Infinity Ward vs Treyarch?
Call of Duty, like the infamous Halo franchise, is a game that even the most disconnected soccer moms in the world have heard of. Started in 2003 by developer Infinity Ward, the series has become the most successful video game franchise ever. Commercials for Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops have even featured celebrities such as Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel. However, the latest iteration of Call of Duty, Black Ops, did not receive the critical acclaim that the previous two versions of Modern Warfare did. What are some of the reasons for this downturn in suppossed quality?
Unlike most major video game series, the Call of Duty games are actually developed by two different studios. Infinity Ward takes turns with Treyarch, with each developer releasing a new game every other year. While Modern Warfare 1 & 2 were developed by Infinity Ward and instantly found success with their fun, yet completely unbalanced multiplayer modes, World at War and Black Ops were developed by Treyarch. Of course, both Treyarch games sold quite well, but are almost universally panned by gamers for their relatively lackluster multiplayer games.
So with Modern Warfare 3 gameplay probably leaking soon, the crux of the conversation should shift from MW vs. Black Ops to Infinity Ward vs. Treyarch. Lets take a closer look at the individual features, good and bad, of each developer’s Call of Duty resume.
Infinity Ward - The Good
Infinity Ward is the original developer behind the Call of Duty games, and arguably boast one of the most successful track records of any developer alive and kicking today. Their latest iteration of the CoD franchise, Modern Warfare 2, was a smash-hit, and its multiplayer servers remain highly populated even 2 years after its debut. So what makes an Infinity Ward game good? Lets take a closer look.
Spectacular Set Pieces: The single player storyline for MW2 was at its best, ridiculous, at its worst, absurd. However, for a generation that flocks in droves to see the latest Michael Bay explosion-spectacular movie, this remains a significant drawing point. Despite this criticism, the single player set pieces in Infinity Ward games are great fun to watch and play through. Jumping a snowmobile across a glacial fjord at 100 miles an hour while Russian super-soldiers are gunning for you is not exactly realistic, but it is definitely awesome. Adding to the awesomeness, Infinity Ward included Spec-Ops modes in MW2, where you and a friend take on challenging and epic set-piece missions - a critically acclaimed design decision indeed.
Satisfying Gunplay: One of the hallmarks of the original Call of Duty was its ultra-realistic WWII era-guns, sounds, and environments. Modern Warfare 2 upped the ante as well, adding in modern machine rifles with very powerful kickbacks, spray-and-pray one-handed SMGs, and fantastically-powerful shotguns. One thing is for sure, shooting people in MW2 is extremely satisfying.
Addictive Multiplayer: The coup-de-grace of the Call of Duty series has been the fun, smooth and addictive multiplayer action. MW2 has perhaps the most popular multiplayer mode ever, with well-planned urban and rugged maps such as Afghan and Highrise. New multiplayer modes like Domination, Headquarters and Search-and-Destroy combined with powerful and well thought out killstreaks make Infinity Ward’s multiplayer chops formidable.
Infinity Ward - The Bad
Of course, for all of its critical and financial success, Modern Warfare 2 has its share of dectractors. While many of these are unskilled, slower-twitch players frustrated with the speed of normal gameplay in the CoD universe, there are some legitimate gripes about MW2.
Confusing, Unrealistic Storyline: The unfortunate downside of the newer Call of Duty games has been their single-player storylines.
Obviously, this isn’t a huge deal because the games are advertised as what they are - action oriented FPS games. Still, players who love the single-player missions for their complexity and set-pieces are almost all disappointed with MW2’s absurd story. Half of it doesn’t make sense, and it almost feels as though the writers came up with an awesome ending (really, don’t miss it), and then worked backwards as they tried to fill in glaring plotholes with substandard explanations.
No Dedicated Servers: One of the more frustrating aspects of MW2 gameplay is the frequency of lag that hits multiplayer arenas. Unfortunately, there is a simple explanation for this: Infinity Ward and Activision are too cheap to provide dedicated servers for multiplayer stability. Ever been killed by an enemy that is literally around another corner? Thank your lazy publishers and developers for that one.
Hilariously Unbalanced Multiplayer: Noobtubes, Care-package Glitching, Witchers, Dual-1888s, No-Scoping, One Man Army, Nuke Killstreaks, Hackers - Most Modern Warfare 2 players are intimately familiar with all of these terms. Unfortunately, Infinity Ward apparently doesn’t QA test its multiplayer for balance, otherwise these glitches and frustrating design decisions may not have made their way into an otherwise seminal multiplayer experience. The only positive effect from these gameplay decisions is that they make the multiplayer memorable, and require players to be skilled in multiple ways of playing the game.
Click Next Page to Find out more about Treyarch, Modern Warfare 3 gameplay, and the ultimate conclusion!
Treyarch - The Good
Treyarch is the developer of the oft-dismissed Call of Duty games - World at War, and Black Ops. Unfortunately for Treyarch, they are often looked at as inferior to Infinity Ward when it comes to making quality games. While some of Treyarch’s design decisions are indeed bland, others are quite unique and promising.
- Unique Design: World at War revisited several historical conflicts, like World War II, yet added in the one enemy that instantly spices up any game: Zombies. Black Ops was set at a time period previously untapped for FPS games - the late 70’s/early 80’s - right at the height of the Cold War and a military technological revolution. Killstreaks like Attack Dogs and RC Explosives are fun, and often hilarious to decimate enemies with. Treyarch has a great track record of differentiating itself from Infinity Ward in interesting ways.
- Balanced Gameplay: Sometimes coming directly after critics have isolated problems in your predecessors is a good thing. Treyarch capitalized on Modern Warfare 2’s criticisms and addressed most of them in Black Ops. Knife-teleport kills? Gone. Care-package cheats? Gone. One-shot kill huge range Shotguns? Gone. Noob-tubers? GONE!
- Epic Set-Pieces: Of course, Treyarch also participates in a friendly competition with Infinity Ward, especially regarding the epic nature of their single-player missions. Treyarch has done a great job of engaging players in a single-player campaign most like more then MW2’s.
Treyarch - The Bad
Unfortunately for Treyarch, this section is really the crux of our argument. While the good portions of Black Ops are commendable, Treyarch also committed some major sins with its most recent offering. Critics and casual gamers noticed right away, and these negative design decisions are a major reason why Modern Warfare 3 gameplay will most likely be superior to Black Ops.
- Bland, Uninspired Multiplayer Gameplay: The major gripe most gamers have about Black Ops is how generic and lifeless the multiplayer combat feels in comparison to MW3. Most maps are shaded a dreary dark gray color, are too similar in layout, and often favor long-range attacks rather than ground mobilization and coordination. The addition of a “slide” to prone action, while interesting, just favors players with better pings and reflexes than players with superior positioning or strategy. The Domination and Headquarters maps are suffocated by the layout of sniping spots, and the attainable long-distace killstreaks only esacerbate the problem.
- Weak Weapons: If anyone has ever shot a real gun before, you know just how loud they are. Unfortunately, Treyarch has never ever set foot within 1000 feet of a firing range, so they have no clue what real guns sound like. Black Ops weapons are completely underwhelming - even shotguns are not a one-hit kill AND they sound like a B-B gun too. Grenades rarely if ever kill enemies, and sniper rifles have a major advantage over most guns in the game.
- No Dedicated Server: One would think that after the debacle of lag that was Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer system got critically panned, Treyarch would have corrected the problem. Well that didn’t happen, and now Black Ops has arguable more lag-based problems that MW2 ever did.
Ultimately, the 3 things that make gamers come back to Call of Duty were completely abandoned by Treyarch’s design team.
Why Modern Warfare 3 will be better than Black Ops
The strengths of Infinity Ward’s design team are evidently geared towards attracting gamers in droves. Outstanding action pieces and maps, an eye toward exciting, albeit ridiculous at times, multiplayer action, and a serious understanding of ballistics and physics all help IW create best-sellers time and time again.
On the flip side we have Treyarch, the innovators that slightly twist IW’s masterpieces in their own ways. Unfortunately, they pandered to the critics too much, leaving gamers with unsatisfying gameplay, technical problems and a dreary multiplayer mode that is quickly being deserted.
One more piece of the puzzle may change the picture though: Infinity Ward has jettisoned Activision, and is no longer the primary developer of Modern Warfare 3. However, several key IW employees have jumped shift to Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software - so the core of Infinity Ward is still intact and running alongside MW3’s development.
This post is part of the series: Modern Warfare Reviews
A collection of Modern Warfare reviews.