Ever since Activision decided to release a new Call of Duty game every year, with Treyarch and Infinity Ward taking turns developing the titles, fans of the series started choosing sides. At first, Infinity Ward was an immediate favorite because not only were they the original CoD developers, but they were also responsible for 2007's Modern Warfare, a game that undeniably took the series to new heights in terms of both quality and popularity. That forced Treyarch into the role of the underdog, a sort of filler to keep fans entertained while they waited for the next Modern Warfare. Then in 2010, Black Ops came along and it broke new records for the series and managed to earn the love of many fans that had previously pledged their allegiance to Modern Warfare.
With Modern Warfare 3 due out this November, fans are clamoring for what they hope will set a new bar for the Call of Duty series. Many gamers likely haven't forgotten the controversy between Infinity Ward and Activision that ended with several key Modern Warfare designers leaving the company and taking a couple dozen people with them. Whether or not this will negatively affect Modern Warfare is something we won't know until later this year. So in determining which developer does its Duty the best, we'll focus on the games we're already familiar with: Modern Warfare 1 and 2 on the Infinity Ward side, World at War and Black Ops for Treyarch.
There's no denying how incredible Modern Warfare was. Its campaign let us do things we had never done before in a video game, like pilot a bomber as it vanquished enemies from high in the sky and witness the final painful breaths of a soldier slowly dying from radiation exposure. Its campaign was unforgettable, but it was multiplayer that ended up being its biggest contribution. Never before had online combat been so fun, so deep, and so beautiful.
Treyarch followed up with Call of Duty: World At War, taking the fight back to the all-too-familiar World War II setting. Its era might not have been terribly unique, but the combat was top-notch and it managed to show a darker side to the overused WWII setting. Its multiplayer was still fantastic, but it was its brand new mode that took the cake: Nazi Zombies. Zombies have been gaining serious popularity over the last handful of years, so it really was a fantastic idea on Treyarch's part to include them into the mix.
Then came 2009, which brought with it the highly anticipated Modern Warfare 2. MW2 promised better visuals, more action, a deeper multiplayer, and an even more epic story. For the most part, it delivered. The multiplayer was deeper, though the expanded arsenal of weapons and Killstreaks (like the 25 Killstreak that granted an instant kill-all nuclear weapon) came with rather serious balance issues. New players were unable to do well against players who had spent inordinate amounts of time with the game. The single-player was also plagued with a far less engrossing story that was too convoluted and relied too heavily on gimmicky scenarios, like the controversial "No Russian" mission. By no means was it a bad game, but Modern Warfare 2 didn't live up to many fans' high expectations.
Then came Black Ops—Treyarch's opportunity to shine and step out of Modern Warfare's shadow. They did this by giving us one of the best stories offered from the series so far, set in the much less-used Cold War era and told through the flashbacks of an interrogated man. Its multiplayer was also one of the best online offerings from the Call of Duty series, and, thankfully, it wasn't plagued by the server and balancing issues that its predecessor had. Possibly its most intriguing feature was its vastly improved Zombies mode that added an element of campy cheesiness to an otherwise very serious game. Zombies has since become an area for fun experimentation for the developer, giving us the chance to take on the roles of dead presidents, vampire slayers, and even the burned man from our nightmares, Freddy Kreuger.
So which of these two developers makes the better Call of Duty? Looking at the aforementioned titles it's a pretty tough decision to make, and one that certainly won't please everyone. Both developers have accumulated gargantuan fan bases, and each Call of Duty has been great, adding and tweaking features, breaking rules, and demolishing records. To me, the winner depends on which developer seems to be having the most fun with their games.
I'd have to go with Treyarch as the top Call of Duty developer, if only because both of their games are so vastly different. You get a different setting with weapons and vehicles that are unique to the era, engrossing stories, an incredible multiplayer, and for zombie fans, there's the infinitely replayable Zombies mode. The Modern Warfare games are stellar titles, but in a climate filled to the brim with shooters set in the present day, it's admittedly a little tough to stay interested in the games when I feel like I've played them before. If Infinity Ward decides to throw everything into the distant future with crazy space fights and sprinkle some alien zombies into the mix, then all I'll need to know is where to sign up.
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*