Faceoff! Battlefield 3 versus Modern Warfare 3

Well, we hit the point of no return.  The two big monster titles of the year are out and available to anyone who has the money to spend.  The real […]

Well, we hit the point of no return.  The two big monster titles of the year are out and available to anyone who has the money to spend.  The real question however, is which title deserves your $60 commitment?  The maverick war simulator that hasn’t had an official sequel since 2005?  Or perhaps the high-octane yet over-exposed first person shooter?  After having played both, I’ll give you the information you need to make such a monumental decision.  We’ll go from top to bottom, breaking down and comparing each game’s strengths and weaknesses.  Stick with this one ’til the end — you’ll be glad you did.

So, let’s begin.

1. Single Player Campaign

I don’t think anyone can deny that 2011 is the year of the shooter.  There’s so many of them that it’s hard to keep track — and the year isn’t even over yet!  But as these grisly, manly, blood-and-guts titles keep spinning off the assembly line, we begin to get a little jaded.  I mean, how many times can we see civilization collapse through the end of a rifle scope before things start getting a little bland? Well, judging by the sales numbers, apparently: a lot.

Considering the single player campaign is my favorite part of games like Call of Duty, I don’t blame them.  It’s the story that keeps me going, and the raw emotion of the characters that brings me back year after year just to see what happens next.  So, which of our two games wins the single player crown?

Battlefield 3

In BF3, you’re placed in the footsteps of various soldiers throughout a globe-spanning war between Iranian hardliners and the good ole US of A.  Through almost non-stop combat, you uncover a plot by a madman named Solomon whose plan involves detonating nuclear devices in cities across the western world.  You globetrot to various battlefields in places like Tehran, Paris, and New York, and ultimately race against the clock before Solomon can complete his genocidal scheme.

The story is told by Marine Staff Sargent Henry Blackburn, as he is being interviewed by a pair of CIA agents.  The gameplay goes something like this: you get debriefed by the CIA via a short, unimpressive cutscene,  then it’s off to play a mission that is presented in the form of a flashback.

I’m not a fan.

The game makes little jumps here and there, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what the hell is going on.  Sometimes it will place you in the shoes of some character who is entirely unrelated to the story.  Suddenly, you’re a USAF jet pilot who softens air and ground targets for the grunts —  then you’ll never hear from them again.  It’s like DICE wanted a way to show off their spiffy graphics and reworked air combat, so they crowbar’d it in for the sake of fluff.  Not that this is a bad thing.  In fact, a lot of the missions are pretty fluid and action packed.   I just found it hard to grow attached to the characters here, as many of them either died before any attachment could be made, or had zero likable traits whatsoever.

But at least they tried.  This is after all the first time a real Battlefield game had a single player campaign that wasn’t just a bunch of skirmishes against AI-controlled bot players.  True, Battlefield 1942 had terrible AI, but that didn’t stop the game from becoming a massive hit.  Same with Battlefield 2, Battlefield Vietnam, Battlefield 2142…

Modern Warfare

In Modern Warfare 3, you’re thrust right back into the action where Modern Warfare 2 left off.  A rogue US General has baited the Russians into starting World War 3, and all hell is breaking loose.  Under the nationalist frenzy of a lunatic named Makarov, the Russians begin to invade Europe, North America, and even make appearances in places like India.  Your mission is to stop Makarov at all costs, before he can seize the launch codes to Russia’s entire nuclear stockpile.

As with previous MW titles, you’ll change roles between different fighting men of the war.  Like Battlefield, you’ll grow little attachment to these characters.  However, in the game of MW3 there is an important difference.  In Modern Warfare, at least you’ll be expecting this.  Swapping roles from Marines to SAS commandos has been a staple of Call of Duty games since its inception.  And unlike Battlefield, when Call of Duty puts you in the shoes of a random character, it’s usually to show off one of the big moments of the game (a la nuclear detonation in Call of Duty 4.)

Of course you’ll still fight with classic badasses like Soap MacTavish and Legendary Captain Price –and, as in previous titles — you’ll be blown away.  And if you’ve been following the continuing story, you’ll be happily satisfied with the end result.  After tons of explosions and heated firefights, where high- and future-tech equipment is used to its fullest, all loose ends are tied up and culminated into a final show of awesome awesomeitude.  You really couldn’t ask for more.

The Winner

Modern Warfare 3.  It should be obvious.  A long, well planned-out story with respectable characters and realistic global politics will always be better than a single, one-shot deal.  That isn’t saying Battlefield 3’s campaign was terrible.  There’s just no comparison between a well fleshed-out plot with memorable events and a glorified tech demo.

2. Multiplayer

Let’s move onto the meat of these games, because let’s face it — there are a lot of you out there who buy these games, and never touch the single player campaigns once.  I understand it.  You want the ruthless thrill of killing another human being in an online world.  You want the feeling you get when you win over a team of your virtual peers in armed combat.  So, which title is better for online slaughter?  Let’s find out.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield has always pushed its multiplayer aspect above all else, and DICE always pulls through with its hybrid of infantry and vehicular combat.  As some of the advertisements for Battlefield 3 will proclaim: “In Battlefield 3, you ARE the airstrike.”  They aren’t joking.  The battlefield you play in is literally controlled by the players.  Every aspect.  If a building filled with enemies is giving you a hard time, a simple shout out to your team members can reduce the building to rubble with a well-placed mortar barrage or airstrike, both of which are player-controlled.  You could have an infantry charge into a town, while on the outskirts a tank battle rages between both teams.

As with the other Battlefields, teamwork is key.  Knowing just what your team is capable of before moving in for an objective is vital to your success.  Unlike other shooters, lone wolfing is frowned upon.  In order to win in this game, you’ll need to master your class — whether its support, assault, recon, or engineer, and make sure communication is always open.  The game rewards your teamwork — granting points for capturing objectives, healing allies, and resupplying dry soldiers.  Running off by yourself with your favorite weapon is enough to get you killed.  In fact, unless your Jesus with a G12 gaming mouse, you WILL be killed.

All in all, Battlefield 3 will require thinking and quick decision-making rather than twitch movements and micromanagement.  Some will like it more than others, and that’s totally okay.  It’s up to you to decide, remember?

Modern Warfare 3

I remember when the original Call of Duty was released.  I was skeptical about it, because at the time its main competitor was the untouchable Medal of Honor series.  I picked it up used at EB games (back when you could trade in PC games), and when I played it, I was blown away.  Ever since, Call of Duty has used the same basic formula, tweaking it slightly here and there but never transforming it.  You pick a weapon you love, kill countless enemies, and call it a day.  Modern Warfare 3, in a nutshell, is the same way.

Of course there’s more to it than that.  Perks and kill streaks have changed the way the game is played to some extent, but overall it’s the same.  A leveling system is in place to make sure that the more you play, the more you are rewarded.  Anywhere from new weapons, new camouflage coloring for your weapons, and new tactical options for well… Your weapons.  This game really likes weapons.  Especially the UMP 45 (Overpowered as hell.)

They changed the perk system slightly, so now you’ll have to keep using the weapon you love over time, instead of just using the weapons class.  Meaning, if you want to put a red dot sight on your machine gun, you’ll have to keep using that same machine gun until it unlocks.  Otherwise, the game is the same as MW2 and MW1.  If you’re looking for something new, this isn’t the game for you.  However, the classic Call of Duty feel is still present.

The Winner

Battlefield 3.  It’s almost a no-brainer.  The sheer chaos, and trying to overcome that chaos and pull through, is something that makes Battlefield 3’s multiplayer experience something that just can’t be topped.  Actually having to rely on other players in a fight, whether it’s for transportation or ammo, is just a top notch experience.  It makes you feel like you’re actually participating in a war, whereas in Modern Warfare, you feel like another fish in the sea.

Plus tanks are really, really awesome.

3. Audio and Visual

Another year, another round of graphical improvements and new ear candy.  Both games have been touted for their stellar visuals, and no one has ever complained about either game’s soundtrack and weapon sounds.  We all know that they’re both great.  So the question is: which is better?

Battlefield 3

DICE pulled out all the stops here — making sure this game was a jewel in the 2011 line up.  The terrain and effects look almost real if your PC can reach the maximum settings.  Having the game level out at DirectX 10 sure does help as well.  Allies and enemies alike, be they infantry or vehicle, look as if you were watching some kind of military documentary on the History Channel.  Again, this is if your computer can run it that way.  It only takes a few unachievable settings to make your game look like an N64 title.  In fact, my PC wasn’t able to handle it anywhere near maximum, so I stuck to a cool medium.

Audio is top notch, as usual.  Although I found it kind of lame during EA’s media blitz that every advertisement had that insufferable “Inception horn” theme song.  In fact, most of the tracks that comprise the game’s OST are kind of weak.  Odd industrial beats and techno replace the beautiful orchestrated scores done by Mikael Karlsson in Bad Company 2.  I couldn’t help feel like this was a step backwards.

However, the game really shines when it comes to sound effects.  Fire erupting from the barrels of weapons sound as if you were on the front lines, and explosions rocking the terrain cause you to double take.  Once I was in game and an explosion rocked an APC behind me. For a second I thought something had happened outside my house.  Feeling silly, I laughed and kept playing.  It’s that realistic.  Even battles happening across the maps resonate the sounds of a heated battle, but somewhat muddled then if they were happening right in front of you.  If you ever played Bad Company 2, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s surreal.

Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty has always had a killer soundtrack, and a great set of visuals to boot.  Even today, I sometimes hum the tune of the Soviet Charge from CoD 2 when serious sh*t goes down in other video games.  And, to this day, CoD 2 remains to be one of my favorite shooters of all time.  So it’s hard to say that Modern Warfare 3’s visuals are bad, because they aren’t.  They’re simply just… Overdone.

I’ve seen this all before.  And it’s not a bad thing, because the Modern Warfare series has always stunned me with the visuals.  But I’m finding myself harder to be enchanted by them nowadays.  Compared to its competitor, it simply doesn’t cut it.

However, the Soundtrack is leagues ahead of Battlefield.  In terms of the genre, it’s the same as Battlefield’s techno industrial sludge; however it’s muddled with a sort of heavy metal flavor.  There are also some tracks, like the theme of the African Militants, which add some diversity.  Hearing the sound of African drums beat faster and faster as you rip through a village in search of hidden weapons really brings the action out from the keyboard and mouse, and into your speakers as well.  Sound effects are more or less the same as the previous titles, but the guns do sound meatier.  The AK-47 and M4 are given a major re-haul and a majority of the weapons sound like they’re ripped from a Stallone movie.  It’s a nice contrast from Battlefield’s more realistic style.

The Winner

It’s tough, but I’m going to have to go with Battlefield.  It’s new, stunning, and a breath of fresh air from Infinity Ward’s overused engine.  Watching buildings tumble from prolonged fire is something you don’t easily get over of.  The whole game, from the way it looks to the way it sounds, is addicting.  Battlefield may be the winner in this category, but it wasn’t by much.

4. Conclusion

Battlefield 3.

Before I’m bombarded by an onslaught of negative feedback, let me tell you that this decision was not easy.  At all.  In fact, I think the games are equal in many ways, and that people will find tons of enjoyment out of both titles.  What it all comes down to is personal preference.  If you’re one that requires a solid single player experience as well as a great multiplayer one, Modern Warfare is the game for you.  If you don’t really care for single player, and want a rich multiplayer experience with an extensive cooperative flare, Battlefield 3 will most likely be more your thing.

But for the sake of this faceoff, Battlefield 3 is the winner.  You really have to give it to DICE; they just keep making gaming gold.  From the thunderously fun online matches, to the feel of flying high in Fighter jets and choppers, Battlefield will provide you with a sense of giddiness that you probably haven’t felt since Christmas morning as a 10 year old.

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