlantic Ocean.
In the outro, the missile incident and the Ultranationalists‘ support of Al-Asad are hushed up, thus leading to the events of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 begins in 2016, with Private First Class Joseph Allen joining the Army Rangers in reclaiming an Afghanistan city. His performance in the mission gains him entry into Task Force 141, commanded by Lt. General Shepard. The CIA then sends Allen on an undercover mission, where he joins Vladimir Makarov in a mass shooting at a Moscow airport. Makarov knows of Allen’s deceit and eventually kills him, hoping an American-sponsored terrorist attack will cause international outrage. Following these events, Russia retaliates by launching a surprise invasion on the East Coast of the United States.
Through the actions of Captain Price, a ballistic missile launches towards Washington D.C. and detonates in the upper atmosphere. The resulting EMP blast disables all electronic devices across the eastern seaboard, aiding the Americans. Later, in a search for Makarov’s safehouse, Shepherd betrays and kills his unit. Modern Warfare 2 then reveals Shepherd had been conspiring with Makarov to spark the war between Russia and the United States. With the outbreak of war, he hoped to generating a massive wave of American enlistment and increase defense spending by magnitudes.
Price and Soap raid the base to take revenge on Shepherd in a suicide mission. At the climax of their pursuit, Shepherd takes flight into a helicopter, but Price shoots it down. Not long after, Shepard is dispatched by Price and Soap.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Immediately after Modern Warfare 2 ends, John Price and Nikolai Belinski evacuate a critically wounded Soap to a Russian loyalist safe-house in Himachal Pradesh. Not soon after, they encounter forces sent by Makarov to kill them. Yuri, a man who also holds a grudge against Makarov, assists them in extracting from the region. Meanwhile, the war between Russia and the United States concludes when a Delta Force team repels Russian Forces in New York City.
Two months later, Makarov attacks a plane en route to Hamburg containing the Russian President, Boris Vorshevsky, in an attempt to derail his planned peace treaty with the United States. Makarov later reveals his plans to the Russian president. He intends to have Russia dominate Europe, using the country’s nuclear arsenal as a show of force. When Vorshevsky refuses to give over the nuclear launch codes, Makarov targets his daughter, Alena, to force his hand. Chemical bombs are then denotated in major NATO-controlled cities.
The Next Stage
Price and his team confront the bomb maker, a man named Volk—the CEO of Fregata Industries—who transported the bombs. They manage to capture Volk in Paris with the help of GIGN and other U.S. forces. In an attempt to assassinate Makarov, Soap is mortally wounded and dies shortly after. Soap’s dying words reveal Yuri was a former Ultranationalist who worked alongside Makarov in Pripyat when they helped evacuate Imran Zakhaev after the assassination attempt on him. He leaked information about Makarov that caused Makarov to shoot him and leave him for dead just before the airport massacre in Moscow.
Price and Yuri join forces to rescue the Vorshevsky family from a Siberian diamond mine, but the mine soon collapses. With the Russian president secured, all Russian forces withdraw from Europe via an official order, thus ending the hostility between the United States and Russia.
Three months later, after learning Makarov’s location, Price and Yuri assault the hotel and reach the top floor. Here, they kill Makrov and ending the renegade threat.
Call of Duty Timeline: Future
The future timeline takes place between July 8th, 2017 and January 8th, 2061. This timeline depicts an alternate future that follows the nuclear destruction of the Middle East. The oil-producing nations of South America form a coalition called “the Federation” and conquer Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
The Federation hijacks an orbital superweapon that utilizes kinetic bombardment, and uses it to destroy several cities in the southwestern United States. The surviving American astronauts, Baker and Mosley, sacrifice themselves to self-destruct the space station and prevent further attacks. Ten years after the attacks, the US and the Federation find themselves locked in a bloody stalemate located near the Mexico-United States border.
Brothers Logan and David “Hesh” Walker are recruited into a military company known as Ghosts, led by their father Elias Logan. Afterwards, their father shares a story of years past. During a successful mission to assassinate General Diego Almagro, then president of the Federation, Elias was forced to abandon a squadmate named Rorke. Later, the Federation captures and brainwashes Rorke, who goes on to hunt down members of the Ghosts.
Rorke Goes Rogue
While pursuing Rorke, the Ghosts team ends up in the Amazon rainforest, where they witness a missile being launched for an unknown purpose. The team discovers the Federation reverse engineered ODIN’s technology and developed their own orbital bombardment system code named LOKI. After destroying the factory behind the project, the Ghosts regroup at a safe house in Las Vegas, but Rorke captures them. Rorke kills Elias, but the brothers escape along with the rest of their squad.
The American forces successfully seize LOKI and turn its weapons on the Federation forces, completely decimating them. Hesh and Logan then pursue Rorke to avenge their father. The two nearly succeed in their mission, but later discover Rorke still lives. Rorke manages to capture Logan and begins to brainwash him.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
By 2054, North Korea has developed advanced technologies, enabling them to turn the tide against South Korea. After a briefing, United States Marine Corps Private Jack Mitchell sets off on a mission to Seoul. In the battle, Mitchell sustains massive injuries and is discharged from military service. Following these events, he’s given a position in Atlas Corporation. Headed by Jonathon Irons, this organization stands as the largest private military contractor in the world
A new-age terrorist organization known as KVA, headed by Joseph “Hades” Chkheidze, launches numerous terrorist attacks across the globe. Atlas stands as the only force organized enough to stop them. While Atlas succeeds in stopping a majority of attacks, KVA causes a nuclear reactor meltdown on Bainbridge Island, Washington in 2055. Atlas manages to confront and kill Hades, whose last words are “Irons knows.”
After Hades’ Death
Analyzing a data chip given to him by Hades, Mitchell discovers Irons knew of KVA’s terrorist attacks and did nothing to stop them. Irons attempts to arrest Mitchell, but he escapes and later joins an American-created military coalition, Sentinel Task Force. The bioweapon Manticore exists as a vital part of Irons’ plan to control the world directly. At the United Nations General Assembly, Irons releases his ultimatum to remove all politicians, who he thinks are world’s biggest problem. The Sentinels then discover Irons is planning a preemptive strike on the US, which amounts to an attack on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
In 2061, the Sentinels and the United States Army attack New Baghdad to bring Irons to justice. However, Atlas releases Manticore and kills several hundred troops, but spares Mitchell and his squad due to their DNA still being registered in Atlas’ registry. Shortly afterwards, the team finds themselves captured and sent to an Atlas prison camp, where they later escape. Mitchell and Gideon launch a lone assault on Atlas’ headquarters and manage to destroy the ICBM containing Manticore. After a brief struggle, Irons meets his fate.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty:Infinite Warfare takes place further into the future than any previous Call of Duty game. In this reality, Earth suffers a severe depletion of its natural resources as the human population swells to unsustainable numbers. The nations of the world to unite to form the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA), a political organization that establishes the first space colonies.
The player takes the role of Captain Nick Reyes, a Tier 1 Special Operations pilot of the Special Combat Air Recon. Reyes is tasked with leading a crew to defeat a rogue organization known as the Settlement Defense Front. This group’s goals involve overthrowing and controlling Earth and the rest of the solar system.
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