Call of Duty

Ranking Every Sledgehammer Games Call of Duty Game from Worst to Best

Sledgehammer hits... and misses.

Call of Duty Gunfight from MW2
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

With all signs pointing to Sledgehammer Games developing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (III? A backwards E? Who know what crazy symbol variation of three they’ll use this time) for fall 2023, we thought it’d be enjoyable to take a trip down memory lane and revisit every CoD title they’ve made in the past. Here’s every SHG Call of Duty, ranked. 

It’s worth noting that Sledgehammer Games have contributed to a lot of Call of Duty titles over the years, including Modern Warfare 2019 and its sequel, Modern Warfare 2 (2022). For this list, though, we’re only taking into account the games in which they were the lead development studio (or one of them). Games in which they’ve been an assisting studio won’t feature. That means there’s four titles to deal with. They’re all ranked below, from our least favorite to the best they’ve made yet. 

4) Call of Duty: Vanguard

Call of Duty Vanguard Sledgehammer Games
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard was the WWII sequel we’re not sure anyone asked for. Its campaign was adequate, taking players on a non-linear journey through some of the most fearsome battles of WWII. It came to an emotionally satisfying conclusion but, outside of the Campaign (which for most CoD fans isn’t the main factor behind enjoying an installment), it was lackluster at best. 

Vanguard’s multiplayer suffered from a perpetual identity crisis, unsure whether to devote itself to historical accuracy and bloody immersion or steer into the pop-culture eccentricity that Fortnite found so much success with. In the end, it did neither, and goes down as a thoroughly mediocre CoD title. 

There was some fun to be had with Zombies, especially when the great Shi no Numa returned. Regardless, it couldn’t hit the high bar in this round-based mode that Treyarch continues to set. Here’s hoping SHG’s most recent CoD is a series of lessons learnt. 

3) Call of Duty: WWII

Call of Duty WWII Gustav Cannon
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

When it was announced during the life-cycle of Infinite Warfare, a return to WWII was heralded as exactly what Call of Duty needed to inject new life into the series and ensure it returned to its blood-soaked historical roots. 

What we got instead was a bland and pretty dull CoD with some standout misfires. Who can forget the dumpster fire that was Gustav Cannon, a multiplayer map so bad it’s remembered as a meme. There was also the introduction of Headquarters, a pre-lobby social space that was, on paper, a stellar addition. In practice, it barely functioned and served to only slow players down between matches. Rounding off the strange creative decisions, SHG opted for ‘Divisions’ instead of typical Create-a-Class, all of which just pushed players into stronger ones like Airborne and Infantry. 

That being said, there were positives scattered throughout. The Campaign was strong and its opening mission, taking place on D-Day, was an incredible spectacle and suitably grandiose. The multiplayer mode, War, was similarly ambitious and, even though there were some teething problems, the incorporation of a narrative-driven multiplayer mode with multiple stages to ascend through should be praised. More of this ambition in MW3 please… and less Gustav Cannon. 

2) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare SHG
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

2014’s Advanced Warfare – SHG’s first title as sole lead developers – was also CoD’s first foray into futuristic gameplay and advanced movement. It was far from being as refined as Treyarch’s Black Ops 3 (which came a year later), but its use of vertical gameplay was impressive considering it was the first time Call of Duty attempted such a mechanic. 

The weapons were suitably eccentric for the setting, even if the Bal-27 and ASM1 were far too strong throughout, and it was always fun to ‘rabbit punch’ an enemy into oblivion. Exo-suits lended variety to the advanced movement system and the ‘Pick 13’ Create-a-Class was solid, even if it was a slightly watered down version of Treyarch’s ingenious ‘Pick 10.’ The campaign was also enjoyable, thrusting players into futuristic but believable combat scenarios that incorporated fictional tech in creative and enjoyable ways. 

It did falter elsewhere though. Exo Zombies struggled to impress fans who still had Black Ops 2’s top tier undead mode in their recent memory. Multiplayer, although previously complimented, incorporated a Weapon-Variant-Supply-Drop system so obnoxious it meant that finding the best weapons in the entire game was entirely random chance and those willing to purchase Supply Drops were inherently more likely to succeed. The ASM1-Speakeasy anyone? Us neither.

1) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 SHG
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

Co-developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, the original Modern Warfare 3 was the CoD title that secured SHG their lead-developer future. It might be remembered as worse than the original MW and MW2, but that’s only because they’re two of the best Call of Duty games ever made. MW3 was a resounding success from the series’ original heyday, picking up the enthralling story of Soap and Captain Price.

Multiplayer tweaked aspects of the CoD formula, replacing killstreaks with pointstreaks and leveling out some of MW2’s overpowered and imbalanced perks and mechanics. There were standout maps like Dome and Resistance, while the third mode Survival was a welcome departure from Zombies and offered some round-based carnage of a different kind. 

It captured all the fast-paced fun of its predecessor and built on it in a way the fanbase lapped up with little encouragement. Here’s hoping its 2023 namesake will be cut from the same cloth. We can leave the insanely overpowered MP7 in the past, though. 

Those are all the SHG CoDs, ranked. We’re hoping for a home run when Modern Warfare 3 (2023) drops. We’ll be covering it all right here, so stay tuned. 

About the author

Joe Craven

Joe is a writer and publisher based in England. He loves history, video games and football. As you read this, he's probably reading about an obscure war, playing a video game or moaning about Leeds United.