games / Columns

The Top 8 Games from Activision Franchises: Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Diablo 3, More

May 12, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about Activision games with a weird caveat. Activision, as a company, doesn’t really “make” games, so much as own studios. So while they are made by Neversoft or Blizzard, they are still owned by Activision. At least a few of these games weren’t expressly made under the Activison banner but are now a part of Activision due to acquisitions, buy-outs, etc. Anyway, let’s begin:

#8: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

I can understand the appeal of Geometry Wars 1 even though I’m not really good at it. It’s just a fun and simple dual-joystick shooter, in the vein of Robotron or Smash TV. I think the original one is still the best in the franchise though because Geo Wars 2 got a little too weird with its new enemy types. And Geo Wars 3 is just…not fun to play, with all its screwball stage shapes. Sometimes, simple really is better.

#7: Diablo 3 (Console Edition)

I was never really able to get into Diablo 2 much. I always thought the game looked too dark, even compared to Diablo 1. Diablo 3 was the one that got me really hooked, despite a fairly rocky launch on PC. The console version was, and still is, the superior version though with some really good controller support. Being able to roll, to get out of the way of attacks, can be a godsend in the game. Believe me, I played Diablo 1 on PS1, and those controls…were not good. Diablo 3 on consoles might still be a little behind the PC version, but it’s my preferred way to play the game.

#6: Guitar Hero 2

Guitar Hero 1 was still a great game but the critical flaw was that I just didn’t like the soundtrack much. Of the 47 songs in Guitar Hero 1, I only liked about 4 of them. Guitar Hero 2 had about 8 songs I liked, which hey, is double. The real reason Guitar Hero 2 is on here is because it was the first one on the Xbox 360, which then had downloadable support. It wasn’t as crazy as Rock Band’s eventual network, but it was a step in the right direction. Another step in the right direction, specifically with the DLC is that they finally started getting the master recordings of the songs. This was very good to have.

#5: Police Quest 4: Open Season

The earlier Police Quest games are fairly gnarly to play. Police Quest 1 had the old Sierra verb/command system that is a nightmare. Police Quest 2 had these issues also. Police Quest 3 didn’t have it, instead you had an off-screen inventory, and you had to keep scrolling through it with your mouse in order to use the right item on an object. Finally, in Police Quest 4, you just had an on-screen inventory. So it was like “Pick the chalk from the menu and use it on the body”, sort of thing. Also the game had some modest voice acting, nothing huge, but considering it was like 1993, which was no small feat. While a connected franchise, SWAT 4 is also a solid game.

#4: Spider-Man 2

Activision made almost 15 years of Spider-Man games, which is a fairly decent track record. Some of these were…not good, Spider-Man 1 (PS2), or Ultimate Spider-Man, but most of these were decent enough games. The best is probably Spider-Man 2, the game adaptation of the movie. It was the first in their franchise to go completely open-world. It had the, still revered, web-swinging system, decent enough combat, and gave the player the sensation of really feeling like Spider-Man. Obviously the 2018 version of Spider-Man outclasses this one, but prior to that, this Spider-Man game was still seen as the best adaptation of Spider-Man in video games.

#3: StarCraft

Believe me, I know StarCraft 1 isn’t an Activision game. Except, now Activision owns Blizzard, so now it is. I really did like the 3 different StarCraft 2 games, but the fact it took them 5 years for all 3 to come out, did kind of dull my appreciation for a while. As a singular game, StarCraft 1 is a fairly complete product. It gives you three, 10 mission campaigns with the three factions and that is it. There’s just not a lot of bloat here, with each mission usually providing a new unit or circumstance for you to play with. I generally prefer a more concise game than something that is a little bloated.

#2: Tony Hawk’s Underground

While THPS 4 was the first Tony Hawk game to have an open-world, and no time limit, it was a fairly empty world. You could find missions to do, but there wasn’t a lot of connective tissue that was propelling you forward. I appreciate THUG the most because it actually has a story. Granted, that story might be fairly cookie-cutter, but it at least gave you some motivation to keep playing. “Getting off the board” did get some flack but if you do it right, you could really extend your combos out and rack up some big scores. I also thought the actual level designs in THUG 1 were great, there was a good balance of stuff to skate on but having the ability to make some really long combos, if you were really good enough. THUG 1 wasn’t the most influential Tony Hawk game but it was probably still my favorite.

#1: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Honestly, there’s probably no game of greater importance in the past 13 years than CoD 4. It brought FPS games into a real, believable modern setting, set the stage for having impactful story moments, set up the mold for online multiplayer systems (ranks, rewards, etc.) and also gave us Captain Price to boot. Again, like with Starcraft 2, the later games go really nuts with online systems and bloated story campaigns but I just really like the (relative) simplicity of CoD 4.

For comments, list your favorite games from Activision franchises and why.

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