2011 is over. One of the biggest video game rivalries in recent memory, between Activision’s Call of Duty franchise and EA’s Battlefield franchise, is now over. The dust has settled. With both games having been on the shelf for months and hundreds of hours logged online for both of the iconic first-person shooters, it’s time to decide. Which game is better? Which game sold more? Which game is more deserving of your hard-earned cash? Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3?
It’s obvious that a good portion of the Internet gaming community hates the Call of Duty franchise. They spammed MetaCritic, assigning the lowest scores possible while also lambasting the game for being a rehash of tried-and-true conventions. Many of these reader reviews also praise Battlefield 3 and recommend anyone interested in Modern Warfare 3 get Battlefield 3 instead. It’s fairly obvious that a large majority of these people probably didn’t even touch Modern Warfare 3, and I myself wrote an article prophesying the creative demise of the Call of Duty franchise before the game came out. I’ve had a chance to play both Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Was I right, or was I wrong?
In order to properly compare and contrast the two games, I will develop a few different categories, and then give the edge in that particular category to the game I believe performed better in that regard. Each category is worth a point, and the game with the most points by the end of this editorial will be declared as the “better” game. Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Place your bets!
The categories will be as follows: Campaign, Co-op, Multiplayer, Graphics, Sound, Presentation, Story, and Controls. Two more categories are going to be Sales, Professional Reviews, and Reader Reviews. These three categories, unlike the others, are going to be objective rather than subjective, meaning my opinion won’t be taken into account in any of the cases. Just a disclaimer, I played both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 on the Xbox 360.
Let’s start this baby off right by exploring a basic and fundamental importance in all of gaming. If a game doesn’t control properly or controls poorly, it doesn’t matter if it’s the best-looking game around or if it has inventive, fun game mechanics. The entire foundation of a game falls apart without solid controls, for obvious reasons. Which game has better controls, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
The games have similar controls. In fact, they’re nearly identical, with the knifing button assigned to one of the bumpers for Battlefield 3, where as in Modern Warfare 3, pushing on the right analog stick gets the job done. I realize that the games have different control methods, but I’m going to be basing this section off of the default control settings for the games. The reason for this is to remain consistent in my judgment of the two titles, and the default controls are the control settings that the developers imagined the game being played in, anyway.
Both games, for the most part, control very, very well. The shooting is smooth and functional, it’s easy to get around, and everything is pretty much self-explanatory. If you’ve ever played any of the other Call of Duty games (Battlefield 3 has more in common with the Call of Duty games than it does previous Battlefield games, in terms to how it controls on consoles), then you will have absolutely no problem with either game. It will be pretty much pick-up and play right from the get-go.
One thing about them that really bugs the ever-loving hell out of me is how sprinting is accomplished. For some incredibly stupid reason, the sprint is assigned to clicking on the left analog stick. This wears down your controller a LOT. People that play Call of Duty excessively, like a friend of mine used to, often had to purchase a new controller by the time the next installment in the series rolled around the following year. The games are really hell on your controllers with this. I’m disappointed that neither DICE nor “Infinity Ward” has realized that this is an incredibly stupid design decision this late into the seventh generation console cycle. Honestly, it’s rather ludicrous.
At any rate, it’s tough to say what game I should give the advantage to. They both control fine, and besides the extremely annoying sprint functionality, neither control methods are difficult. I guess this first category will have to be a tie since the games are practically identical in control styles. In the event of a tie (just for future reference in case I write another editorial in this similar style), both games will receive a point. Without further adieu, the winner in the Controls category must be announced!
Best Controls: Battlefield 3/Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (TIE!)
The second category is Graphics. The visual style of any video game is very, very important. The graphical style creates the entire atmosphere and the game world that the characters reside in. It sets the tone of the game, and of course, the better looking a game is, the more impressive it will be. Which game has better graphics, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
This category is a bit easier to decide. Modern Warfare 3 may have the edge in terms of frame rate, but Battlefield 3 looks considerably better. Furthermore, despite running at 30 frames per second compared to Modern Warfare 3′s 60 frames per second, you’ll hardly ever notice the difference while playing Battlefield 3 or notice any screen-tearing in the game. There is a lot more detail in the environment, in the characters, and the destructible environments are still incredibly impressive.
While both games are pretty dull visually, with not much to look at, they are both still graphical powerhouses. However, another issue arises with Modern Warfare 3′s graphical presentation, in that it does not improve upon the previous games. Gamers expect games to improve graphically with each installment. The Call of Duty games have been using the same engine since Call of Duty 4, and there has been very little graphical improvement since that game launched.
Best Graphics: Battlefield 3
In all first-person shooters like this, sound is of major importance. Call of Duty 2 revolutionized voice-acting in video games, as for the first time really, all the NPCs reacted naturally to the environment that surrounded them. NPCs would point out specific areas that enemies were hiding by screaming things like, “Enemy, by green house!” When the Xbox 360 launched with Call of Duty 2 in 2005, this was very impressive indeed. Nowadays it’s not that big of a deal, but sound is still extremely important in all video games. Which game has better sound, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
Like with the Controls section, this is difficult to judge and make a definitive answers. Modern Warfare 3 has better voice-acting, but then again, the voice-acting in these games really don’t matter that much. Furthermore, the sound during online battles are also very similar. The only difference is that in Battlefield 3, the word f*ck is used an incredible amount of times. To the point that it’s kind of silly. Because of that, and for the fact that the voice-acting in MW3 is better, I will simply have to give the edge to Activision’s money-printing machine.
Best Sound: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
This category is a bit ambiguous, so allow me to try to explain it in further detail. When I talk about a game’s “presentation”, I am often referring to the combined quality of both the sound and the graphics. If you read my reviews, for example, you’ll see me use the term “presentation” more than once. For the purpose of this editorial, the presentation still refers to the overall quality of the graphics and sound, but it will also be used to judge the ease of use in both games, and how it presents itself. Which game has a better presentation, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
I gave Modern Warfare 3 the edge in the Sound category, but I gave Battlefield 3 the edge in the Graphics category. So, let’s look past that, as my feelings on both graphics and sounds have already been articulated, and if we were only going on that, this category would automatically end in a tie. Because of this, I’m going to jump straight to judging how each game presents itself.
First off, navigating your way through Battlefield 3 is a major annoyance, at least on the Xbox 360. On the 360, Battlefield 3 comes on two discs. One disc contains the campaign, and the other disc has the multiplayer and co-op mode. I can’t imagine why this is a necessity. The campaign is incredibly short, and it’s not like the co-op mode has a ton of content. At any rate, having to switch discs just because you get bored with the multiplayer and you want to play the campaign is annoying. Modern Warfare 3 comes on one disc with the same amount of content, if not more. If it’s because Battlefield 3 is so graphically intensive, then I would much rather have a game that is uglier if it means I don’t have to swap discs. Minor inconvenience, but it’s an inconvenience nonetheless, and one you’ll be without when playing Modern Warfare 3.
Another reason that navigating your way through Battlefield 3 is annoying is that it’s impossible to back out of multiplayer and choose a different game mode without resetting the game. Perhaps this is just a problem with my game, but there is absolutely no way to back out. I’ve tried every possible button combination. Hell, “start” doesn’t even bring up a pause menu. Either this was an really stupid design flaw, I’m an idiot, or my copy of Battlefield 3 is flawed. If it’s the former, than that was just a flat-out stupid decision. Modern Warfare 3′s menus are easy to navigate, and are straight-forward as can be. There’s Spec Ops, there’s the campaign, and then there’s multiplayer. It looks exactly like the menu screen from Modern Warfare 2.
The similarities to its predecessor don’t stop at the menu screen, however. The HUD in Modern Warfare 2 and 3 for the multiplayer are practically identical. If you were to put the two games side-by-side, I would be hard-pressed to figure out which game was which. Now, there’s little differences like the way Killstreaks are presented, but for all intents and purposes, the Modern Warfare 3 HUD is the same as the Modern Warfare 2 HUD. It’s an almost disturbing sense of deja vu, that felt way too familiar for my tastes.
Both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 have presentation issues. However, due to its ease-of-use, the fact it doesn’t FORCE you to sign up for ANOTHER online service (have to have an EA account to play Battlefield 3 online) and the fact that it’s not separated onto two discs (NOTE: Battlefield 3 is on one disc when played on PS3 and PC) gives Modern Warfare 3 the edge in the Presentation category.
Best Presentation: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Since Call of Duty 4 reinvented multiplayer, the series hasn’t really been about the campaign. It saddens me because Call of Duty 2 had a really fantastic campaign, and I’d love to see the series return to the excellence that was that game. Despite the extreme drop in campaign quality, each Call of Duty series is packaged with one, even though virtually everybody that buys the games are buying them for the multiplayer experience and not much else more. Battlefield 3 also has a campaign. One that even gets its own special disc! Which game has a better campaign, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
I don’t know why it was decided to deviate from the quality campaigns presented in the Bad Company games for an extremely linear, Call of Duty rip-off approach in Battlefield 3, but whoever made that decision needs to be fired. EA was looking to dethrone the Call of Duty juggernaut, but EA and DICE decided to copy Call of Duty’s most-flawed mode, the Campaign. The reason the campaigns in these games are so dull is that they’re essentially “follow the leader” simulators. In both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, you basically follow another character until you come across enemies. After killing the enemies, you’ll probably encounter a set-piece of some sort. Then the level will end on a cliffhanger. Rinse and repeat.
They’re uninspired, repetitive, and downright boring at segments. At least they’re both mercifully short. However, Modern Warfare 3′s campaign is still quite a bit better than Battlefield 3′s. Battlefield 3 is somehow even more boring, which I attribute to the fact that we at least know a bit more about the characters in MW3. However, I will get more into the characters in the Story category. In the meantime, just know that if you’re looking for a good FPS campaign, neither Battlefield 3 nor Modern Warfare 3 is a very good option. But if you had to pick which one was the lesser of two evils, Modern Warfare 3 barely wins out.
Best Campaign: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
If you’re an FPS and your name isn’t BioShock, chances are the story you’re trying to tell is outrageous and stupid. This rings true for both BF3 and MW3. But one has to be better than the other, so…Which game has the better story, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
Modern Warfare 2 was criticized for having a storyline that was incredibly ridiculous. The game featured plot twists for the sake of having plot twists. I imagine if Vince Russo of professional wrestling fame decided to write a script for a video game, it would kind of look like Modern Warfare 2. Modern Warfare 3 carries on the tradition of having a campaign that is ludicrous and offensive. It’s not offensive because of that one particular scene that you’re thinking of, though (no, that was just funny). It’s offensive because it assumes the people playing it are stupid enough to buy into the crap it’s displaying.
Then again, we’re not supposed to take these games seriously. And perhaps that’s what gives Modern Warfare 3 the edge in this category as well. Yes, it’s needlessly chaotic and violent. Yes, it doesn’t make much sense. Yes, it hardly takes the time to develop any characters. But at least it’s not trying to be serious. It’s best to approach Modern Warfare 3 like you would an action movie from the 80s. If you do this, then the plot is at least kind of fun, in a quirky, guilty-pleasure sort of way.
Battlefield 3, on the other hand, decides to try to be serious. Its attempts at creating tension fail miserably, mostly because it’s far too reminiscent of the older Call of Duty games. Battlefield 3 also does things during its campaign for pure shock value, but it’s not quite extreme enough to laugh out loud at like you will when playing Modern Warfare 3, and it’s just kind of “blah”. There are virtually no characters in Battlefield 3 worth writing about. In fact, I can’t even remember any of their names, which is sad, since the BF3 campaign is marginally longer than the one in MW3. Which brings me to my next point. Another reason why you’re likely to enjoy the story in MW3 more is simply because you know the characters. They’re pretty one-dimensional, but at least you KNOW them!
Best Story: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Co-op is a pretty big deal in FPS games. In fact, most FPS games are co-op enabled. From the classic Doom games to Halo, an FPS game without co-op almost always feels like it’s missing something. Due to the intensity of following NPCs and the ridiculous set-pieces in BF3 and MW3, the developers couldn’t create an entirely co-op campaign. Instead, they have created co-op modes for their respective games. Which game has the better co-op, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
Modern Warfare 3 has fantastic co-op. The game takes the well-received Spec Ops from Modern Warfare 2 and applies it to Modern Warfare 3, adding more missions and tons of challenging fun. “Infinity Ward” takes it a step further by implementing a horde-esque Survival mode that branches off from the typical Spec Ops mode. Survival is equally challenging, is surprisingly deep, and an absolute blast to play.
Battlefield 3, unfortunately, fails again in this category. The co-op is a series of missions that lack the excitement of MW3′s Spec Ops mode. Furthermore, there is no split-screen supported, which is a major issue. Modern Warfare 3 supports split-screen and features a much more exciting and entertaining co-op experience.
Best Co-Op: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Ah, yes. The reason anyone really buys these games. The multiplayer experience is the backbone of both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3. The games have very similar multiplayer experiences, yet they are also very different at the same time. Which game has the better multiplayer, Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3?
Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer is really more of the same. I mentioned earlier how the HUD in the game is virtually identical to the one in MW2, and this is very true. It’s disappointing how similar MW3 is, actually. What was once the greatest multiplayer has fallen dramatically, as MW3′s multiplayer isn’t worth your time at all. The maps are all boring and lack personality, whereas the maps in Black Ops were just oozing with greatness.
Battlefield 3′s multiplayer is much, much better than the multiplayer in MW3. The inclusion of vehicles mixes things up considerably, not to mention the different gameplay modes actually feel different. The maps are better, the different classes each require different strategies and play-styles, and there’s more players in the matches. The destructible environments are impressive and are a badass addition to the online arena.
I think it’s safe to say, without a doubt, that Battlefield 3 is far superior to Modern Warfare 3 when it comes to the multiplayer content.
Best Multiplayer: Battlefield 3
SALES AND REVIEWS
We’re down to our last category, which is an inclusion of three categories mentioned earlier. This category will look at how the games sold, the reception to the games by the general public, and the reception to the games by respected gaming media outlets (such as this one).
Before either game was released, there was a war of words between Activision and EA. EA was pretty much the only one bad-mouthing the competition, however. Sure, Activision made potshots here and there, but EA was definitely throwing the most crap in Activision’s way. Activision didn’t respond much, and I believe it was because of their confidence that they were going to pull out ahead in sales regardless of EA’s opinion on Call of Duty. EA was trying to be too much like Call of Duty with Battlefield 3, and as a result, they failed in carving out their own place in the FPS market, and DICE has produced one of the lesser Battlefields ever.
However, the general public, hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike, have purchased an incredible amount of copies of both games. Both BF3 and MW3 are available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, so there’s no real multi-plat advantage to take into account here. Except for the fact that BF3 on 360 comes on two discs, which is a consumer inconvenience that may have made a few people reconsider their purchase. It’s also worth mentioning that MW3 was available on the very popular Steam digital download service, whereas Battlefield 3 was exclusive to EA’s own digital-distribution service, Origin, which reaches a much smaller audience than Steam.
EA recently announced that sales of Battlefield 3 have passed the 10 million mark. This is an extraordinary feat. It’s not that often that games sell over 10 million units mere months after they have released. In fact, a good many games never even break 500,000. This goes to show that EA’s marketing strategy worked, and it worked very well. However, the purchase of BF3 didn’t stop people from also picking up Modern Warfare 3…
Indeed, MW3 has reportedly sold twice as many units of Battlefield 3, passing over the 20 million units sold mark.
Most Sales: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
However, reader reviews for Battlefield 3 have been very, very bad. This is obviously the result of spamming on websites such as MetaCritic, but it still shows that there is a decently-sized group of people that hate Call of Duty. They hate Call of Duty because Call of Duty’s annual release schedule and they feel it is greatly hindering creativity in the franchise. I pointed all of this out in my MW3 editorial I posted a few months ago. Battlefield 3, meanwhile, has been received in a far favorable light.
The MetaCritic reader score for the 360 version of Modern Warfare 3 is currently sitting at an appalling 3.2 average. By comparison, Battlefield 3 has a respectable 7.4 review average.
Reader Reviews: Battlefield 3
Professional reviews have been more favorable to MW3 on some platforms, and more favorable to BF on some platforms. The PC version of Battlefield 3 (which features 64-player multiplayer battles as opposed to the 24 allowed on consoles) has an MC review score of 89. The 360 version with two discs is 84, and the PS3 version is 85. By comparison, MW3 earned 79, 88, and 88 for the PC, 360, and PS3 respectively.
Professional Reviews: Battlefield 3/Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (TIE!)
Which game do YOU like better? Want to see me compare two different rival games? Sound off in the comments below!