The Best Levels in Call of Duty Games – Mile High Club, Gulag, Aftermath

From saving Price to experiencing a nuclear explosion, Sledgehammer Games’ developers recall their favorite levels and scenes from CoD history.

Prima’s tips and strategies for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare!

Recommended Videos

We don’t mean to make you feel old, but the critically acclaimed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare came out in 2007. Its publisher, Activision, responded by turning CoD into a yearly franchise, with each title containing intense single player and multiplayer campaigns. 

That said, there are plenty of memorable moments throughout the storied franchise, many of which feature intense and sometimes cataclysmic circumstances for the different heroes and villains. With that in mind, here are some of the greatest scenes and levels in Call of Duty history, recounted by developers from Sledgehammer Games. Interestingly enough, the controversial No Russian from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 did not make the list. 

You can find this feature and more in Newsweek’s official Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare collector’s edition guide, on sale now for $10.99.

Cliffhangar from Modern Warfare 2 

I loved sneaking through the base using the heartbeat monitor and planting C4 to set up a distraction. My favorite part is once you retrieve the satellite module, and your cover is blown, you detonate the C4 and quickly fight and run to escape on snowmobiles. It stands out as a great level with immersive stealth gameplay and a truly frenetic ending chase sequence. As a game designer, this level was really influential to me. It had great pacing, such a great variety of gameplay and I liked the fact that you had to escape in the end, where in most games you need to kill all of the enemies to beat the level. -Steve Bianchi (Level Designer) 

All Ghillied Up from Modern Warfare 

I found myself on the low side of a grassy hill, when all of the sudden a column of heavily armed enemies crested the ridge and were heading in my direction. My squad mate told me to hit the dirt.

The reason this stands out so clearly in my mind was the profound sense of anxiety I felt when one enemy guard nearly stepped on me because he was so close; yet, due to my ghillie suit, he didn’t see me. I still remember that experience now, more than seven years later. Witnessing this as a designer was a breakthrough moment. As a player, I felt like I was a participant in the drama in an unusual way: hiding, rather than running around guns blazing. The result was that I experienced real emotion, real anxiety and real intensity. I also found myself wondering what other emotions can be triggered in a video game. It remains my primary motivation for creating games: always trying to push the boundaries of what emotional response can be achieved and to push for an even wider range of feelings and experiences. -Colin Munson (Level Designer) 

Takedown from Modern Warfare 2 

It has a great opening that sets an ominous tone and introduces a gritty location. It also lets players battle through the intense favela with civilians running for cover. I’m pretty sure there were chickens too. -Aaron Halon (Director of Product Development) 

Mile High Club from Modern Warfare 

The bonus mission at the end of Modern Warfare is a brief but tight example of what makes the franchise so awesome. High pressure, close quarter combat with explosions, walls blowing out to decompress the plane, a timer, a surgical hostage rescue and a cinematic ending. This mission kept me enthralled as I tried countless times to finish it in 60 seconds on Veteran (which I honestly never did). I tried so many times to beat this level, refining my strategy each time, rationing bullets and timing my reloads. I loved seeing my progress improve slightly each time, learning from past mistakes. Mile High Club serves as a reminder of what the power of a challenge can bring out in a gamer: the drive to conquer unbeatable odds. -Robert Pitts (Level Designer) 

Gulag from Modern Warfare 2

Finding Price alive at the end of Gulag was probably one of the most rewarding moments for me. It was like reuniting with an old friend I never thought I’d see again, and knowing that what would come next was going to be an awesome ride.

The times when you’re not shooting stick out the most to me, when you can take in the world around you. That’s when I can connect with a character and be affected by their story, when I can put myself into the boots of my soldier and forget myself in the game. Levels like Gulag influence how I look at pacing: how much do I want the player to focus strictly on their own survival, versus how much do I want the player experiencing other emotions? When is subtle too subtle? That’s what I think about. What is the rollercoaster of emotions I want out of my player, from fear to confidence, power to helplessness, anger to sympathy – all without being cheesy, cliche or comical. -Dan Steamer (Level Designer)

Intro to Modern Warfare 

The immersion and cinematic quality of that intro was something I had not experienced in a game before. It inspired me to push my storytelling in world-building further, and to take chances without fear. -Ernesto Guaman (Senior Environmental Artist) 

Payback in Black Ops 

After escaping captivity in a Viet Cong cave prison, the player apprehends a Russian helicopter and lays waste to the enemy army before getting the hell out of there. It goes from pauper to Rambo. It was exciting to have what I take for granted as a player taken away from me. No weapon, no mission, no plan – just wait for an opening and escape. Call of Duty games have historically embodied strong level design, with each containing an arc that begins with a concept, then crescendos in a way that excites the player and ends leaving them hardly believing what just happened. In Payback I experienced this crescendo as a rush of mayhem I delivered with the Hind.

Basic movement is a key aspect of the Call of Duty franchise. This level was an example of extremes – the claustrophobia and helplessness of the prison caves, the freedom and havoc of a fully loaded Russian attack helicopter. As a designer, this made me want to explore aspects of player movement and control. For this reason, I can’t wait to see how Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players react to the Exo Suit and the movement set it brings to the table. -Jason Warnke (Level Designer) 

Aftermath from Modern Warfare 

Crawling from the wreckage of your downed helicopter after intense action and an amazing explosion, it is such a quiet and subdued scene that conveys the horror of a nuclear bomb explosion. The fact that you were in control of the dying soldier gave the scene amazing pathos, you feel like it might be possible to survive all the wat to the fade to white. It can be difficult to communicate the weight of the antagonist’s actions in a game, but this level handled it deftly. These interactive story moments are what I strive for in each level I build. -Justin Miller (Level Designer) 

Turbulence in Modern Warfare 3 

While playing through the entire Call of Duty series, the experience I most enjoyed was protecting the Russian president from the airplane hijacking and assassination attempt. You fight inside a jumbo aircraft, rapidly losing altitude, knocking everyone and everything around. You even fight in zero gravity.

It simulated the terror of a rapid, uncontrolled, descending aircraft crash, all while needing you to still be the hero and eliminate the enemy threat without letting the president die. 

This was really one of the reasons why I knew I had to be a part of this franchise. There aren’t many game teams that have the resources to execute on that level. -Larry Charles (Level Designer)

Prima Games is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Top 5 Call of Duty Games of All Time
Read Article The Top 5 Most Watched Games On Twitch
Read Article Yellow Taxi Goes Vroom Just Gets It
Related Content
Read Article Top 5 Call of Duty Games of All Time
Read Article The Top 5 Most Watched Games On Twitch
Read Article Yellow Taxi Goes Vroom Just Gets It
Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.