By Lamashtu 21 Comments
I'll admit, I write this because of what I perceive to be the Messiah complex the FPS community bestows upon the (former) Infinity Ward team. But, I genuinely think that the bad reputation Treyarch gets from the gaming community is largely undeserved.
As I'm sure you all know, Treyarch has constantly been labeled as "the B team" of the Call of Duty franchise, the breadwinners for Activision's FPS department in the lull between Infinity Ward releases. However, if one actually looks at the review scores objectively, they didn't release outright terrible games, save for their Minority Report adaptation, which to be fair, was par for the course as far as movie adaptations go. That said, Treyarch went way beyond the call of duty (no pun intended) when they made Spiderman 2, which introduced an open-world mechanic that was a breath of fresh air into the superhero game formula that was sorely needed. And imagine my surprise while researching for writing this I learned that despite Call of Duty 3 almost being universally considered an abysmal game, the game press at large thought otherwise, with review aggregates at GameFAQ and Metacritic at 8.8 (X360 version) and 82 respectively (then again, it IS Metacritic, so make of it what you will). What's even more surprising is that the reader average score for the 360 version was an 8.5. Granted, this isn't as high as Infinity Ward's offerings, but my point stands that for the most part, Treyarch's games aren't the critical piles of shit most people make them out to be.
But enough of that, I'm turning this into numbers game. Since people are more partial to qualitative arguments rather than quantitative, I'm going to take this out of review score territory if you don't mind. As we all know, Infinity Ward originates from 2015, the team behind Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (little-known fact: Console cheats were enabled in the ONLINE portion of the initial retail release of the game, which led to a rather hilarious situation where everyone was shooting at each other to no effect due to god mode being enabled). Since then, the leading creative forces went on to develop Call of Duty 1 and 2 proper as well as the two critically acclaimed Modern Warfare games.
Now I'll go on record, I thoroughly enjoyed Call of Duty 4. The game has a fantastic first impression on people, whether it be from trailers or picking it up for the first time and its presentation values are top-notch. However, that's the most praise the game will ever get out of me, as it will never be on my pantheon of "greatest games ever" which includes the Half-Life series, Homeworld, Company of Heroes, and Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. When I first played the campaign of Call of Duty 4, I genuinely had a good time. But, after subsequent playthroughs (and the last stand portion of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Snipers of Chernorbyl... ahem... One Shot, One Kill on hardened difficulty) the gameplay flaws of the game became glaringly apparent. The biggest issue of which was the fact that CoD4 was the exact same game as Call of Duty 2 and 3; the MP-40 might as well have been a reskinned M4A1 (and this goes out to Respawn Entertainment, if I have to deal with another guy I shot who pulled out his pistol with his last breath and quick-time dogs in another one of your games, I swear to god, Encino is a 20 minute drive from where I live...). Another problem of CoD4 arose from the fact that the game was painfully linear, which is what we come to expect from a Sci-fi or WWII shooter, but with modern day shooters like Rainbow Six, ArmA II, and Battlefield, we've come to expect a much more free-form approach to level design and encounters.
That in mind, people often underestimate the pedigree of the Treyarch roster. Treyarch today is actually the result of a merger between the company and Gray Matter Interactive, the folks behind the competent expansion to CoD1, United Offensive, and... *drum-roll* the fantastic single-player portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
So is Treyarch a "great" developer up there with the likes of Valve, Relic, Blizzard, Bioware, and Irrational?" Well, no. But then again, Infinity Ward really isn't either if you cut even deeper into things. But my point is that Treyarch isn't getting the confidence and kudos it deserves. From what I've seen of Black Ops, the game could be a rental or a purchase on Steam when its on sale for $40 (though Kotick would likely say: "Good luck with that."), which is more than I could say for Modern Warfare 2, of which the most exposure I've had with it is me watching my friend play it whilst the two of us commented on the completely bullshit plot and general sameness between it and Infinity Ward's previous games.