Graphics or Frame Rate? Treyarch & ‘Black Ops 2′ Continue the Divide

Oct 10, 2012 by  

Black Ops 2 Frame Rate Graphics

We hear a lot about “the best of both worlds” – brains and beauty, wealth and happiness, strength and speed, youth and wisdom. The same applies to our psyche as gamers: When we play a game at 60 frames per second, we want it to look fantastic; when we play a game that looks fantastic, we want it to render images and events faster than the eye can see.

Some of this helps explain the loathing for the graphics of Call of Duty. The best-selling first-person shooter on the market – which has released a new iteration annually since 2006, rotating between developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch – routinely wraps itself in the flag of 60fps and blisteringly paced shootouts, and yet naysayers will castigate its visual prowess at the release of every screenshot or trailer. Now Treyarch design director David Vondehaar has decided to weigh in.

Mostly with confusion. Although Call of Duty: Black Ops II runs on the same proprietary engine developed by Infinity Ward for 2007′s Modern Warfare, Vondehaar expressed his belief to OXM that the engine has adapted well. Regarding criticism to the contrary, he reasons that attacks on the game’s graphics are slightly misguided:

“Anybody who comes at the engine needs to remember it’s the 60 frames they love in the first place. And we can make it beautiful – that’s through years and years of working with the engine, improving upon it and improving the pipeline and improving our approach, our lighting rendering.”

But exactly how much work – or, perhaps a better word, progress – the engine has seen throughout successive Call of Duty titles remains a tenuous issue. Improvements to lighting and texture and polish have almost never been discernible between one game and the next since Modern Warfare, and the final-build footage released for Black Ops II has made clear the engine is showing its age. Not for withering but for lack of keeping up. Vondehaar, however, doesn’t understand the perception that the billion-dollar franchise is loosing its sheen.

“People like to talk about the engine, but the truth of the matter is that this isn’t like something that was invented six years ago. At this point that engine doesn’t resemble anything like [our current] engine – we’ve ripped out the UI system, the rendering and the lighting are all new, the core gameplay systems are all new.

“To me, it’s like I never really understood. It runs at 60 and it’s gorgeous. What exactly is there to be upset about with the engine?”

Vondehaar’s notions don’t come as a surprise; they’re similar to Treyarch head Mark Lamia’s comments this May stating Black Ops II doesn’t need a new engine. It was then that Lamia, slightly more understanding of the criticism, compared the current engine to a remodeled house: “You might even go as hardcore as replacing the plumbing” (a reference to the new lighting system in Black Ops II), but “you don’t tear out the foundation.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Graphics

Indeed, there are many ways Activision and Call of Duty have benefited leaving “the foundation” where it lies: cost cutting, simplification, and the consistency of their loudly-trumpeted 60fps mark. At the same time, though, those who play 30fps shooters like Battlefield 3 and Halo and Gears of War, caring little for (or not even noticing) the difference, have likely come to appreciate the extra special-effects panache.

Perhaps in the next generation both ends of the visual/gameplay spectrum will be easier to attain. E3 2012′s sampling of next-gen tech demos placed a great emphasis on both fidelity and real-time flexibility. For the purposes of the present, however, it underlines one of gaming’s great debates:

Ranters, graphics or frame rate: which do you value most? Do you think Call of Duty is hindered by its focus on the latter?

Call of Duty: Black Ops II releases on November 13, 2012 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, and November 18th for the Wii U.

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Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: OXM

61 Comments

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  1. frame rate doesn’t mean jack if you dont have dedicated servers b/c THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ASKING YOU GREEDY PIECES OF S***S TO IMPLEMENT SINCE MW2.

    the game looks downright ugly hence why it runs at 60 fps – there is nothing to push the engine and dip the frames below that. same reason why dead or alive runs at 60 fps but tekken doesn’t – tekken has more particle effects and other garbage that pushes the engines power which in turn dips the fps.
    \
    they pulled the same ‘more frames equals better’ bs with mw3 b/c they had nothing else to promote b/c they’ve been using the same outdated and garbage engine since CoD4.

    let me know when they really innovate and change their piss poor, trashy, repetitive excuse of a game… somehow i doubt that time will ever come ;)

    • No “first” comment in there? Considering all the hate you just spewed im surprised you arnt trying to piss more fanboys off. Dont get me wrong, i agree with you.

    • Well… Doesn’t look like I’ll be needin’ to say anything here then. LOL!

  2. Vondehaar calling the IW Engine gorgeous is like a mother calling her butt-ugly daughter beautiful. It’s just not true.

    • its like saying smoking is the cure for cancer

  3. The graphics aren’t that bad, I dunno what people are complaining about.

    • Compare MW3′s graphics to, say, BF3 or Crysis 2. There’s no competition.

      • try crysis 1.

      • That doesn’t make MW3′s graphics horrible. It just means they aren’t the best and they really don’t need to be and that goes for any game. I’m not even fan of Call of Duty but criticizing its graphics when they happen to be a lot better than or equal to most titles is confusing. The gameplay and content, however, is another story.

        • Are you serious? CoD’s graphics are terrible compared to other games. Even Skyrim looks better. In CoD, there is very little detail, and the particle effects are terrible, as is the lighting. Everything is just ugly.

          • Have you seen Skyrim’s character designs? They aren’t better. I was just playing MW3 the other day and it’s not an ugly game at all. There’s some pretty spectacular set pieces that look great. Not once was I thinking “oh god that looks horrible I want more detail!”

          • Then you obviously don’t know what good graphics look like. Have you played Uncharted 3 or Arkham City? Much better graphics than CoD. Also, just about any modern game looks way better on a good PC. If you played a game like Arkham City on a good PC, you would see just how bad CoD’s graphics are.

          • Matt- You’re seriously bringing up Uncharted 3? Uncharted looks better than everything and is PS3 exclusive. Of course its graphics will be outstanding. And PC, really? Stop comparing COD to high end PC graphics and Uncharted and maybe you’ll stop fussing about Xbox 360 level graphics. They’re fine. I’m starting to think you’re a graphics whore.

          • I’m not a graphics whore. I just know what good graphics look like. You have to know what good graphics look like to know what bad graphics look like, and if you think CoD has good graphics, you obviously don’t have a sense of what good graphics look like.

          • Matt- I think you know what great graphics look like, not good graphics. You’re comparing and are probably used to amazing looking games and high end PCs and in reality, COD looks just fine for an Xbox 360 game.

          • Sure I have a nice PC, but I had a PS3 way before that. I know what games have the best graphics the PS3 are capable of, and CoD is definitely not it. Uncharted 3, Arkham City, Crysis 2, Killzone 3; those are the PS3 games that have good graphics. Right now, only PC games have the potential to have great graphics.

    • you must be blind b/c this game, BO and MW3 look like high end gen 1 console games, not current gen games.

      • No they don’t.

        • Not sure what he means by “gen 1,” but CoD’s graphics do look like PS2 graphics, albeit high-end PS2 graphics.

          • You can’t be serious.

          • Not to argue against you necessarily but…

            …show me a “high-end” PS2.

            LOL!

          • I’ve never read such crap in my life. Please show me one PS2 shooter that looks as good as even the original MW. You clearly don’t have a clue about the IW Engine. MW was released on IW 3.0 engine and MW2 was released on the IW 4.0 engine. The engine used in the COD games has been regularly updated and evolved over time – all whilst maintaining 60 FPS. 60 FPS is much more important that overall graphical fidelity – you may say BF3 looks better in screen shots, well great, but I prefer to play games not look at them in still shots.

          • Play WaW Final Fronts for PS2. Its graphics look almost as good as the PS3 port. Or play MGS3 on PS2. That game looks just as good as CoD.

            @ Cyryl, I meant high-end graphics, not a high-end PS2.

        • dude Kingdom hearts 1 looks better than cod. there graphic engine is a copy from quakes engines thats like 5 years old and hasn’t been updated since if you haven’t noticed most games have changed there engine every sequel For example uncharted,infamous,halo,gears of war, assassins creed,elder scrolls,crisis battlefield the list goes on. not only does cod need new graphics it needs new every thing more story line better online.they need to fix that piece of S*** thing they call a melee system and they also need different characters as well captain price was in call of duty 2 witch was in wwII now he’s in modern warfare witch that would place him 90 something years old. trust me cod is a crap game

          • that was to boogoo

          • There is not one PS2 game that looks anything near COD. Go back and play a PS2 game and tell me they look the same. That’s beyond ridiculous.

          • Like I said, WaW Final Fronts and MGS3 have graphics equivalent to those of early PS3 CoD games.

          • I all ready Its right there the first thing i said

  4. Maybe they should just make the game for pc like they used to, then you could have 60+ fps AND stunning graphics. OH wait, they are too busy milking the cash cow.

    Used to love CoD, then they sent it to console only and stopped trying.

  5. I like good graphics and I like good framerate. I’ve played both polar ends. Tried pushing Skyrim on Ultra settings on a laptop not meant for gaming… got 8fps. It was atrocious. So I lowered my settings to medium and disabled the ENB injector and BOOM! 30fps, smooth and the graphics weren’t an issue because the game is fun. There needs to be a balance and 60fps at the cost of s***** last-gen graphics, coupled with a s***** game like MW is not good. There are more than just the two elements of framerate and graphics. There’s gameplay. If a game has amazing graphics and high framerate but s***** gameplay/story, I won’t play it. If it has amazing graphics, low framerate, and good gameplay, it’s going to be a long and tedious experience. If it has low graphics, high framerate and a great story/gameplay, THAT is still a recipe for success. The two most important things are gameplay/story and framerate. Graphics come second (or third if you want to get technical).

    I hope through this wall of rambling text you got the gist of what I was trying to say…

    • crysis 2 was pretty fun whilst retaining the beauty of a current gen game, sure the story could have been tighter, but it was a fun run for the 6 or so hours it lasted. definitely worth checking out if you like a balance of everything :)

  6. yadayadayadayada once it comes out mw3 and black ops 1 will be dead like mw1 and w@w are and this is sooo true mark my words on this one everyone is init for the damn zombies point blank so this game will sell nicely plus its a new call of duty different killstreaks and most importanlty more and better gun customization need i say more but ummmmm go on haters keep talkin smack u guys are makin TreyArch FAMOUS :-P

  7. I agree…they do need a new engine…they have the best layout,storyline,multiplayer.with better graphics.they will be golden.cod kill bf3 in everything except graphics.they need to update or risk getting trampled by competition

    • The best storyline? Have you been playing the same CoD campaigns everyone else has been? The story feels like it was meant to be used in an action B-movie. Play Red Dead Redemption or Arkham City, then talk to me about storylines.

      • Or just play Halo, since we’re talking about a FPS here..

      • I have played both.I was falling asleep during red dead redemption.that game was a 1 month talk in the gaming community.I’m not all about cod but I have both cod and bf3.I enjoy cod way more.run and gunning is way more action packed then having to run across a map all game.I do believe the storyline was way better as well.bf3 I dealt was filled with just talk not enough action in between missions.

        • Then you’re simply prone to arcade-like gaming and don’t require any real depth of story or gameplay.

          It’s OK. Really. I just can’t say that I have any real respect for “gamers” such as yourself.

          Don’t take offense. It is what it is. That and I don’t really care.

          • Gamers like me know its not about graphics.graphics is a bonus.gameplay,story,etc, is were its at.if your looking for graphics as if its a true person getting blown up.then join the army.get shipped out,and watch your battle buddy get blown up.games should be where you get lost in what’s happening and enjoy it.do I want to feel as if a true person is getting blown up,before getting lost in a run and gun situation.the answer is no.feeling as if a true person is getting blown up in front me is the last thing on my list of things games should have.

          • Have care for what you say, fool. I AM a veteran.

            It sounds to me as though, the more you speak, the less and less you really know what you want from a game. Much more of this and I’ll begin to entertain the idea that you have inadvertently come to dislike gaming all together.

          • Just cause you are stationed where there is no action,doesn’t make you a respected vet.

            I know what I want in a game that I play.I’m speaking upon my opinion.
            You know that whole freedom of speech thing that you “fight for”.
            Yet your trying to bag on somebody that is using freedom of speech.
            A true vet wouldn’t do that.
            You’re a fake.
            Taking credit for things other true vets did.
            You think just cause your stationed at a place where you can play games all day.
            Doesn’t mean you know anything bout games.
            Bf3 has more realistic graphics.but 1 billion other gamers and I know its not all about graphics.I rather get lost in run and gunning.then to get lost in my dreams.
            Because I fell asleep in the slow pace and boring bf3.I don’t even play fps much.I’m more about ac3,Madden,etc.
            Some vet…bagging on ppl using freedom of speech.
            Don’t even know why I’m going on.
            It’s like trying to teach a 3 year old mentality challenged kid to count to a billion.
            Just not gonna happen

          • @ trenten:

            Yes, MW3 did have a better storyline than BF3. But I never said BF3 had a good storyline. I was just saying that no CoD game has the best storyline. If you’re looking for good storylines, you need to look elsewhere. Also, feeling like an actual person was blown up in a video game would be a huge accomplishment for the industry, and that’s actually something people want. People want games that toy with their emotions. Games that have characters you connect with, and then make you sad when they die. If a game can do that, it is a great game.

    • bf3 surpasses CoD in every way possible ranging from animation work being more realistic and fluent, to sound being very realistic (and 5.1 surround), the guns and vehicles all look very realistic and are more realistic then any CoD game (in terms of how they behave etc).

      both games are trying to be realistic war games so dont say something bs like ‘CoD isn’t trying to be realistic’ when the fact is it is so desperately trying to do so. the series will forever be stuck in modern war times b/c future warfare is dominated by halo and no one cares about old school war b/c that era is done do death.

      • “both games are trying to be realistic war games so dont say something bs like ‘CoD isn’t trying to be realistic’ when the fact is it is so desperately trying to do so.” Yeah they sure are trying to be realistic with COD! PERKS are totally in real life! DUMB@SS also BF3 is no where close to realism so shut up. go play arma 2 then come back and talk about realism in BF3.

        • Hhmmmm. You could keep going like this all day…

          Go join the Marines and get shipped to Afghanistan and patrol in convoys all day and watch your buddy get exploded by an RPG and then go into the nearest village and revenge-slaughter every man, woman and child in sight. Then come back and tell me about PTSD in Arma 2.

          Sorry, I just had to do it. I was in combat in the jungle and rivers of South America and both BF3 and Arma have strong elements of realism. CoD, eeehh not so much. CoD vs BF3 is like arcade vs simulator, while BF3 vs Arma is like simulator vs better but less fun simulator.

      • Point proven.everything listed right here was simply graphics.if cod would get there head out there a**es.make a better engine,they will be on top once more.just need those graphics to please every gamer.but then again a true gamer isn’t all about the graphics

      • For those saying that BF3 surpasses COD – in what way? Critically (on consoles) it has a lower average on Gamerankings – so it wasn’t a critically greater success than any of the COD games. Commercially COD slaughtered BF3 (any single COD release sold more than BF3). So as the critical reception to COD was better and the commercial reception to COD was better, what you mean is that you’re a BF3 fanboy and you personally think that it’s a better game – which actually means very little. DICE and EA would love to be able to produce a game as successful as COD.

        • Yes, critically, MW3 surpasses BF3, but only on consoles. MW3′s PC Metascore is actually quite lower with 78/100. BF3′s PC Metascore? 89/100. So I wouldn’t call MW3 or BF3 critically superior. However, I think it should be mentioned that MW3′s user score on Metacritic ranges from a mere 1.6/10 on Wii to a meager 3.2/10 on Xbox 360 whereas BF3′s user score is 7.3 on PC and PS3, and 7.4 on Xbox 360. I used to be a CoD kind of guy. I played Black Ops for a long time. Then I picked up a copy of BF3, and boy did I love it. In my opinion, BF3 is superior to MW2, MW3, and even BO. BF3 is more realistic, and it has vehicle warfare. Vehicle warfare is something that every modern war game should have. It’s funny because Modern Warfare doesn’t have vehicle warfare. I’m pretty sure there are vehicles in modern warfare, not just a bunch of guys running around shooting things. There are way more things you can do in BF3 than any CoD game. Sometimes in BF3 I just like to stop and look at the beautiful scenery. There’s much more variety in BF3′s maps, and if you don’t want to drive vehicles to get places, you can always play TDM. Or you can play on the Close Quarters maps, which are basically the same size as CoD maps, but the have much more verticality than CoD maps ever will. Also, like jwalka said, the sounds are much better in BF3. The guns in the game actually sound their real life counterparts. They don’t sound like canned effects. BF3′s guns also look like their real life counterparts, and are more detailed than MW3′s guns. I just don’t see CoD could be considered superior in any way, unless you are a fan of arcade games.

  8. I can’t give an unbiased response about call of duty because the community sucks so bad that no matter how good the game played/looked it won’t be worth it.

    I bought MW2 about a year ago and only played for a total of 24 hours since then. In that time period I only enjoyed the game for maybe 2 hours because the community is divided so badly between crackheads that play 24/7 since the release, ragers, and then the guys that have no idea what theyre doing.

    When I play BF3, I have so much fun because there is ALOT more you can do and bigger maps. Its not too hard to do decent in BF3 as long as you are careful where you go or if youre in a group. Both games will certainly have points where they piss you off, but BF3 doesn’t hurt me as much.

    • You speak the truth. The CoD community is terrible. So many little kids. I’ve never heard a little kid with a mic on BF3. How many have I heard on CoD? It’s impossible to count.

  9. The graphics in CoD are not very good, but that doesn´t have anything to do with how fun the game is. Every guy that thinks that CoD graphics are s*** and so the game is s*** is a graphics-whore. By no means the quality of the graphics are distracting. Games from older generations are still perfectly playable and fun, even if the graphics are trash compared to current-gen standards. Is seems people think CoD owes them (even if they hate the series) having the absolute BEST graphics, gameplay, story, multiplayer, community, etc. Talk about a huge sense of entitlement. CoD is a fun game not trying to be absolutely realistic anymore, just fast, fun, customisable, and a lot of beng for the buck with 3 modes in one game. Also CoD has SPLIT-SCREEN: that’s true fun. It is an insult having most FPS sacrifice the split-screen option just for even better graphics, for lone haters to give their thumbs up to the game just because they can say “awesome graphics!” alone in their basement. Only n00bs hate a game they aren’t forced to play.

    • “The graphics in CoD are not very good, but that doesn´t have anything to do with how fun the game is.”

      …for YOU. Speak for yourself.

      I prefer NOT to look at repeatedly-used environments and glossed-over textures in a geriatric game engine.

      I prefer to have the most realistic, life-like textures and models staring me in the face. The less and less that I am able to distinguish the visuals from reality, the more immersive my interactions with the environment become. This GREATLY enhances my enjoyment of the game. It certainly makes spending the time I play it far more worthwhile, too.

      This makes a clear and definitive case for graphics. Do you really think that so many of us out there would shell out hundreds on hundreds of dollars for top-notch graphics hardware the way we do if it didn’t matter?

      Also… Particularly egregious of you: “It is an insult having most FPS sacrifice the split-screen option just for even better graphics, for lone haters to give their thumbs up to the game just because they can say “awesome graphics!” alone in their basement.”

      What a childish view. Statements like this are a testament to the desperation of someone attempting to make the type of case that they know they’re not capable of making.

      I am not a “lone hater”. I simply prefer to NOT share the real estate of my screen with anyone else. I’m of the frame of mind that would say, “SCREW you. It’s MINE. I literally PAID for it. GET YOUR OWN.”

      Nor do I live in a basement. Nor does the basement I have belong to my mother. Nor am I a virgin. (I’m married, as a matter of fact.) I have a great job with an insurance company/pharmacy. (You know… The job that allowed me to blow copious amounts of money on a bad-ass gaming rig.)

      Does that just about cover all of your argumentative finalities and escape routes? The list goes on. I’m sure you’ll find more to pull out of your ass.

      Tell me… How much of this sound familiar to you when you go back and read the arguments you’ve TRIED to give in the past? Most of them…I’d wager.

  10. I’m a programmer and I have dealt with the choice between FPS, stability, beauty, etc. I’ve played games on each spectrum as well. In wholesome, with the computational power that is available today, there isn’t an immediately noticeable difference in going with a preference in the visual system. It’s noticeable under extreme conditions, but in most cases, it just doesn’t make for less or more visual appeal. The two biggest concerns that I’ve seen raised is having a FPS high enough so that the eyes of the viewers don’t get strained fast and that the Updating logic/system works well enough so that the game doesn’t seem lag on its own self. The notion with dedicated servers and lag is another issue for another time…

  11. I don’t really care that much about graphics, but having good graphics is definitely a bonus, however it shouldn’t define a game (except for Crysis; that game’s all about the graphics, though I enjoy it nonetheless.)
    Look at minecraft. Hundreds of thousands of people love it, but compared to other popular games, its graphics are pathetic (fun fact: minecraft is a graphically intensive game.) In the end, however, graphics vs frames really depends on the gamer; What are their preferences? That is what determines the winner. With CoD, though, they should be able to increase the graphics for PC. I myself do not play it on PC, so I actually don’t know the comparison between console and computer, but, assuming it’s the same game, then the graphics deserve to be better. With today’s console hardware, Treyarch and IW have an excuse to not make the graphics that high end, but once the next gen comes out, they’ll have to change their games. We’ll have better hardware to play the game on, so they will have no excuse to not make their games look great.

    • and yes, I know the graphics for minecraft are what they are because of that is the style Mojang wanted them to be in.

  12. As I do not care to have my inbox crammed full of messages from this thread over the next week; I’ll be unsubscribing from this thread effective immediately.

    Good luck everybody else.

  13. cod sucks every one face it its not fun the story line is the same your just trying to stop a bomb its graphics make me laugh online is boring and easy and complete trash

  14. My personal preference is 60fps.

    Especially with FPS games, it begins giving me migrains on the 30fps games. It isn’t just the sway, its the framerate.

    Similarly with other computer games, the smoother the gameplay the less headache I get.

    As long as the gameplay is smooth, graphics are decent, and the gameplay is good, I’ll play it.

  15. All I know for certain is, at the end of the day, I know what cover, npcs, weapons, and maps look like in CoD. And anyone who knows me knows I prefer the rtrpg genre as opposed to fps. The graphics might not be great, but they are functional. I guess I just don’t nitpick on graphic quality. Although I have to agree with Matt-Arkham City and Skyrim looked amazing. And has anyone seen the new graphics mods for Fallout 3? Unbelievable.

  16. If i cared about graphics i wouldn’t pull out my old NES to play some old school school Contra or play duck hunt with friends while having some beers reminicing of our childhood. People have lost the meaning of videogames their meant for you to have fun. So enjoy it. *pulls out gameboy Hmm Zelda is awesome and still looks good no matter what system.

  17. So they are still using the iw 3.0 engine when there is a iw 4.0 engine. So they are using the lower engine on purpise!! Cancelling my preorder today.

  18. Look you want great visuals and great frame rate. I can go to battlefield 3 and then to black ops and go wow this is great. In reference to the frame rate because you can notice the difference. I like added special effects and beautiful graphics but to me the frame rate for black ops 2 is impressive for the graphics it has and if I want great graphics ill go to battlefield 3 and if I want good graphics with fast paced gaming I go to cod. In the end though the call of duty could use a boost in graphics but ill stay play it even if it doesn’t get it. However call of duty ghosts looks like the graphics improved.

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