There are certain moments in Call of Duty history that will always be remembered, no matter what follows or how long the esport ultimately lasts.
The Call of Duty Championships in 2013 is one such moment. Every aspect was in place to set up for a historic occasion: the innovations brought in for esports with Black Ops 2, the return of the game to the MLG circuit, real developer support for the first time, and above all the Call of Duty Championships itself, an unprecedented event, all combined to produce an intoxicating atmosphere of excitement. It was a perfect storm of circumstance to create a legendary tournament, and it delivered above and beyond expectations.
It was the first time such a tournament had ever been hosted for Call of Duty. Major League Gaming had offered a “National Championship” during some years as the culmination of the circuit, but the Call of Duty Championships eclipsed such events in prize and prestige by orders of magnitude.
It was a truly global events in a time when international competition was much less common. It offered a $1million prize pool, a sum that dwarfed anything that had ever been offered before for Call of Duty in a fully competitive tournament (no, the first CoD XP doesn’t count) and an amount that was still quite uncommon in esports as a whole. Most importantly, however, it was the first opportunity players had to truly claim the title of “World Champion”.
Coming into the event, Impact were the team to beat. Masters of the then brand-new Hardpoint game mode, they had been imperious over the preceding months, dominating MLG Dallas before crossing the Atlantic to do the same at EGL9. They’d already beaten the best from regions, and there was no doubt they were the favorites to do so again at the biggest event of their careers.
Upon reaching the winning bracket, Impact’s first two victims were the majority-Irish Epsilon Esports squad and fan-favorites OpTic Gaming. Despite heading to the lower bracket earlier than each might have liked, however, they both managed to forge their way deep into the tournament.
Fighting from lower bracket round one, Epsilon made it through three opponents before being eliminated by compLexity, themselves the third victim of Impact in the winner bracket. OpTic found themselves in lower bracket round two, and likewise worked their way through several opponents, ultimately clashing with compLexity in an epic lower-bracket semi-final that came down to a round eleven in the fifth game, ended by a massive triple-kill for Seth ‘Scump’ Abner in an iconic play.
Meanwhile, on the side of the winner bracket that had avoided Impact, Team EnVyUs had cruised through to the winner bracket final. Upon meeting Impact there, however, EnVyUs were able to take down the favorites for the first time since their inception, shaking up expectations and sending Impact to face OpTic in the lower bracket final. Impact eliminated OpTic from the competition, and returned to face EnVyUs in an incredible final showdown.
The grand final was to be a continuation best-of-eleven, as was relatively common practice then, meaning EnVy entered with a 3-1 advantage, chasing six map wins for victory. In what remains one of the greatest series of all time, Impact were able to close the gap fairly swiftly, but EnVy wouldn’t just roll over and die. The pair fought back and forth, an epic battle ultimately culminating in a fateful final map.
Had the rest of the series not been phenomenal in its own right, that final Search and Destroy would have been enough to cement this match as one of the greatest ever played in Call of Duty. The weight of the moment was tangible, more on the line for both teams than had ever been experienced by any players before. These are the moments in which legends are made, and both teams rose to the occasion. Incredible plays were made on both sides, but ultimately it was Impact who clinched It with a 1v2 by Adam ‘K1lla’ Sloss in the tenth round, a moment permanently etched into the minds of all spectators.
Call of Duty has seen a lot over the years since. There have been four more Call of Duty Championships, but to this day the very first boasts the most breath-taking finale. Such an exquisite series may never be played on so great a stage for such high stakes ever again.