Why I think Treyarch gets an unfair rap.


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.    

21 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Lamashtu

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.    

Posted by iam3green

meh, they do make some good games.

Posted by Meltac

Agreed. I've never understood it either, since I've both enjoyed CoD3, and WaW more than I did with MW2. They're not a fantastic developer, but they are definitely not a mediocre one either.

Posted by Jimbo

The question is:  Can Treyarch do it without Infinity Ward around to create the next blueprint for them to follow?
  
IW proved themselves as game developers, whereas Treyarch have only proven themselves as game assemblers - at least as far as CoD goes.  It's like comparing an artist to a skilled forger.  That's not really Treyarch's fault, that was just the task they were set.  Now it's time to see if they can step up.

Posted by kishan6
@Lamashtu: no 
they are underrated tho
Posted by 41d3n

I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I can tell you that my dislike of Treyarch stems from a long history of me playing an Infinity Ward CoD games (starting with CoD1 for the PC), loving it, then playing a Treyarch or other studio's CoD for the consoles and being either completely underwhelmed or downright disapproving.  I can't say that any of the CoD Treyarch games I've played are any more or less than mediocre and, for that reason, my dislike of Treyarch is based on my opinion that their mediocre CoD installments bring down the franchise as a whole.  I'd much rather the series have been entirely made by Infinity Ward - even though MW2 basically killed the entire experience for me.
 
As for being "the greatest game(s) ever", I'd say that's a matter of opinion.  I would put CoD1 (PC), CoD2(PC), and CoD4(PC) all on my list of the greatest games I've played and I'd like to think that my choices aren't dependent on the fact that Infinity Ward developed all of those games or that I disapprove of Treyarch's involvement.  I would also absolutely place IW (now Respawn Entertainment) in the same league with Relic and just short of the Valve league - only failing because of Valve's incredible non-game accomplishments.
 
Just for reference, I do approve of your Company of Heroes and Half Life picks - though, I have to question Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear and suggest Rainbow Six: Raven Shield (I had more fun with it).

Posted by Dany

I played COD3 since i grabbed COD2 at launch but i didn't play it that much, just more of the same or maybe it was bad? Only when COD4 was coming out was when i knew that they were developed by different people so thats why i have been skipping theri releases. This year though, they really seem to be going above and beyond what MW2 is doing but hey, i am a casual fls player so what do I know?

Edited by ProfessorEss

In a different time and place, in a different scenario I think Treyarch might get more credit.
 
They seem to be a reliable workhorse that does what has to be done. The fact that they always seem to be working on either "those other games" in a franchise led by an incredible developer, or "we need one of these now" games is a testament to both their flexibility and their dedication.
 
I have no great love for any one of their games in particular, but I respect what seems to be creating good games through hard work, in a tough situation on a day to day basis.
 
They deserve a shot at doing something for themselves, and I'd be very curious to see what came out of it.

Edited by Lamashtu
@ProfessorEss said:

" In a different time and place, in a different scenario I think Treyarch might get more credit.
 
They seem to be a reliable workhorse that does what has to be done. The fact that they always seem to be working on either "those other games" in a franchise led by an incredible developer, or "we need one of these now" games is a testament to both their flexibility and their dedication.  I have no great love for any one of their games in particular, but I respect what seems to be hard work, in a tough situation on a day to day basis. "

That embodies my feelings on Treyarch to the letter.


I feel that Treyarch has very competent people working for them, but because of oppressive oversight from Activision, has had their creative voice strangled and left their potential untapped.


Now here's my theory on things:


As we all know, Activision was incredibly reluctant to gamble on a new setting for Infinity Ward's venture with CoD4. So, they turned to Treyarch to work on safe, "reliable" CoD3 set in WWII, which from what I've been told, came together in a single year. A year of pre-production, development, play-testing, and iterating; a year of crunch, developers spending nights in the office, and families broken apart due to those folks never spending enough time at home. Combine the fact that they had to develop a Wii version alongside the HD console versions, and deliver a relatively bug-free and stable product is a feat of superhuman endurance unto itself.


And perhaps after the unexpected success of Modern Warfare 1, Activision loosened its grip on Treyarch for but a moment to concentrate on micro-managing the making of Modern Warfare 2, allowing Treyarch to think outside the box. Though I was disappointed that WaW still used the same gameplay mechanics, I thought it was a great effort for them to explore some of the untold stories of WWII. As a history buff, I thought what Treyarch did was phenomenal, and there were many subtle touches to the game that I felt passed over some people. The idea that the Japanese defenders of the South-Pacific were fighting by sheer will and unfaltering faith in their emperor and they were prototyping the guerilla tactics of the Vietcong twenty years later really hammered home the point that they were a completely alien and foreign enemy to the American Marines. And though there are some inaccuracies (for example, a Tiger I tank in Stalingrad when the first of those were fielded at Kursk the following summer), WaW really gave you the sense that fighting on the Eastern Front was uncompromisingly brutal as we saw German grenadiers callously massacring wounded Russians writing in pain, and three years later, the Soviets doing much the same in the sacking of Berlin.


I also thought that the ending was quite a clever design decision, as in real-life, no-one truly knows who was responsible for being the first to plant the Hammer and Sickle banner atop the Reichtag, as multiple Russian units have claimed responsibility (even going so far as to remove it, bring in a camera crew, and putting it back up themselves). So it's only appropriate that the silent protagonist is the one who props it up.


I just hope that people give these people at the very least a vote of confidence that they'll do a good job with Black Ops rather than dismissing them in the wake of this very ugly Respawn vs. Kotick business.


(NOTE: I had originally planned to include this as a part of my original blog post, but didn't want to scare anyone away with an even bigger wall of text).

Posted by BergDK

Treyarch has a lot of talent...

But until they break out of Activision's sequel hell, and create an original IP that is successful, they are not worth comparing to Valve or even Infinity Ward (while IW was a one trick pony, one is still greater than zero) 

Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx

It's not so much that they make bad games, it's just that they were in IW's shadow, and since IW's games are highly overrated junk for the most part, it just seems that much worse when Treyarch copy and pastes a job over. I do have to say though, WAW was a good game online, it felt more competitive then MW2 by a landslide.
Posted by trophyhunter

Yeah I don't think their games are any worst then the IW games

Posted by TreyTable

Lest we forget, TreyArch's port, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X, for XBOX had the best grass textures of the entire Pro Skater series.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Okay, I'm going to put this out there: 
 
I hate the hate folks give Treyarch, especially from those who say they can't make a good Call of Duty game. Both Call of Duty 3 and World at War were great CoD games that hold up well and you don't hear them bitching and moaning about anything and everything like Infinity Ward did. They don't deserve the bad rep they get at all, they are a pretty strong developer who I wouldn't be surprised to see take over the franchise lead over IW. People didn't give a damn about Infinity Ward until they went modern with the setting of CoD4. Now I can't stand Activision, but Treyarch have always come across as a great development team that deserve a lot more credit then they get, especially from fans. 

Edited by HitmanAgent47

Hey treyard, make a game that's over 90% on gamerankings and metacritic like infinityward can. Your like ubisoft shanghai, your the B team to montreal, you aren't good enough, you just take what the other team has established and pretend to be innovative adding features, at the same time not being competent enough. You lack talent to be the very best.  
 
That's my rant, don't tell me i'm wrong because my evidence speaks for itself, when they can finally make a game over 90%, i'll take back what I said. They are good, however they aren't one of the greats. If you like treyard games, which I don't btw, more power to you.

Posted by RankRabbit

World At War was awesome, I enjoyed that more than Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfail 2. Activision has become the bad guys, it's surprising considering that last year it was EA that was frowned upon when they were trying to get a hold of Take 2. Now most people like EA again and they've had some great releases, all you hear from Activision these days is "we want more of your money" and whatever other stupid crap Kotick pukes out of his pie-hole like Call of Doodie subscriptions.

Posted by pweidman

Nothing against Treyarch, but I thought both CoD 3 and WaW were poor additions to the CoD series.  Nothing new added to the formula(except zombies I spose in WaW, lol)and the same annoying mechanics left unchanged(grenade spam, endless spawn lines, etc..) that IW then fixes w/redesign choices in their next game.   
 
Black Ops looks like another clone, taking the cinematic flair and graphics right from MW2.  I won't get the game for sure because of their previous two CoD games, and because I have no faith in their ability to bring us anything new or even on par.  Without the IW template along the way I don't think Treyarch would be successful.  
 
Who knows but past games, even w/all the stuff to copy and use, have been inferior by a lot, so can they make a competent original IP?  I doubt it, but heh maybe they'll get a chance someday and surprise me. 
Posted by Dylabaloo

I just beat world at war on veteran and god was that tough, more to the point I think Treyarch defiantly don't deserve the criticism they get. I think Nazi zombies shows that when they get some freedom they truly can produce fun gameplay experiences. Unfortunately it will all go down to Black ops whether they will become ''popular'' or not, personally I hope that the game flops so they don't become Activisions new call of duty bitch every year.

Posted by wolf_blitzer85

My roommate and I would switch back and forth playing WaW online. Out of all the other "Duties" out there (which I all really enjoy,even MW2 for the time I spent with it), I would have to say I had the most fun with WaW. 
 
Black Ops looks like something that will unfortunately not be a gigantic as MW2, but still worth checking out. I mean it's still COD regardless of who develops it right? And we are all COD fans to a certain extent right? 
 
So why should who developed it be so damned important?  Sure developers are awesome, but jeeze some dudes out there treat them like gods, and all other games are inferior because they are not involved.

Posted by Pessh

They don't deserve hate. Don't deserve any praise either though, they don't do shit, just take what Infinity Ward do and switch the setting. Hoping Black Ops has some originality.

Posted by lawlerballer

cuz they suck and take all infinity wards hardwork and shit on it