Head To Head: Battlefield 3 Vs Modern Warfare 3
If you’re anything like the gamers we are, you’ll want to play everything and anything you can get your hands on — with the possible exception of Terminator: Salvation — but sometimes that’s not always possible, either because you’re on a budget or you can only play one, or perhaps you only have a specific gaming device and you just want to know which is better for that platform. Hopefully it’s not a Wii, because then we have bad news for you…
In this head-to-head feature, Caveshen (that’s me, in standard font) and Duncan (in not-so-standard font) — with a cameo appearance from Timothy, to talk digital distribution — will endeavour to go into detail regarding the various aspects of each game listed under convenient headings for your reading pleasure, and hopefully help you in deciding which way to go.
Activision or Electronic Arts.
Infinity Ward or DICE.
Soap or Black.
The five topics listed under the aforementioned convenient headings are going to be: A singleplayer comparison (under ‘Singleplayer’), a multiplayer comparison (under ‘Multiplayer’), a comparison of performance and graphics engines (under ‘The Technical Stuff’), a comparison of each game’s multipalyer service offering, Battlelog and Call of Duty: Elite (under ‘Battlelog Versus Elite) and a comparison of the two games’ digital distribution services (under ‘Steam Versus Origin’).
To find any of the above mentioned topics, simply hit Ctrl+F in your browser to activate the find function, and enter the name of the topic. After you hit enter once or twice, it’ll take you straight there.
So, without further ado, here it is…
While many gamers will breeze through the Singleplayer offerings of both games and then spend hours upon hours in the Multiplayer, each game nevertheless attempts to offer a strong and solid Singleplayer campaign for the discerning gamer.
Call of Duty has the advantage here, with a well-established pedigree for telling stories and creating set-pieces and scenarios for the player to experience and engross themselves in, with a nail-biting, cinematic feel to every second of it. The Battlefield games have previously shirked the Singleplayer campaigns in favour of Multiplayer experiences, but that changed with the Bad Company series of games that showed the world that even the Battlefield games could have a truly entertaining and memorable narrative to make players happy.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the world is at war. The Russian Federation has invaded pretty much every city that calls itself first-world, and forced everyone to sing along to the Soviet anthem while downing vodka shots and donning Kalashnikovs. It is up to you, and you, and you, as you take on the roles of various soldiers fighting to retake the invaded capitals of the world, and protect liberty and freedom. It’s World War 3, and you are a soldier fighting to end it. And then you’re another soldier. You get the point.
The game takes you to various locales and destinations such as New York, London, Paris and much, much more, and with the campaign already touted to be longer than that of Modern Warfare 2′s (Sorry, when did that become an achievement?), not only is it shaping up to be something entirely enticing, but something that will actually last this time, as well.
Battlefield 3 has gone for a slightly different approach to a storytelling narrative. Equally as over-the-top and cinematic, the game has attempted to place players in scenarios that would detail exactly what it is like to be a soldier in the modern day, in a warfare scenario. And then it’s going to throw all of that right out into the open by placing you on a faultline — the home of an Earthquake waiting to happen — as you battle not only against opposing forces but the ground beneath you as well.
The game will also have various locales featured, with New York and Paris also featuring here, together with various other destinations to blow up.
Each game will focus primarily on urban warfare, but also shift the focus onto vehicular warfare, though exactly what we get to drive / pilot / shoot out of, remains to be seen.
There really is nothing to distinguish one out of the two games with regards to the Singleplayer. Both offerings provide gripping, cinematic gameplay with an engrossing narrative and enough plot twists to put a hole in your skull, next to the indent from looking into your scope.
As you kids can no doubt see (unless you’re reading this in braille, in which case I’d like to know how you managed that), the font is now italicised. Yes, you guessed it, that does indeed mean that business time commences right about now.
Hell, when we start comparing Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer to Battlefield 3′s, how could it be anything but business time? My thoughts exactly.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the two contenders:
In the Activision corner, we have Modern Warfare 3. He’s big, he’s bad, and his franchise has brought in more revenue than your feeble brain can even hope to comprehend.
In the EA corner, we have Battlefield 3, the lovable underdog and unpredictable newcomer. No one is entirely sure what to expect from him but damn, he looks pretty.
There are two aspects in terms of which we are going to be comparing these bad boys, namely Gameplay and Unlocks and Customisables.
In terms of gameplay, Modern Warfare 3 is a fast-paced, infantry-focused game, with intense firefights on small-scale maps being the centre-point of the multiplayer. There are no vehicles, and, besides the bonuses attained from Kill Streaks, it’s pretty much up to the player to rack up their kills.
The play is also very indiviually focused, and while objectives do exist in some game modes, there is little need for team cohesion beyond all of you running in vaguely the same direction. Anyone who played Modern Warfare 2 can expect much the same experience, albeit a more varied and refined one (with dedicated servers).
Battlefield 3, on the other hand, is primarily focused on more tactical, team-based gameplay, with more refined game modes in terms of making objectives the focal-point of the match and taking the emphasis off individual performance. It plays itself out, for the most part, over larger-scale maps, which feature vechiles. On PC, however, it also has a far larger player limit on certain game modes than Modern Warfare 3 does – a whopping 64 players can play in any Conquest game simultaneously.
Battlefield 3 knows that if it really wants to make a good shot at killing CoD, however, it needs to try and beat it at its own game. Thus, DICE have included a Team Deathmatch mode, which will apparently play similarly to the Modern Warfare style of fast-paced, action-packed gameplay, by not including vechiles and playing out over smaller-scale maps. It will essentially be a more refined version of Battlefield: Bad Company 2′s gameplay, which managed to rival CoD quite aptly.
Overall, comparing the two’s gameplay directly is a bit of a challenge, because as you can no doubt see, they’re quite like apples and pears, in that they simply offer two different experiences, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer will certainly be more easy to enjoy from the moment you log onto the (dedicated) server, while at the same time it will no doubt suffer from the same problem as all of the CoD games which have gone before it – the immense frustration of aspects like spawn rape. Because the maps are so small, when the servers start to fill up the game can get a bit chaotic, and you can often be killed numerous times in succession by spawn rapists, stray grenades, cunningly placed Airstrikes (a Kill Streak reward), or what have you. Which, you know, sucks.
Battlefield 3′s on the other hand suffers from the immediate issue of having the potential to be extremely boring. Large maps generally mean that if you don’t take a vechile, you end up walking around for a good while before you find anything resembling a fight, and when you do you probably get your ass handed to you by the bastard in the helicopter, anyway. This is an issue which is easily avoided by having the attention span of someone who isn’t twelve, and a touch of logic besides. Where Battlefield 3′s multiplayer will, in all likelihood, really succeed is in terms of how rewarding it can feel. When you win a game, you know that not just you as an individual, but you as a team have worked your butts off trying to get that win, which attaches a real sense of achievement that many shooters nowadays are devoid of.
So, we can see that it comes down in many ways to personal preference in terms of what sort of multiplayer experience you’re going for. What might well decide an awful lot is how well DICE manage to compete with Call of Duty through their Team Deathmatch mode. While DICE certainly have the capacity to create an enjoyable Team Deathmatch mode, can it really not only challenge but defeat Call of Duty at the very focus of its own multiplayer offering, especially when it is only a peripheral concern for DICE? We have yet to see, but it may well become a pretty pivotal question in choosing which offering to take.
So, let’s take a closer look at the Unlocks and Customisables aspects of both multiplayers.
When you start Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer, you’re given a level 1 pleb of a character which you need to level up. As you do so, you unlock more shiny toys with which to kill people (most of which are guns) and bonuses called Perks, which you can use to further customise your classes with specific abilities (sprinting for longer, not showing up on the opponent’s minimap and being able to scope faster with sniper rifles, to name but a few) and tailor them to suit your specific style of play. Attachments can be unlocked for various weapons by reaching certain milestones with them (for example, “Get x amount of headshots/kills to unlock attachment y”), with attachments ranging from various types of scopes, to silencers, to underbarrel shotguns and grenade launchers.
Also available in Modern Warfare 3 are Kill Streak bonuses, which you are awarded with either by racking up a certain amount of points (which are attained by killing enemies and completing objectives, such as planting bombs and so on) over a period of time (i.e. they are not effected by how often you die), or by achieving a certain amount of kills in a single life. Bonuses awarded by Kill Streaks range from carpet bombs at a location of your choice, to UAV scans which reveal your enemies positions on the minimap, to the ability to command remote-control helicopters. With guns. The remote-control helicopters have guns, that is – you don’t command them with guns. That would be weird.
Battlefield 3, on the other hand, does not feature Perks or Kill Streaks – it instead features four classes with unique abilities which can be upgraded and improved. We haven’t heard much about exactly how you upgrade or improve them, but we can imagine that it would be through reaching certain milestones with the particular class.
What Battlefield 3 also features are weapon unlocks and attachments – we are not yet sure which game will have more weapons in general to be unlocked, but we can say with confidence that Battlefield 3 will have more attachments which can be unlocked. Each weapon in Battlefield 3 has 3 attachment slots, where a wide variety of attachments (ranging from different barrels, to various types of optic sights, to different types of grips and so on and so forth) may be attached. Attachments are unlocked for each weapon individually, in the same was as Modern Warfare 3 – by reaching certain milestones.
Again we can see that the choice between the two comes down to preference – if you like the sound of perks, Kill Streaks and what-not, Modern Warfare 3 will most likely be for you, whereas if you would prefer the game to come down to how well you manage to design the attachment combination for your weapon and your personal skill, irrespective of elements like Perks, Battlefield 3 might be more for you.
The Technical Stuff
Here is where you will find a right, proper distinction amongst the two games.
Battlefield 3 is running on DICE’s brand new Frostbite 2 engine, whereas Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is running on the IW5 engine.
For all intents and purposes, Modern Warfare 3′s engine is technically inferior to that of Battlefield 3′s, which means that for the PC offerings, you won’t get much better than Battlefield 3.
Now, with that said, the same cannot be said for the console versions of each game.
Modern Warfare 3′s engine, though now very dated and clearly showing its age, has long since been undergoing constant optimisation for consoles, whereas Battlefield 3′s PC-focused Frostbite 2 engine has had to cut back on a fair few bells and whistles in order to compensate for the lack of processing power that comes from the ageing generation of consoles.
To this effect, Modern Warfare 3 may well have the technical advantage over Battlefield 3 on the console.
It has the necessary optimisation already, it has already been running on consoles for long enough that developers are comfortable with the system now and gamers are used to what the IW engine can offer. The same cannot be said of Battlefield 3 which is not focused for console and therefore will have a few bugs and glitches along the way that may require titles updates or patching to fix. And once again, a lot of the shiny extras that the PC version boasts will be far less prominent on the console version, effectively eliminating the game’s technical advantage over Modern Warfare 3.
Another key factor that needs to be mentioned is the frame rate of each game. It’s a well-known fact that many games that are technically “HD” games, don’t actually run at 720p or 1080p, running instead at some lower resolution without necessarily explicitly stating that. Then, some games will run at 30 frames per second instead of the requisite 60 frames per second for “HD” to actually technically be “HD”.
Some have argued that it’s not a noticeable difference at all and that each game will feel the same in action, but I challenge you to play a 30 FPS game and then a 60 FPS game and tell me you don’t notice a change in smoothness.
Whether there is noticeably choppy frame-rate on the console version of Battlefield 3 or not remains to be seen, but it will not be entirely surprising if experienced during an intense firefight, for example.
For the moment it seems clear that on PC, Battlefield 3 stands head and toe above Modern Warfare 3, from a technical perspective.
However, which game is superior on console remains to be seen.
BattleLog Versus Elite
What we’re seeing from both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are innovations which are virtually unprecedented in the gaming industry (amusing, then, that they should arrive within a month of each other) – dedicated social media platforms supporting their games. DICE is bringing Battlelog to the table for Battlefield 3, while we see Infinity Ward rollin’ in (the extremely controversial) Call of Duty Elite,
What Battlefield 3 wants to give us is a service called Battlelog, which is essentially a Battlefield-centric Facebook clone. You can write on peoples
walls profiles, you can like ’Hooah!’ your friends’ achievements as they are displayed to you on the News Feed Battlefeed. You can comment comment on them too!
So yeah, you’re going to have a hard time spotting the
difference similarity between Battlelog and FaceBook. Lolsarcasm. That said, however, there is nothing particularly wrong with FaceBook, so if Battlelog manages to be a good clone, then so what?
Also available on Battlelog are both your and your friends’ stats for every bullet ever shot and enemy ever killed in ever, which DICE seem pretty excited about.
Did I mention that Battlelog also serves as the server browser and game launcher? Well, it does. If that seems a tad excessive or tedious to you, it does to me too. I’m going to reserve judgement until I actually lay my hands on it, though, seeing as it is free and all.
Modern Warfare 3, on the other hand, is offering us Call of Duty Elite, which comes in a free and a not-so-free version. There has been a lot of outcry about the not-so-free issue, but I think it’s stupid. I’ll tell you more about that in a second.
Before I move on to why crying about the Premium version of CoD Elite is stupid, let’s chat about the free one. Included in the free one are all of the things necessary to use the service properly – I won’t go into it, because there is a ton, (if you’re interested in the exact services offered by the Free and Premium versions, click here) but suffice to say that it includes clan membership, stat tracking, a news feed, the ability to join Groups and far more besides.
Premium is where all of the extras begin to creep in – free access to monthly DLC (which would amount to more than the annual Premium Membership subscription fee is purchased on its own, just by-the-by), access to the daily competitive program (online tournaments organised by Infinity Ward and run over Elite), a more powerful theatre mode and other stuff as well. Seriously, click on that link I gave you.
The reason I don’t have an issue with Premium (and thus, why you shouldn’t have an issue with it) is that Infinity Ward aren’t making you pay for stuff that should be in the game – they’re giving you the game, and letting you use the basics of Elite for free, so the game on its own is completely functional. Elite gives you some pretty cool bonuses that actually warrant paying for, as they will cost the developer money over time as they continue to provide them to you. Paying the professional players who make Elite TV, and sponsoring the tournaments are two pretty good examples of why you’re being charged, let alone all of the extra content that you will get on a regular basis after having purchased the game.
All in all, Battlelog really does look pretty paltry at the moment in comparison to Call of Duty Elite. Not the Battlelog lacks in functionality, there is no reason as to why it would be a sub-optimal product, but rather that Infinity Ward are investing more into Call of Duty Elite because it will generate long-term revenue for them – which, like I said, is justified in this instance.
So, while Battlefield 3 isn’t necessarily losing the battle, it certainly is giving less than its competitior, and thus certainly isn’t winning.
Some final words on Premium membership for CoD Elite: How much is it, and should you get it?
It costs $50 (about R350), which is the same amount that a new game would cost you over Steam. Just saying. Interpret that either way you wish – were I still the raving CoD addict I once was, I would gladly sacrifice one game a year for all of the extra goodness which Elite brings with it. Hell, I still might.
Should you get it? If you are a long-standing Call of Duty fan who knows you will be investing a lot of time into MW3 and want to get the most you possibly can out of it, yes. If you are going to be a casual MW3 player but you have the cash to spare, yes. If you are going to be a casual MW3 player but “THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER SHINY GAMES COMING OUT HOW CAN I AFFORD THEM ALL RAAAAAAAAAAGE”, I would suggest you pass on it.
Steam Versus Origin
The battle between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 has yet to truly begin. Despite that however, many of the troops of this inevitable confrontation have already decided where their allegiance lies. For the rest though, the fans of both games and the undecided; there are more factors, than the games themselves, that will decide the fate of each player. Among them are price, release date and any other (relative) platform specifics. There is however, one other deciding factor for many a soldier. These particular soldiers are in platoon High Res, regiment PC. And while the conflict among the PC versions will undoubtedly be the smallest (in terms of numbers) among the platforms; they are still, very probably, the most hardcore and devoted of all the Battlefield and MW3 players. That being the case, and in the interest of PC enthusiasts, we need to discuss one other vital battlefield between these two juggernauts. That battlefield is the distribution and networking hubs within and around each game; MW3 and Steam vs. Battlefield 3 and EA’s (controversial) Origin.
Let’s start with the ever popular veteran and all dominant one, Steam. Steam has its faults, I’ll be the first to admit that Steam isn’t perfect by any means; but it’s still darn good. In a backwater country like South Africa, especially with regards to the internet and bandwidth obstacles we face, you’d expect a system like Steam to be unsuccessful and have a mediocre following. That just isn’t the case though, and its sheer popularity in South Africa is testament to its ability to do its job. Steam quite literally means you have MW3 backed up and the patches will always be prompt and easy to get. The connection will be stable and the bandwidth requirements of Steam, beyond what MW3 requires, are negligible. More than that, Steam already has a great community and will almost certainly offer plenty of MW3 centred specials and content. You might have the odd issue but I’m sure MW3 will run brilliantly because Steam punks the haxors and corrects the problems. I have yet to bring up an issue with tech support that isn’t resolved in a relatively short time. At the end of the day, and despite the indubitable success that will be MW3, Steam will remain and reign supreme because its service is supreme.
EA’s Origin is the wildcard here and to judge prematurely would be unfair. It has yet to prove its worth and I’m not so biased as to base my entire opinion of Origin on hearsay alone. EA has a right to introduce and maintain its own service; I fully support that. Yeah, I have gripes with some of their practices but having them dedicate themselves to Battlefield and having to compete with Steam and MW3 means a higher grade of quality in both; at least in theory. My issue is with Origin’s current status quo and recent controversies. No one can doubt the quality of software that EA publishes: Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, Old Republic, Portal 2, Dragon Age 2 and Crysis 2 show this in spades. One look at Origin, however, and all of that comes into question. Firstly, they’re releasing an app to buy games and link to the store specifically. At first that doesn’t seem so bad, but at a second glance it gives them a lot of control over the conditions of purchase. That may sound like speculation. And in a way, until it’s in use at least, it is. Well that’s until you hear that they maintain in their EULA; that after a year of purchase they can make you repurchase the game (you paid for a year ago) in order to re-download it. Don’t forget Steam allows, and in fact encourages, you to re-download any game you purchase as many times as you wish. It’s a great quick fix and free backup service to any game. If that was it, it wouldn’t be so bad for Origin. But as we all know by now, it gets worse. Origin effectively installs spyware onto your PC and monitors all of your processes, activities as well as any and all files. Now I’m sorry but that’s practically looking into your bedroom from the tree outside your window. Especially when compared to Steam’s, only monitor Steam related content, system.
There are a bunch of other things I could say and in time I will. For now, I’ll reserve my opinion for the post release of both MW3 and Battlefield 3. I’m excited to see how well Battlefield 3 does. Remember, any competition that Battlefield 3 presents and audiences it takes away from MW3; means the next COD or (other) IP will have to be that much better. It’s a shame that many are going to be put off or be bullied away from using Origin. More than anything, it hurts Battlefield 3 as well as this industry and past time that I love so much.
Epic dissertations aside, it’s clear that both games are solid offerings and triple-A titles in their own respect, and neither choice is an incorrect one.
The problem you’re going to have, unless you’re a fanboy of one or the other, or you significantly prefer one offering above the other after what we’ve said, is going to be actually choosing which one to get. In which case it really does suck to be you. I would know, because I’m in that position.
Whether you opt to fight in World War 3 and get kill streaks, or frolick around on top of faultlines and blow up buildings with vehicles, we are pretty sure that you’ll love it. Whether you opt for the Battlelog or the Elite, you’ll have functional, pretty awesome social networking services dedicated to the game you love at your disposal. Whether you opt for Steam or Origin, you’ll be getting one of the best games of the year, and certainly one of the best First-Person Shooters we’ve seen in a good few years. We’ve presented you with the details. The rest is up to you.
In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what you pick (if you really must), because you’ll love them both. And, at the end of the day, we’re all gamers here anyway, so, no matter how it pans out, gaming wins.
Damnit Cavie, you sound like a pre-school teacher with all of your objectivity and political correctness. We all know that [censored] is going to be better.