The Call of Duty series has played host to some downright convoluted plots over the past fifteen-odd years. What began as a fairly standard military shooter eventually evolved into something so outrageously varied and expansive that even the most dedicated fan would struggle to keep it all together. Onlookers could be forgiven for writing the series off as little more than a collection of high-octane action fantasies marketed toward teenagers, but a great amount of substance lies beneath that veneer.
Not counting remasters, DLCs, or spin-off titles, there are fifteen mainline games in the iconic first-person shooter series, seven of which take place during the Second World War. In all honesty, plotlines in the Call of Duty universe were never all that simple, as the very first game told three separate stories, and the franchise ballooned from there.
More recent CoD games dared to tell stories of villainous paramilitary organizations in the near future, an Orwellian robot onslaught in the 2050’s, and a highly-dramatized European theater World War II campaign, and that’s to say nothing of the outrageously convoluted series of zombies survival modes which tell stories so vastly complicated that Lovecraft would be left scratching his head.
With plot threads this convoluted, it’s only natural that players would be left wondering exactly what happened. Black Ops 4 may have abandoned the traditional single-player campaign, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of questions from games both past and present to which players are still looking for answers.
20 I Am That Duck
First introduced in Black Ops III’s Gorod Krovi zombies map, Dr. Monty is an enigmatic deity who has yet to show his hand or spill the beans as to who or what he really is. Portrayed by Hollywood actor Malcolm McDowell, we don’t quite know what his endgame is, and he seems to have been introduced to the plot mostly to bridge the gap between Revelations and Origins. Black Ops 4’s Blood of the Dead map seems to promise a final confrontation with the character later in the game’s life-cycle, but it’s hard to know how finite such a conclusion could be given how devious and manipulative Monty seems to be.
Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign was littered with small factual inconsistencies and plot holes, and the writers seemed more interested in creating a whistle-stop tour of the European theater than actually building a believable narrative. The most egregious offense came when an American infantry battalion, fresh from Omaha Beach, was tasked with joining forces with a clandestine British special ops unit to liberate Paris. At no point did this make any logical sense, and some players still want to know why this was in the game and who exactly was in charge of that miraculously terrible military decision. It was a neat mission in concept, but why exactly was Private Daniels presence so imperative?
18 Makarov Who?
The Modern Warfare 2 campaign isn’t exactly something that holds up all that well under close scrutiny, but things really start to fall apart once we consider that famous mission which, in the MW universe, kicked off the third World War. Makarov orchestrated that airport tragedy so he could frame an American operative and stoke anti-Western sentiments which could provoke a return to communism in Russia. That said, he would have been a known war criminal at that time, and he didn’t wear a mask during the event, so authorities could have easily identified him via the airport’s security footage. They would then have realized that Makarov was behind it all, and his plans would have failed. The question is, why didn’t this happen?
17 Maybe Three of Us Make Side Deal...
The ending cutscene for Blood of the Dead was about as unexpected as they come and stands second only to Moon in terms of jaw-dropping game-changing endings in zombies. That said, it creates more questions than it answers, and it’s hard to know what’s next for the Primis crew once they have escaped from Alcatraz. The most perplexing new plot point stems from the fact that Richthofen seems to want Nikolai to keep his soul for some undisclosed purpose. Things seem to be building up to a climactic battle against Monty at some point, but, until then, Call of Duty zombies fans will be left watching hour-long theory-crafting YouTube videos.
16 Storm the Beach with a Russian SMG
This may seem like a bit of a nitpick, but lots of players were left questioning exactly why there was so much anachronistic weaponry scattered across Omaha Beach during Call of Duty: WWII’s opening mission. Sure, in the fog of war, it hardly matters exactly where the weaponry came from, but it’s hard to get over the fact that American and German soldiers were blasting at each other with firearms that couldn’t or shouldn’t have been there at the time. Call of Duty has never put much of an emphasis on realism or historical accuracy, but this does beg an explanation. They had all of the models for battle-accurate weaponry in the game already, but the developers just didn’t seem to bother.
15 Press F to Pay Respects
The opening cutscene of 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare hyped up the advancements of the United States military and prepped players for a new type of technological warfare. Though it sounds cool on paper, none of these so-called augmentations seem to have helped any soldiers. At the end of the campaign’s first mission, Will Irons, son of soon-to-be antagonist and Kevin Spacey look-alike Jonathan Irons, gets his arm caught in a mechanical door despite the fact that he’s wearing an exo-suit. The player is subsequently thrown from the airship and has his arm severed in the fall. The question here is that, if these near-future exo-suits are so incredibly advanced, why are they zero for two on the arm protection count?
14 What Was Jonathan Irons' Endgame?
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare felt in some ways like a continuation of the massive decline in campaign quality which started, in the minds of many, with the previous Call of Duty: Ghosts. Though it begins with at least a pretense of logical continuity, things quickly spiral into insane territory as Kevin Spacey’s Jonathan Irons reveals himself to be a ludicrous Saturday-morning-cartoon villain sans the Salvador Dali ‘stache. Once Atlas’ true intentions are revealed, the world declares war on the private military coalition, and Irons essentially goes into hiding. The question is, what was the point? He says something about wanting to rid the world of corrupt politicians, but his outrageously contrived mid-game plot-twist made very little sense and required a detailed explanation which players never really received.
13 A Man of Many Talents
It’s been over a decade since the release of Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, so the bulk of fans who started with the series when the first Modern Warfare was popular probably won’t remember that Captain Price actually made his series debut three games prior to Call of Duty 4. Well, that’s not entirely true; the Price we see in CoD 4 is actually the grandson of Big Red One’s Captain Price, though that doesn't remedy this one confusing mistake. Fans have long ago pointed out that, in the first game, Price is a member of the 6th Airborne Division, while in the sequel he’s a member of the 7th Armored Division. It’s not a game-breaking continuity error, but it would be nice for longtime series fans to get some closure on this one small inconsistency.
12 What Does IX Mean?
Call of Duty zombies fans have questioned the meaning behind the roman numeral IX since it was first revealed to be the name of one of Black Ops 4’s zombies maps sometime in mid- 2018. The figure is important to each of the four mythologies from which the new Chaos story draws, and the number appears in a bunch of strangely inconspicuous places including the inside of the buildable zombie shield. Though speculation has run rampant as to the meaning behind it all, nobody knows exactly what IX means to the new zombies universe, and, until zombies head Jason Blundell comes clean, fans will be left to their own devices in terms of coming up with a reasonable explanation.
11 Got Ammo For You, Daniels
This is something of an omnipresent complaint pertaining to just about every Call of Duty campaign ever to be released, but why are Call of Duty: WWII’s soldiers so eager to give away their health kits, mortars, and ammo? Last time we checked, Private Ronald “Red” Daniels isn’t even the leader of his squad, yet his fellow soldiers are so eager to hawk their wares at him that they come across more so as obnoxious street merchants than actual servicemen. Perhaps if Zussman and Pierson put more effort into shooting and spotting enemies themselves rather than relying on the player to do everything we wouldn’t have to restart this mission for the fourth time.
10 The Federation Makes No Sense
When it comes to nonsensical storytelling in the Call of Duty series, 2013’s Ghosts definitely takes the cake. Almost nothing about the game’s plot makes any cohesive sense, and the narrative is so ridiculous and blown out of proportion that it makes the Mission Impossible movies look downright plausible. Ghosts explores the possibility of an enemy of the United States hijacking their superweapons and using them to dismantle the country. That’s all well and good for Call of Duty standards, but a united South America, referred to as “The Federation” in-game, banning together to take down the U.S. is just silly. What exactly was their motive? Why take such drastic measures? CoD: Ghosts doesn’t seem eager to answer those questions.
9 How Did Marlton End Up in Nuketown
Questioning such a small plot point in Call of Duty zombies seems a bit silly considering how mind-bogglingly massive and complex the lore has become, but it may just be worth asking how Marlton—one of the four members of Black Ops 2’s Victus crew—got to the bunker in Nuketown in the first place. By now, most CoD zombies fans should know that knifing the bunker door in Nuketown Zombies triggers a quote from everyone’s favorite dorky apocalypse survivor, but we don’t know exactly what brought him there. Given the context, he must have been a part of whatever team was conducting experiments at Nuketown, but he may also have known about the coming zombie hoard in advance. There may be some extremely minute detail explaining this out there, but it seems to have remained a mystery to most.
8 How Did Rorke Survive Ghost's Finale?
The plot of Call of Duty: Ghosts runs at a breakneck pace throughout its eighteen-mission campaign, and players were likely to have been worn out by the end of it. One of the game’s major plot points revolves around a mercenary named Rorke who was betrayed by the Ghosts and now wants to destroy them. A run-of-the-mill villain when it comes to the Call of Duty games, things got weird by the time the finale rolled around. How exactly did Rorke manage to survive being shot in the chest and left to drown? Why was he, despite all he had been through, able to essentially abduct Logan? Was this intended as sequel-bait for a game which never released? Who knows… and, at this point, who really cares?
7 ...And You Won't Even Remember
Another oft-debated question which will likely be answered sooner than later, where exactly were the members of Primus headed after the events of Blood of the Dead? We know that, thanks to their altercation with the Warden of Alcatraz, they are no longer destined for Gorod Krovi, but it’s tough to know what’s coming next and who will be left to tell the tale. Primus seems to unite with Ultimus directly afterward, but, following that near-paradoxical meeting, things are cloudy. Presumably, these eight characters are destined for a major battle against Dr. Monty, but there’s likely to be at least one map separating these events, and nobody knows quite what that will entail.
6 Can't Shoot in Space
This is a bit of a time-worn, trite complaint at this point, but, given Call of Duty’s recent fascination with far-future tech, why didn’t they bother to explain how firearms are able to operate in the vacuum of space? Both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare venture into the void—a setting which once seemed totally outrageous to fans of the series—yet they never really bothered to cover up that small plot hole. Given how implausible most of what goes on in these games is, they could have simply offered a one-off sci-fi explanation for this and called it a day, but it seems like Infinity Ward never assumed players would think that far into it. Perhaps these small impossibilities shouldn’t be met with much logic in a series so thoroughly devoid of the stuff.
5 Zombies Chronicles Confusion
CoD zombies fans were shocked and delighted in mid-2017 when it was announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops III would be getting an extremely late eight-map zombies DLC. The story had long since wrapped up with Revelations in 2016, and players were in the midst of the meangering, overly-silly Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare zombies season when Zombies Chronicles dropped. Though it was universally praised and sold extremely well, few could claim to have stood many of its narrative implications. Are the events of this DLC simply re-tellings of previous events, or are they entirely separate occurrences? There are a few lines of dialogue from Dr. Monty which explain a few things, but nobody really knows where Zombies Chronicles fits in the overall story.
4 The Numbers, Mason
Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s campaign had some pretty neat ideas, but they ultimately culminated in an experience which often tripped over itself in an attempt to tell a surprising and plot twist-centric story. If players made a certain set of choices and participated in a set amount of side missions, it would be revealed at the end of the game that Alex Mason, the protagonist of the first Black Ops game, was actually still alive and had gone into hiding for thirty years. That’s a neat plot point, but they don’t bother to explain how he managed that, or why he suddenly came out of the woodwork in time for the game’s grand finale. On top of that, if he were old enough to have fought in the Vietnam War, he would have been… well, extremely old in 2025.
Call of Duty: Black Ops’ campaign contained what was probably the most eye-opening plot twist in the entirety of the series. Near the end of the game, it was revealed that Soviet World War II veteran and close confidant of Alex Mason Victor Reznov didn’t actually survive the escape from Vorkuta and was an illusion brought on by a brainwashing session. Though it’s an awesome twist, it isn’t plot hole free. The game shows Reznov implanting these codes into Mason’s head so he could vicariously enact his revenge through his friend, but that doesn’t explain exactly how Reznov gained access to and knew how to use the brainwashing facility. Either there’s much more to Reznov than we’ve been told, or Treyarch didn’t think that bit through.
2 The Level That Went Too Far
Modern Warfare 2’s infamous No Russian mission was incredibly controversial and certainly got people talking about the title, but, though a pivotal plotpoint in the game, it’s totally full of flaws. Most crucially, how exactly did Makarov and his crew sneak into the airport in the first place? This level kicks off in an elevator in which Makarov delivers his famous line, but it doesn’t explore how they managed to sneak several heavily armed men into an airport. Perhaps they do things slightly differently in alternate-universe Russia, but it’s not often that they let a bunch of suspicious-looking men carry LMGs into a densely packed transit hub. Sure, Infinity Ward probably didn’t intend for anyone to second-guess this aspect of the narrative, but it sort of deserves an explanation given how crucial it was to the rest of the series.
1 World War III
The third Modern Warfare title, which released all the way back in 2011, explored the possibility of a third World War instigated by Russia and the United States breaking out in the modern era. Though it seems plausible on paper, the way Modern Warfare 3 goes about setting this up is downright insane. In the game, Russia invades all of Europe—from Poland to Spain—at the same time via a simultaneous chemical attack on major metropolitan areas. That’s so outlandish it wouldn’t even hold sway in a Tom Clancy novel, and it almost calls into question Infinity Ward’s understanding of geopolitics. Sure, it’s their story, and they can do whatever they want with it, but, to a lot of fans, this was a bit of a jump-the-shark moment in a series already full of them.