Some of Treyarch’s “film references” in their CoD titles

This mission was totally NOT inspired by Inception.

NOTE: This article contains spoilers for Black Ops, World at War, and possibly a few films. You have been warned.

Who doesn’t love a good film? For the past century, we’ve witnessed countless motion picture masterpieces that have spawned some truly iconic and memorable moments. Its understandable, then, that game developers the world over would start taking inspiration from such films. Some are certainly more into it than others, however, with Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles showcasing many examples of movie scenes practically remade in video game form. Some may say these scenes are homages. Some may say they flat out rip off other films. Either way, this should make for some lazy Sunday fun.

World at War

Beginning of Little Resistance = Saving Private Ryan

This one isn’t hard to figure out. The second mission of World at War, titled “Little Resistance”, starts with you and your squadmates aboard a water-based personnel carrier that, among many others, are heading towards shore. When you finally get there, people die, enemy forces are larger than expected, yadda yadda. If this scene wasn’t heavily inspired by the Normandy Landing from Saving Private Ryan, then I’m a purple Rhinoceros. To be fair, though, many WWII shooters have replicated this scene, including Call of Duty 2 and Medal of Honor: Frontline, so Treyarch deserves some slack.

Playing dead next to corpses = Enemy at the Gates

I’ll admit that this was one that I fell for. Having not seen Enemy at the Gates before playing World at War, I thought that this scene was pure emotional genius on Treyarch’s part. You, Private Dimitri, are laying down in what appears to be a fountain, with not-quite-dead Russian soldiers all around you while a German tank rolls by. Before long, a Nazi comes along and starts finishing off your comrades, forcing you to play dead. It’s a powerful scene, but after watching Enemy at the Gates and seeing pretty much the exact same thing happen, then checking the back of the DVD case to see that it was obviously made before Treyarch’s game, it was pretty clear who came first. Treyarch still executed the scene well, but I was disheartened to learn that it wasn’t really their creation.

Black Ops

Vorkuta prison escape = The Last Castle

The prison escape movie The Last Castle (2001) probably isn’t one of the more well-known films in this list, which is probably why Treyarch were hoping to get away (pun intended) with stealing from it. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll realize that the Vorkuta mission in Black Ops bears an uncanny resemblance to it. The visual design of the prison facility is very similar, and even some of the steps in Mason and Reznov’s escape plan are the same as the plan from the movie. By the time you see heavily armored guards show up, complete with face masks and visors, you’ll have no doubt in your mind that Treyarch has watched The last Castle a few times.

Motorcycle chase = Terminator 2

That’s right, folks; Black Ops‘ motorcycle chase is actually an Arnold Schwarzenegger simulator. At the end of the Vorkuta (prison escape) level, Mason and Reznov hop on some conveniently placed motorcycles and proceed to flee their Russian captors. Once you realize how similar the bikes are to the one in Terminator 2, and that the setting looks familiar as well, one can’t help but be reminded of the film. The fact that Mason is using a shotgun, a Winchester no less, just seals the deal. Mason even reloads the shotgun identically to how Schwarzenegger did in the film. If you’re going to steal though, steal from the best, right? Treyarch seems to have that figured out.

Boat segment = Apocalypse Now

A boat. A Rolling Stones song. A river. Set during the Vietnam war. Am I describing Apocalyspe Now, or the boat mission from Black Ops? Or maybe both? It’s clear that that Treyarch modeled their mission after the 1979 war film. I mean, let’s face it; boats aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when talking about Vietnam, unless you’re talking about the aforementioned film. Also, the nighttime setting of the mission is definitely reminiscent of the movie. Sorry, Treyarch, but we saw what you did there.

Russian Roulette scene = The Deer Hunter

This is where the comparison becomes downright shameless. (SPOILERS FOR THE FILM) The 1978 film The Deer Hunter contains a scene in which Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken are captured by Vietnamese troops and are forced to play Russian Roulette. Before long, they devise a plan and break free, managing to kill their captors in just a few swift seconds. Guess what? Pretty much the exact same scene happens in Black Ops. Same dark room, same high-energy intensity, and pretty much the same action scene. This is definitely one case in which Treyarch can be downright accused of ‘ripping off’ a film.

Black Ops II

X-ray weapon detector = Total Recall

We haven’t seen much of Treyarch’s upcoming game Call of Duty : Black Ops II, but what we have seen indicates that they’re not going to stop lifting material from films anytime soon. This time around, they seem to be borrowing from Sci-Fi films, with Total Recall (the 1990 original) being the most notable influence in the campaign trailer. Chances are, in the trailer you caught a quick glimpse of a man viewed from behind some sort of special vision lens, which made him completely white (Michael Jackson would approve) and made his firearm solid red. If you recall seeing Total Recall, you’ll know that the film had an X-ray detector that served a very similar purpose. Looks like Treyarch had some implanted memories of their own, if you know what I mean.

Other films referenced in Treyarch CoD titles include Metropolis, Inception, Full Metal Jacket, 300, and even Forrest Gump. What are your thoughts on the matter? Are Treyarch simply paying homage to these films, or are they creatively bankrupt? Leave us a comment below, and make sure to follow OnlySP for more single-player new, previews, reviews, and cashews.

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Nick August 12, 2012 at 17:37

The GTA games have been riping off movies since day one, like Scarface, Boyz in the hood, Goodfellas. Every game borrows ideas from something else, it's called progress, you take what's good and add to it. Yo wouldn't get rid of the steering wheel because it's not original anymore and replace it with a jam sponge would you.

DarthPrince August 13, 2012 at 13:23

The difference is that GTA is supposed to be a parody. CoD titles aren't…

brian August 26, 2012 at 12:20

just because they landed at normandy in the same boat as they did in world at war doesn't make it a rip off at all. thats like saying because i use a thompson when i land at the beach its a ripoff because tom hanks used one in the movie as well. that boat has been used for amphibious assault throughout each theater of war. have you seen the pacific? check your facts dude.

@MichaelUrban1 August 26, 2012 at 14:05

It's not simply because they use the same boat. I'm very aware that those boats were used regularly in the war. It's because in terms of stylistic presentation, it's very similar to Saving Private Ryan, right down to the brief moment underwater where you see your fellow soldiers shot.

brian August 27, 2012 at 22:48

so nuketown is a ripoff of the indiana jones movie then too right?

@MichaelUrban1 August 27, 2012 at 23:28

I don't remember Nuketown having any sort of narrative, let alone allowing you to hide in fridges. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

JWalk October 30, 2012 at 10:59

They also have the scene in Black Ops where they shove glass into a guys mouth and then hit him in the head. Just like in Dogs of War. Maybe they are ripping off movies, but I would guess that it isn't because of being "creatively bankrupt". The similarities are too obvious. I choose homage to great movies. Go Treyarch.

Alex Stanhope October 31, 2012 at 16:24

Let's face it, pretty much every Triple A military shooter in recent times has taken a fair dose of "inspiration" from the world of cinema (and TV). Here's a few notable moments for your delectation:

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) – The guys at id paid some serious homage to "Where Eagles Dare" for the cable car sequence.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002) – Before they had even made the first CoD title, the fledgling Infinity Ward team were borrowing cinematic references left, right and centre. The Omaha Beach section was virtually lifted frame by frame from "Saving Private Ryan". The "Guarding the Bridge" and "Sniper Town" levels also owed a serious debt to the same movie.

Medal of Honor: Spearhead (2002) – This was all about the "Band of Brothers" references – both the opening parachute drop into Normandy, and the entire Ardennes section were littered with clones of scenes from that particular series.

Call of Duty (2003) – The Volga-crossing sequence in the Russian campaign was directly taken from "Enemy at the Gates".

Call of Duty: United Offensive (2004) – Again, the Battle of the Bulge section took a load of cues from "Band of Brothers".

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with bringing big-screen action to computers and consoles, and in the cases of the games mentioned above, I reckon they were all the better for it 🙂

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