A good map can influence the strength of positivity or negativity towards a match before its participants have begun to play it. When a bad map comes up in rotation, the collective sigh of groans and “Why did you vote for dis map nub?” is enough to put anybody off from enjoying the next ten minutes of shooting, dying and helicopter-fire-dodging. On the other hand, a well-liked map can instantly fill somebody with positive feelings and contribute to making the next session immediately more enjoyable. The other day, I posted a list of the worst 15 Call of Duty maps in the franchise from 2007 to now. To counteract that, I shall now gift you the list of the top 15 best maps.
As I said on the last post, these selections are entirely my choice. If you do not agree with them, or if you do, I would love to hear from you in the comment box about what you think. Don’t be shy – I don’t bite!
15 – CASTLE (WORLD AT WAR)
Kick-starting this list is a map from World at War, containing a good balance of verticality with size that’s decent enough for higher player counts on modes such as domination and ideal enough for smaller modes like free-for-all. Also, compared to some other maps on the game that employ excessive use of a color palette consisting of pure brown and black, Castle features a good blend of more friendly colors – greens, reds etc. Although its size and variation is good, the action tends to be streamlined to one of two areas -the upstairs ‘house’ at the top of the map or the ‘corridor’ to the right side, with camping easy to maintain within. Nevertheless, Castle manages to feature a good balance of size and interest whilst being playable regardless.
14 – PIAZZA (MODERN WARFARE 3)
Modern Warfare 3 features a lot of poor maps. Horrible maps, to be precise. On the other side, it also has some that actually make me want to play a match on them. Piazza is one of those maps. It’s extremely colorful (which may not sound like much but it helps when you’re actually playing) but most of all, it’s a good size to contend with. It is also an absolute dream for shotgun users and submachine gun firers because of its narrow, confined spaces but all maps tend to feature prominence towards certain types of users. Infinity Ward may have made quite a few poor map design choices in this game but Piazza is a jewel upon that fractured crown of theirs.
13 – UNDERGROUND (MODERN WARFARE 3)
Yes, back to MW3 already. Surprising, isn’t it? Underground is another decent creation in the creatively flawed title, choosing to move away from the bomb-riddled arenas of the USA and France and moving to a section of London, complete with police sirens wailing in the background and red buses littering the area. Underground is a nice size of map for most game-modes and its design is enough to capture your interest regardless of what type of player you are. Unfortunately, that also includes campers but if you can design a map that actively repels camping, I will worship at your altar; it’s impossible, but you can at least try to make it difficult. Whilst Underground doesn’t succeed at that, it still has an acceptable design to warrant a position on this list.
12 – KNEE DEEP (WORLD AT WAR)
World at War had a lot of map packs, featuring less desirable creations and then maps like Knee Deep – maps that are worth the cost. Boasting a nice layout that can satisfy most play styles, Knee Deep stands out due to its design above anything else. As per usual, the action tends to be focused around one point mainly and that’s the house in the above picture. People will camp in there and they’ll do it well but it’s lucky that the design permits easy dispatching of anybody dwelling in that area. You can snipe here, use shotguns or just run around with an automatic gun. Knee Deep will give you that with no questions asked.
11 – TRAILER PARK (MODERN WARFARE 2)
Whilst Trailer Park may not look like much from the outside, it’s a finely made map inside. Its size is almost perfect for most game types, with wide open areas and confined spaces to streamline the action into. Dominant helicopters in the sky won’t be able to decimate you inside the various trailers, either. As usual, camping is prominent due to the small indoor spaces but a well-placed grenade or noob tube will solve that problem. Trailer Park is also a colorful, realistic and believable rendition of an actual trailer park, too, making it even more worthy of being on this list.
10 – SUMMIT (BLACK OPS)
There are some maps on Black Ops that far exceed the size a Call of Duty map should be. Summit brings that perimeter back to the size it needs to be, with a nice snowy backdrop added for good measure. Summit’s design can be beneficial to most player types and the design takes a good chunk of the goodness as well. How many of us have attempted to jump on to the floating rail-car and instead plunged three hundred feet to our deaths? I know I have in many an attempt to find a permanent hiding spot from a dog attack. Fun and games aside, Summit features highly on my list of favorite Black Ops maps due to its desire to move away from massive arenas such as Zoo. Call of Duty needs smaller maps to make the space between battles less apparent. Summit is one of those maps.
9 – SUB BASE (MODERN WARFARE 2)
Sub Base is a rather small map whereby the action can happen anywhere, which can be rather strange for most maps. Camping is as easy as taking in oxygen and the prevalence of noob tubes flying everywhere can put anybody off from playing it but at heart, it’s a decently designed map that’s good for almost all of the game types. I wish you could jump on top of the docked submarines but you can’t have everything can you? Fantasies aside, Sub Base offers a long list of what makes a good Call of Duty map, although the snow effects are almost non-existant. I like my snow heavy and visually impairing, not tiny dandruff flakes falling from the sky.
8 – OVERGROWN (CALL OF DUTY 4, MODERN WARFARE 2)
Call of Duty 4 introduced this pure awesome map. Modern Warfare 2 reintroduced it in their first downloadable map pack. Regardless of which game you play, Overgrown never ceases to be a fantastic map that offers much for everybody. When I first started playing CoD4, I loved Overgrown. Then I began hating it before moving back to wanting to marry it again. There’s something about the grassy areas and cosy attic spaces that entice me back every time. I was never a fan of MW2 bringing back old maps and charging a price for them but I could take an exception to Overgrown. They simply don’t make maps like this in the franchise anymore.
7 – NUKETOWN (BLACK OPS)
Ah yes, Nuketown. I can hear your collective sighs from here, or your joy. You either love Nuketown or you hate it. It can only be one or the other. The map is extremely small, making the action explosive and dangerous regardless of your position on the map. Not only that, the bright, vibrant colors are a strong contrast to the rest of the game and the various mannequins dotted around the area make for a slightly creepy atmosphere, with each match also ending in a nuclear missile test detonation. This map almost featured higher on the list but its extremely small nature placed it here. For a quick bout of action-packed fun, Nuketown is your go-to guy.
6 – PIPELINE (CALL OF DUTY 4)
Pipeline is one of those maps that swathes of people hated and others, such as myself, loved. It’s not the most creatively designed map in the franchise but it features a great mixture of streamlined action with height and variance. The killing tends to be focused in and around the main warehouse in the middle, with upper areas to contend with and even a network of often underused underground tunnels taking you from one side of the map to the other with the utmost discretion. You can take away pure annoyance from Pipeline or a fantastic amount of enjoyment. For me, it’s the latter each and every time.
5 – FIRING RANGE (BLACK OPS)
I give an audible sigh of relief whenever Firing Range comes up in rotation. For me, this is a wonderful example of how a Call of Duty map can feature a medium-sized arena whilst still being action-heavy, even with 8 players in free-for-all. Firing Range may not feature much in the realm of eye-catching scenery but it captures a nice essence of replayability – a map you’ll want to see come up time and time again. Domination plays well here. So does Search and Destroy and Capture the Flag and vice versa. Irrespective of mode or playing style, you’ll have a home on this map and after all, home is where the heart is.
4 – TERMINAL (MODERN WARFARE 2)
Terminal is usually infested with campers at every turn but it still retains a high quality, at least in my eyes. It’s either the vibrant nature of the airport surroundings or the variation in environment but something pulls at me even when I’m being shot from people taking refuge in every perpendicular angle. Terminal is exceptionally good for objective modes, specifically Search and Destroy, but also for the modes where objectives don’t exist. Terminal is a faithful re-enactment of that from which it gets its name and also offers what I want from a Call of Duty map – decent size, interesting scenery and something to keep coming back for. I don’t know what that ‘something’ is but it still exists.
3 – BANZAI (WORLD AT WAR)
As we move into the top three of this list, you may be surprised at this inclusion. Banzai isn’t, as far as I’m aware, a widely-popular map. For me, however, it is a glorious creation for numerous reasons. It’s rather large, yes, but the scenery is gorgeous. From the waterfall to the green areas on one side of the map and the huge bridge connecting both sides of the environment. Banzai plays fantastically and offers so much in the world of visual cocaine. I’ve downloaded countless map packs from each game in the series and Banzai remains one of the best maps I have yet to purchase from any title. Just look at that bridge in the image above. Imagine that on a larger television screen, with bird sounds in the background and in glorious HD. Looks good, doesn’t it?
2 – DOWNPOUR (CALL OF DUTY 4)
I love weather effects on a multiplayer map. The map itself can be an abhorrent creation but if the weather effects are clear and visually active, it can make the world of difference. Downpour is lucky that the design layout isn’t bad but the rain effects are fantastic. That sound of water colliding with Earth and stone makes for an absolutely fantastic backdrop as you pummel your enemies full of lead and grenade shrapnel. Downpour offers much in all of the game modes with extra added for those who take particular fancy to weather effects. We’ve had snowy maps and other weather-altered creations since Call of Duty 4 but none manage to contain the same excitement a bit of rain can provide. Give me another map like this in the future and I’ll be all over it like a cat on catnip.
1 – CRASH (CALL OF DUTY 4, MODERN WARFARE 2)
And so we come to the final hurdle. The best Call of Duty map ever. It’s only fitting that it is awarded to Crash, from both Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2, Crash is not far from being the perfect size for all game types, with a great sense of height to it from the various buildings and smaller, confined spaces apparent within. I never get tired of playing a match on this map – even five years after the release of CoD4. There’s also a Christmas-themed version available on the PC which looks absolutely amazing. I’ve never been able to try it out, unfortunately. Nevertheless, when it comes to thinking about my favorite Call of Duty map, my mind instantly switches to Crash without hesitation. It’s rare that a multiplayer map can still offer something after five years and uncountable sessions and yet Crash still provides that from whichever game you experience it from.
So, that is it. Fifteen utterly rubbish maps and fifteen fantastic maps. With the release of Black Ops 2 later this year, not to mention further map packs for Modern Warfare 3 yet to be released, there are sure to be excellent additions and horrible ones yet to come. As I said at the beginning, a good (or bad) map can influence a game before it’s even started. I hope these lists can give you an idea as to the strongest influences from either side of the spectrum.