When thinking back to the memories I have of playing online multiplayer in my teens, my mind always returns to the first online game I played, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. With its easy-to-learn gunplay, addictive levelling system and nicely balanced killstreak system, it was the game that introduced the series to casual audiences and propelled itself into the AAA territory that it has resided in since.
I recently returned to the series after a long hiatus and checked out the multiplayer components for nearly every major Call of Duty release since the series’ debut in 2003. Modern Warfare in particular still stood out to me as a solid online experience, and with that fun system in place there also has to come a great selection of maps right? I took the liberty of ranking each map from the base game from worst to best, mixing in both what I think of the maps now as well as my memories of playing them back in its heyday. Note that this doesn’t include content included in the Variety Map Pack as I didn’t own that back in the day.
Back during the peak of Call of Duty 4’s popularity, I don’t recall ever seeing Bloc coming up in the lobby screen without every player immediately jumping on the veto button. The tribulations of this map were not exaggerated; despite being very large, most of the action took place in a central courtyard, with sniper battles raging between two apartment buildings on each side. If you weren’t using a sniper rifle on this map you were almost guaranteed a negative kill-to-death ratio, as attempting to fight close-quarters usually made you an easy target. Flanking was an option, but tough to try alone due to the open space and the fact that each building was relatively easy to defend by a team.
This one is my personal least-favourite map due to the limited visibility caused by the never-ending rain. As with Bloc, a lot of the map saw very little fighting as most of the action took place around the barn. Although the amount of cover and low brightness helped to alleviate the sniper problem that Bloc had, Downpour just ended up looking incredibly bland in comparison and didn’t manage to adapt well to Modern Warfare’s fast-paced gameplay.
14. WET WORK
With its tight spaces and symmetrical three-lane design, this map would see a lot of use by snipers and medium-range combatants. Flanking was impossible due to how narrow it was, and it was incredibly easy to get pinned down during a game of Domination or Sabotage. With more recent Call of Duty maps favouring this level design – WWII’s USS Texas and Flak Tower come to mind – Wet Work was a premonition for what the series’ multiplayer would become.
Like Bloc, Countdown also suffered from sniper problems. The map is circular in design, with smaller hangars dotted around the edges. The centre offered very little cover with the exception of blast shields and concrete barriers, which didn’t see much use due to how easy it was for snipers to move around the edges and pick off anyone in the middle. The one thing that set this above Bloc was the fact that moving around got easier if you stuck to the edges of the map, and the west side of the launch site had enough cover for you to rack up a decent killstreak.
As the map was too small for snipers but also too open for close-quarters players, Showdown was decent for those using assault rifles and light machine guns. The courtyard in the centre was usually avoided due to how exposed it was, but there were many options around the edges that offered unique ways to flank the enemy. But if a team managed to hold a section of the upstairs area, it was an easy win.
I think a lot of players had a love-hate relationship with Bog. One side of the map was wide open, allowing snipers to reign supreme, while the other had buildings and cover that were more suited to close and medium-range combat. The darkness of the environment also meant it was easier to move around without being spotted. Despite the problem with snipers, it was a map you could adjust to your playstyle which made it accessible to players of all types.
Also guilty of the three-lane design, but what set this above Wet Work was how easy it was to flank the enemy. Each lane was set far apart from each other, with smaller alleys, tall grass and an underground tunnel allowing a team to move around unnoticed. A lot of the action took place near the three tanks in the centre, which also allowed access to each lane. The sewer tunnel often went overlooked, which a sneaky player could take advantage of to surprise the enemy.
As with some of the other maps in this game, Crossfire is almost a direct copy and paste from the War Pig campaign mission. This one takes place on a long winding street with multiple buildings on both the horizontal and vertical ends of the map. As the name suggests, you’ll fall victim to the crossfire of the sniper battles that take place between these structures, with smaller-arms battles taking place inside each of them. This is a fun map for objective-based modes such as Sabotage and Headquarters, but can end up feeling a little empty when on Team Deathmatch or Free-for-All.
One of the smallest maps in Call of Duty history, Shipment is set on a small grid of shipping containers that is almost entirely symmetrical in design. Due to its small size, it is difficult to go a few seconds without seeing some kind of combat. The layout of the containers in the centre of the map form a small ‘X’ route, though sprinting through here is often a death trap and makes for intense Headquarters matches. This is a map more suited to smaller game modes such as Free-for-All and Team Tactical, and there used to be a server glitch where the 18-player Ground War mode could use it too, making for some incredibly chaotic matches.
Vacant is Call of Duty 4’s answer to Counter-Strike’s cs_office. One team will spawn outside behind a group of shipping containers, the other inside among office equipment, cubicles and large windows. The fighting will often meet in the middle, gunfire being exchanged from both interior and exterior. One major point of contention is a warehouse connecting both areas, which also acts as a bomb site in Search and Destroy. Bringing a close-range weapon such as a shotgun or sub-machine gun is recommended, but assault rifles and LMGs also have their place.
Although it tends to be a more forgettable map due to its dull washed-out brown colours, District’s labyrinthine design makes it perfect for objective-based modes that prioritise lots of movement such as Sabotage and Domination. It takes a while to get used to the network of maze-like streets but the outside of the map will also see just as much as combat, therefore it is recommended to prepare for both short-range and long-range combat.
Backlot remains popular with many players due to how circular the map behaves. Players can get to any point of the map in a myriad of different routes, and the fact that there is a lot more cover here than in Countdown allows for more versatile team strategies. There are also two multi-storey buildings on either end of the map, exposing most of the street-level areas to sniper fire as well as encouraging a standoff between both points.
To me, Strike felt like a better version of District. It’s set in a similar urban area but is much larger and allows for more flexible teamplay. Firstly, it’s a map that is symmetrical in design but feels largely the reverse of that due to the different buildings and alleyways littered about the place, lending itself well to Team Deathmatch and Headquarters games where the heat of the battle can change position at any moment. The different routes and buildings you can take also allow for interesting Sabotage and Domination games. I remember perching in the building overlooking the market area with a sniper rifle and being able to get high killstreaks every time. Strike is a great example of how to design symmetry in your multiplayer maps without it feeling too straight and dull.
Although many may have forgotten this map, I found it to be host to some of my favourite memories of this game. I think the main thing to bear in mind with this map is its asymmetry. On one side you have a large hill, on the other, an abandoned rail-yard. Connecting these two sides are two large warehouses with upper, middle and lower floors. Because of this variety, you could never fully prepare for a game on Pipeline. The close quarters fighting inside the warehouses would become void should you step outside into the open middle. The underground tunnel situated underneath one of the buildings also made for some intense Headquarters or Sabotage matches.
As far as sniper-centric maps go, nothing ever came as close to perfect as Overgrown. When it came to weapon loadouts, most people would run with either a sniper or assault rifle. The long grass allows sneaky players to crawl past teams without raising suspicion, and the numerous houses meant the map would become the site of many epic sniper battles. If long-range still wasn’t your thing, you could take cover inside one of the buildings and watch the entrances, although doing so would have likely resulted in the enemy team shouting “camper” at you in the chat. Finally, the two bridges that hide the dried-up riverbed were the deadliest spots on the map due to the lack of cover, but there were always multiple alternative routes allowing you to cross-over unharmed. In the end Overgrown was frustrating for those who didn’t like campers, but there were always enough options that it never felt like an issue.
This is the map where I believe Call of Duty is at its finest. Taking place in an Iraqi town, the map features many abandoned buildings and streets which soon become the site of major team battles. In the centre lies a downed helicopter – an area that provided enough cover to get you out of the crossfire but wasn’t an area you could camp in – and it lay in the shadow of a tall building used mainly for sniping. The beauty of Crash lies in its unpredictability. Will the fighting take place in the tower? Will it be on the backstreets on the outside of the map? Will it be centred around the helicopter wreckage? Whenever you played a game of anything on Crash, you didn’t know what you were getting into, and that was exciting to me.
Despite its age, I still think Modern Warfare is one of the best of the series to date. While the community may have dwindled a bit, it’s still worth checking out if you get the chance. Do you have a particular favourite from this game? Let us know in the comments feed below.