Since it's somewhat politically insensitive to cast Russians (or other foreign regimes) as generic antagonists, morally bankrupt Private Military Contractors have become recurrent villains in the franchise, including Shadow Company from Modern Warfare 2, Cordis Die's mercs from Black Ops II, and Atlas Corporation from Advanced Warfare.
Zombies are Always Evil and the games feature entire campaigns about fighting through hordes of the mindless undead.
A convenient thing about returning to WWII is the lack of moral ambiguity connected to mowing down fascist Nazi soldiers.
Which developer is most consistently best? Infinity Ward? Treyarch? Sledgehammer? Ask three COD fans and they'll give you six different opinions on the matter.
The whole idea of COD going sci-fi divided the fanbase when the transition began in Black Ops 2, and the arguments began growing more immensely as every game between Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare kept going further and further into hard sci-fi, to varying degrees of critical success and eventually cumulating in the massive backlash Infinite Warfare received when it was announced. What complicates the matter is that when Call of Duty did go back to its roots with WW2, the result was seen as one of the worst entries of the series in that generation, while Infinite Warfare would start to become Vindicated by History.
World at War attracts a lot of flak for various reasons (unfair respawns in single player, Darker and Edgier, going back to World War II, being by Treyarch, unbalanced Veteran mode etc).
3 does likewise, largely for pointless motion sensor gimmicks, rather dull graphics, being the first numbered game in the series to avoid PC, and abandoning the "major historic battles" motif in favour of being set in a series of seemingly random French towns that even the French have probably never heard of.
Ghosts is generally considered to be a sub-par Call of Duty sequel due to its weak original setting story and characters, over-reliance on Rare Guns as the second attempt to futurize the franchise, stupid hype ("Fish AI" that wasn't as unique as advertised and didn't work anyway, and an "improved graphics engine" that was only a noticeable improvement in the system requirements), and a Cliché Storm plot with no likeable characters on either side that ends in a blatant Sequel Hook.
The 2019 Modern Warfare reboot as well as Warzone and Black Ops: Cold War have been generally enjoyed by those who are able to play it, but the disproportionately large (and steadily-growing) storage requirements as well as mandatory online connection even for single player mode turned quite a lot of potential players off.
Critic-Proof: Boy is it ever. The games sell very well on the market. However, given the way most people treat the games, you'd wonder where on earth these millions of Call of Duty players are coming from. Hell, even the actual playerbase spends a good quarter of their online playtime claiming either the game they're currently playing or every one that's since come after it are terrible.
Critical Dissonance: The franchise is a serial victim of this. Due to being the second biggest franchise in video game history, and by far the biggest first-person shooter franchise, it is often bashed by reviewers or random internet goers who simply did not like the first person shooter genre. Complaining about something inherent in the genre, like "All you do is shoot at things" is a very common criticism.
Difficulty Spike: Roads to Victory's Hunner Park level is very hard when compared to other levels in the American campaign. The enemy AI is considerably tougher too; they will either gang up on you or spam lots of grenades as soon as they see you.
Call of Duty vs. Halo is a franchise rivalry for the ages, especially after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare went up against Halo 3 and took the crown of 'premier console FPS' from that series. This rivalry returned with a vengeance when Halo Infinite began to attract Call of Duty fans disgruntled with Vanguard, though the subsequent announcement that Microsoft intends to acquire Activision Blizzard throws the dynamic between fans of the two series' in the air.
Growing the Beard: Combined with the whole Infinity Ward versus Activision stuff after Modern Warfare 2, general sentiment following the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops is that Treyarch has gone from the makers of "off" Call of Duty games to the new makers of "on" Call of Duty games. After Ghosts released the year after and was judged to be So OK, It's Average, most of the remaining IW fans jumped ship as well.
Some Call of Duty fans were not too pleased when the Modern Warfare subseries was introduced and turned out to be a hit.
Gamers themselves aren't too pleased that the franchise itself is popular. The franchise is a best-seller, but you wouldn't know this by looking at most gaming boards.
Call of Duty is so infamous for evoking this trope that any franchise with massive mainstream success that ends up being disliked by hardcore fans of the medium is compared to it, such as Naruto for anime and Family Guy for Western animation.
It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: Another criticism, due to a general lack of change until Black Ops II, and even then there are quite a few aspects that people are still complaining about.
Just Here for Godzilla: Many people largely ignore the campaign modes and buy the games strictly for the multiplayer. Or the zombies. Inverted with Infinite Warfare, where the campaign is widely considered the best part of the game while the multiplayer isn't as acclaimed.
Memetic Badass: James Doyle of United Offensive and 3 was an early example, to the point that he was the only character to be playable in more than a handful of missions across multiple games until Alex Mason.
"TELEFONMAST!" from 2, crossing over with models from Day of Defeat and used in some Garry's Mod videos.
Press F To Pay Respects: An action prompt from a quick time event in Advanced Warfare, which involved pressing the F key (X or Square on a controller) to pay respects to a dead soldier. This was turned into a colossal meme, as the Narm of a QTE being in the middle of an otherwise-serious cutscene was mercilessly made fun of online for ruining the atmosphere and treating the death as a joke. The meme has become culturally significant, in that it's an unironic "I'm sorry for your loss" statement, as both gamers & non-gamers who have gone online know what "F to pay respects" means, as it's part of internet lexicon for commenting on a series of real-life or fictional misery.
"F in the Chat": A phrase frequently used by streamers and viewers alike on Twitch and other livestreaming sites, calling for users to type or spam the letter "F" in the livestream's chat. Derived from the aforementioned meme, it's frequently used to symbolize sorrow, compassion, or more commonly to sarcastically mock a fail or embarrassing situation.
Children's Online Daycare explaination An altered version of the franchise's acronym, which was used to mock younger players who tends to scream with their microphones.
Dogsexplanation Starting in the Black Ops 2 map Hijacked, where the Attack Dogs killstreak would spawn dogs from holes in the boat. It became a joke across the community as it was bizarre how the dogs would just sit in some secret hole until called upon. Further pushed in Ghosts, where dogs became even more of a joke due to how absurd the Guard Dog scorestreak was. First, the player would whistle for the dog. Then the dog would come, dressed in a Kevlar vest. And it had more health than the player. It was also very buggy, especially on larger maps, where it would go after enemies, while trying to return to the player.
"I do ur mum harder than you suck at this gaem" explanation Often times "ur mum" insults are used by little kids who probably shouldn't even be playing the game to insult a player who is better then them at the game.
The logo for Black Ops 4 features four vertical lines under the "Black Ops" part, implying that the title is alternatively written as Black Ops IIII. Not "IV", "IIII". While that was once correct for writing the number 4 in Roman numerals, it's still a source of mockery and memes for many fans.
In Modern Warfare 2, many. Makarov for mowing down an airport full of innocent civilians and pinning it on the U.S.; the "good" Russian army vowing to kill 1,000 Americans for every dead Russian civilian in the airport (and they go about this gleefully by shooting down civilian evac choppers); and Shepherd for orchestrating it all because, he claimed, there weren't enough patriots in America.
Black Ops: In case you didn't catch on that Dragovich was a bad guy, the part when he locks up some of his own troops, including Dimitri Petrenko, the hero from World at War, and exposes them to a horrific flesh-melting chemical weapon just as a test should leave no doubt at all.
Never Live It Down: The funeral scene from Advanced Warfare, which ultimately popularized the PC version's interact key as the respect-paying button.
The single player campaign for Finest Hour can be quite difficult. As the series had not yet switched to regenerating health, players had to find health kits and use them wisely. Also, your health bar itself was very small, meaning a few bursts of machine gun fire could take you out. Not to mention that now there was no Gameplay Ally Immortality at any point - you had to conserve your health kits to give to your named allies if they needed them more than you did. Checkpoints were few and far between, as well as many opportunities to get yourself killed between those sparse checkpoints. All this comes together to form a very challenging experience.
United Offensive was up there too. The actual gameplay was identical to the first game, as expected from an expansion pack, but the new weapons gave the Germans an edge they didn't have - the Germans (and the Russians) got a semi-auto rifle to match the Americans having two in the first game, and suffice it to say, it wasn't tested quite well enough in the hands of enemies. Fights that wouldn't cause one to break much of a sweat with the original game only giving them MP 40s and Kar98s become nail-biting tests of endurance (and patience, and hammering the quicksave key) as enemies that were only a problem in extreme close range suddenly paste you in two shots from a hundred yards.
World At War is often considered the hardest game in the series to beat on Veteran, comparable to Halo 2's infamous Legendary campaign. The enemies have since become particularly infamous for spamming grenades en masse whenever the player takes cover.
No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: No matter how many people loudly proclaim their hate for the series, it still manages to sell millions of copies. Whatever the developers are doing, seems they're doing something right.
Treyarch's developing games (they made 3, and absorbed the team that created United Offensive after co-developing Big Red One with them) and the yearly release cycle (UO came in 2004, a year between the first two games) has been around from the very beginning.
Not to mention the heavy use of Simultaneous Arcs and the use of a Decoy Protagonist, although the previous games tended to do all the missions with one character in one batch before shifting over to another character, and no playable characters actually die until Modern Warfare.
United Offensive was the first game in the series with a Sprint Meter, though it was bound to a different key (Alt by default) and covered a much shorter distance before running out; it was not until Call of Duty 4 that it became ubiquitous in the series.
Once Acceptable Targets: Generically Middle-Eastern terrorists were once common enemies during the series (especially in the Modern Warfare games), which earned the developers several accusations of racism and ethnic stereotyping.
As mentioned above, Russians were once the main villains for the franchise for four straight games, but have become less common as antagonists.
Sacred Cow: The original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It was commercially and critically successful, and left a massive impact on the franchise, if not on shooters genre as a whole, to the point where some consider it to be one of the best games ever made.
Woods in BO4 has become quite possibly the single most hated character in the entire franchise. Yes, the same Woods who was the fan favorite of the first two Black Ops. He is relegated to the role of the announcer for tutorial modes, which would be fine if he acted like he did in the previous games at all. Instead, he's reduced to an absurdly obnoxious Totally Radical caricature ("That bounce was lit AF!") that everyone wishes they could mute, not to mention how out of character it is, given the time period he was raised in. (He was born in 1930.)
Seasonal Rot: Most long-time fans of the franchise agree that sometime between Modern Warfare 2 and 3 is when the franchise started to become increasingly glamorous and distanced from the previous entries' brutal depiction of warfare, with Ghosts being seen as one of the first unanimously weak entries.
Sequelitis: The series generally fell into this starting from Ghosts due to being Strictly Formula in multiplayer, and the singleplayers features increasingly implausible scenarios and increasing number of fictional firearms.
Silent Majority: Judging by the sales figures and how most people react about Call of Duty, this is a very good example of this trope. There are obviously thousands of people who think these games are very good, yet feel no need to scream about it on the internet (or maybe they're too busy playing the game to scream about it).
"Comrade Sniper", the desert tank missions, and "The Silo" in the second game, especially on Veteran difficulty.
Finest Hour has the first mission in the American Campaign, "First City to Fall". You had to escort an M12 self-propelled gun through the streets while fending off Germans with Panzerschrecks. It seems that the Germans have pinpoint accuracy while your armour support (two Sherman tanks) are almost useless to deal with them.
Since 2013 to this day, it was the time when the developers experimented with all new characters and (usually futuristic hypothetical) settings. Even its return to WWII doesn't feature the return of iconic characters due to the relatively new Sledgehammer games in charge instead of Infinity Ward. The return of the Modern Warfare in 2019, along with COD Mobile bringing the best of Modern Warfare and Black Ops in one mobile package, has managed to Win Back the Crowd.
We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: Many people accused Activision of this after the announcement that Black Ops 4 would not feature a single-player campaign while also introducing a Battle Royale mode, decisions that respectively jumped on the AAA game industry's questionable party line that gamers no longer wanted single-player games, but "Live Services" instead and clearly chased the tails of popular games of the time like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Video-Game Movies Suck: An interesting example considering there isn't a movie based on the series. It's not that nobody is willing to have a go - plenty of studios have offered, and in fact the games themselves seem like movies due to the talent they bring in for the plots and voice work - it's that Activision, fully aware of this trope and its implications, are worried about the negative effects a bad CoD-based movie would have on the games.