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

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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.

Now an occasional contributer, Michael Urban is the former Editor-in-Chief at OnlySP and has the nickname "Breadcrab" for reasons his therapist still doesn't understand. From the moment he first got hacked in Runescape, he's been uninterested in multiplayer games and has pursued the beauty of the single-player experience, especially in terms of story and creative design. His hobbies include reading, writing, singing in the shower, pretending to be productive, and providing info and feedback regarding the games industry. It is an industry, right? You can ask him a question or send him spam at michaelurban@www.onlysp.com. Also, follow him on Twitter or the terrorists win. (@MichaelUrban1)

Features

“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun

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Mundaun

The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.

The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.

With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.

OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?

Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.

OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
game?

Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.

OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?

Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.

OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?

Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.

OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?

Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would  be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.

OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?

Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.

OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?

Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.

The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.

OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?

Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.

OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?

Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.

OnlySP: Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world

Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.

OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?

Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.

OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
development?

Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.


Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.

If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.

Otherwise, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for all the latest from the world of single-player gaming.

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