There are times you go on a site and you read a headline that is there to illicit a response out of you and then you click on that article and the headline wasn’t true. It plays around with the words or had a different meaning. This is not one of those times. This is my opinion and if you care to read on I will go into some detail as to why.
The whole story really begins with Call of Duty 4. This game was a big gamble, very, very, very, very (very, very) big. Call of Duty was a WW2 FPS and always had been. It had smashed its way into a very crowded arena and dominated, it was a huge success and accounted for the death of the Medal of Honor franchise. So why would you need to change a game that had everything going for it? But change it did, Infinity Ward decided that it would press fast forward and bring the Call of Duty timeline inline with our own and create Modern Warfare. This was the bit everybody got caught up on and then they went and did something that was a bit of a sucker punch. They evolved not only their multiplayer but the rest of the multiplayer landscape. Of course they wouldn’t have known that at the time, but that is what happened. COD4 took the multiplayer that it had served in the last handful of games and what had been the norm of multiplayer games in the genre for a while now and shook it up. It may seem trivial now but it gave people killstreaks and unlocks. The ability to be rewarded in a live game was satisfying. As you called in a helicopter, everyone in that game knew how well you must be playing. And playing well-earned you plenty of things, not just killstreaks and recognition. All the main stays of the now famous COD multiplayer were here from day one (if COD4 is counted as day one), perks, classes,prestige mode and unlockables (weapons and attachments).
Not only this but the single player campaign was a heart stomping, adrenaline rush across the battlefield. It introduced the world to characters we could love (Captain Price), moments that were truly unexpected (nuclear blast anybody?) and moments of pure gaming legend (AC-130).
This truly addicting and genre defining multiplayer coupled with a fantastic campaign all coated in a modern setting took the world by storm. It propelled Call of Duty into heights that games could only dream of.
Then all but a year later we had Call of Duty: World at War, a WW2 FPS from Developer Trecharch. The move back to WW2 was a confusing one. Was this their way of maybe giving a farewell to Call of Duty’s roots? Or maybe this was a back up plan just incase COD4’s move to modern-day proved disastrous? Either way COD4 was phenomenally successful and the move backwards was never going to be well received. Whilst WAW is a very good game and even sold very well, it carry on where 4 left off it just imitated it. The multiplayer was basically identical, the major differences here were we had attack dogs instead of helicopters (great trade – sarcasm), tanks (which have never returned, thank god) and a WW2 setting with WW2 weapons. There was nothing here that really set it apart.
The campaign which was also one of the best WW2 games was also under scrutiny as it was back to a very tired genre. People had seen where they wanted to go, and WAW was dragging back to where they had been for many years.
However WAW gave birth to something, something great, something that set WAW away from modern warfare and away from the tag of imitation. That something was Nazi Zombies. Zombies allowed for players to team up online and with their friends to battle waves of the undead, it proved a fantastic success and even got everybody playing the whole campaign to unlock it. This one little gem in a game that played it safe was a great view to what Treyarch were capable of.
The following year saw the arrival of the eagerly anticipated Modern Warfare 2. We were now back into modern times (obviously), and Infinity Ward implemented a whole host of new changes that didn’t disturb the formula but took it even further. For one customisable killstreaks. Now you weren’t restricted to the three predetermined killstreaks, you could choose your own from a whole list. This took the game to a greater depth allowing the player to customise their own experience. If you thought spy plane was worthless you could discard it. You could pick killstreaks to help shape the way your character played. They could work in tandem with your perks and attachments. If you wanted to be Rambo you could pick an MG4 light machine gun, FMJ bullets, steady aim (cos Rambo doesn’t use iron sights) and the killstreak chopper gunner to mow down all your enemies. It was basically everything WAW needed to be. It took everything about COD4 and amplified it. This game is responsible for taking the franchise to a point where it transcended the world of games, it was a hardcore game that sucked new gamers into buying consoles. It wasn’t the Wii with Wii sports or the DS with Brain Training, this was a hardcore war game.
Ok so right now you’ve basically read that COD4 was great, WAW was disappointing and MW2 was fantastic. Which seems contradictory to the headline as these two games were made by Infinity Ward and not Treyarch. Black Ops is however the next game up and there is something I must explain here, I really enjoyed Black Ops but I didn’t realise just how much until I stepped into Modern Warfare 3. The one aspect I will always prefer is the single player campaign in Modern Warfare, it gives me fantastic set pieces and amazing battlefields. I see it and go wow. That to me is an action game. Treyarch care more about their story, and do in fact have the better stories but if they could offer me the same moments in their games that Modern Warfare offers they would beat Infinity Ward here too.
Where it all really comes down to is Multiplayer in all its forms. When BO was first released it was not drastically different. It didn’t introduce any major changes, we had more customizing from names on guns to colour of reticule, cod points (boo), wager matches and RC cars. The biggest winner here was refinement. BO basically took Call of Duty’s multiplayer and made it as solid as it could be. The core gameplay, from aiming and shooting to the maps were the best of the franchises history. I have had a very love hate relationship with multiplayer maps, for every map in a game that I love there is one that I loathe. BO was different, it booked the trend, of course I had my favourites (Nuketown and Firing Range) but there was none that I hated enough to skip, or to leave a lobby if that map was chosen (I don’t really do that…). I enjoyed them all.
Modern Warfare 3 had been super excited. I had very fond memories of MW2 and there is nothing like the release of the next MW. I tried to like it I really did. I owed it enough to try. I mean it’s not a bad game by any means, its great but I felt let down. I felt like I had gone backwards, all that work Treyarch had done in making COD a tight game had been completely ignored by Infinity Ward. It started to become so clear here just how different these two versions of Call of Duty are. Do these developers talk to each other at all? MW3 didn’t look at what BO did well it just carried on where MW2 left off but didn’t really do anything new. This developer shook up the genre with COD4 and then took it 100 times further with MW2 and then stopped at 3. The changes seemed forced, in order to offer something different so gamers wouldn’t question why they should pick up the game. The changes however were minor and pointless. BO on the other hand had made subtle and minor changes but they were sharp and constructive.
Of course there is the other side, no matter what Spec Ops has you doing, and whilst some are pretty damn awesome, that mode simply will not live up to Zombies. A mode which has evolved drastically from the simple idea it was as a reward for completing the campaign in WAW and BO2 seems like it will only enhance it further. It will flesh out the experience so you will get more zombies than you can shake a stick at, it has its own campaign. Who would have thought.
Treyarch have always been in Infinity Wards shadow, as the other COD games that keep you going until Modern Warfare comes out but they have been slowly chipping away and now with the release of Black Ops 2, which is set in the near future, we will get a chance to see what they can do when they get more control. When they get to create new things and set the standard for the COD games. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is released November 13th and lets hope Treyarch continue their upward trend and give us what is commonly recognised as the best COD to date.