In Sabotage, the objective is for either team to destroy a bomb in regulation or Sudden Death, or kill the entire enemy team in Sudden Death. The bomb is neutral, there is only one round, players can respawn (except in Sudden Death), and both teams are simultaneously trying to destroy the opposing team's base. Whichever player is carrying the bomb is given a green marker with the word "Defend (Escort in Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3)" for friendlies and red with the word "Kill" for enemies, that updates every two seconds, akin to Capture the Flag. When a player is killed during regulation, the player must wait seven seconds to respawn, also akin to Capture the Flag. This makes multi-kills very generous to the player who achieves them, as they can potentially gain a large amount of time to progress, position themselves better, or even plant a bomb. Both teams need only one point to win the game, though this can take a lot if not all of the entire regulation round. The regulation round lasts 20 minutes, and the time is frozen whenever a bomb is armed, only resuming when the bomb(s) are deactivated or destroyed. If no winner is declared by the end of regulation, the game goes into Sudden Death. At the beginning of Sudden Death, all dead players are respawned, and the mini-map will permanently show all enemy targets, with the exception of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 . There are no respawns, effectively turning the game into a neutral Search and Destroy. The game then ends when an entire team is eliminated, the target is bombed, or the 90-second sudden death timer runs out (thus ending in a draw).
This tends to be one of the more unpopular game modes, especially with players looking to level up. Given that only one score is needed, games can end in under two minutes, or last the entire 20 minutes with no winner. Either result is often unfavorable for gaining XP, especially compared to modes like Headquarters. Additionally, teams may be reluctant to plant the bomb on the enemy base so that they can prolong the game as long as possible so that the players will get more kills and more XP. Whenever a talented team wins the game in the first few minutes, games become short, kills are few, and tirades of abuse are common from players more interested in EXP than winning the game. On the flip-side, the game could turn into a 20 minute Team Deathmatch. This gives the player the opportunity to rack up a large number of kills. Parties will often play Sabotage due to the fact it can be played like Team Deathmatch, but with no limit. As the spawns do not change, a well organized team can spawn trap the enemy team resulting in incredibly one sided games. However, the opposition team will often "counter attack" and will often win as the other team are trying to rack up kills, and are often out of position, or just can't be bothered, to stop the bomb planter.
Also, since no team is actually winning until the game is over, a "Host Ended Game" scenario can be very ruinous to a team should their victory be imminent.
In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the bomb will reset to the starting location if not picked up or moved for a fixed period of time.
While blast from the bomb can kill the player, it doesn't count as team killing.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the total amount of matches needed to finish the challenge amounts to 50, as opposed to the normal of 15 or 30.
There is a game mode similar to Sabotage in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized called Team Sabotage. Two teams search for a randomly placed target in the level. One team defends while the other team attacks.