When big-name games get released, it is almost like a holiday event. Gamers rally at midnight to their nearest game shop to pick up the latest great game to hit the shelves, forums light up with the public reaction to the title, and even a few flame wars get started by trolls who have nothing better to do with themselves. One thing remains abundantly clear, and that’s when two games of the same genre get released within a few weeks or days of each others, people like to take sides. Not all people, but the ones who do are so passionate about their favorite game they will go to any length to prove its superiority.
And yet I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to actually compare two of the year’s biggest releases, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Now, that isn’t to say I haven’t found any differences. Quite the contrary. The games play so differently and require such a different mindset it becomes troublesome to actually say whether one is better than the other. So, with that in mind, I have only this to say:
The things written in this article are my opinion and mine alone. You may have different thoughts and experiences, so please keep this in mind when commenting below.
Let’s start with the easiest to compare…
Even for the die-hard CoD fan, it’s hard to argue that BF3 looks far better than MW3. Just about everything in BF3 screams realism, from the superb lighting to the exceptional environments. Being able to blow up everything adds to the realism even more, although MW3 did throw in some destructible scenery here and there as well. The Frostbite 2 engine really does a phenomenal job at creating some of the most realistic graphics this side of Crysis. Just about everything I looked at made me wonder how much time and effort was put in to this engine. Everything, with a couple exceptions, just looks that good.
With MW3, what you see is what you get. Everything looks nice, but this is really just some polish on a four year-old engine. There’s nothing here I haven’t seen before, and was never quite “wow-ed” by MW3’s graphics. Character models are arguably better in MW3, if only due to some odd design choices in BF3. One character in particular looks like he’s in a continual state of “oh crap, a rat!” while the cutscenes really don’t look as good as the in-game graphics. I found that to be odd, especially considering cutscenes almost always look better than in-game. That isn’t the case with MW3, where the in-game and the few cutscenes that are there all run the same way.
One thing that bothered me, though, was the animations in BF3. They weren’t terrible or anything. The biggest problem was how jittery they can be in certain situations. My squad had a rather hilarious twitch-fest at some points of the game when waiting for me to move up to their cover, and at times death animations take on comical motions. It’s all things we’ve seen before in previous Battlefield games, and it’s disappointing that they still exist. MW3 meanwhile had mostly smooth animations and kept a steady framerate even when everything explodes.
Particle effects are more or less the same for both games. They are impressive, but only in the sense that neither game is especially bogged down by a lot of particles on screen at once. For those of you wondering what I mean, think smoke, fire, sparks, things like that. On the other hand, lighting was above and beyond better in BF3, though with one strange design choice; any light I looked at dead on pretty much blinded me, whether it was a simple flashlight or the sun. This made some fights more difficult than they needed to be, but this is only a minor complaint. You’ll have a hard time telling an observer if you are watching a movie or playing a game when a spotlight shines on your comrades in BF3. That’s not to say lighting isn’t well done in MW3 either, but again it isn’t something I haven’t seen before in previous MW games. It’s good, but not amazing.
Textures in this day and age are difficult to screw up if the studio has a competant art team. Like the particle effects, both games do a great job making their models come to life with believable skins and maps. BF3 again takes the prize for incorporating better material design to their models so light reflects properly giving an overall more realistic feal.
Ah, the thundering sounds of war. If either game screwed this up I would have just immediately stopped playing. Thankfully, neither game has poor sound effects. Bullets whizzing past you, grenades banging, the shouts of enemies and allies alike as they get hit or bark out orders. All against a backdrop of absolutely beautiful music. These are the sounds that really puts you in to the game.
MW3 really has everything going for it this time around. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, so much so I found it to be the most enjoyable of the three MW games. It really draws you in to what’s happening without being overwhelming. The effects are pretty solid, giving a nice heavy sound to the guns to make them feel powerful. Grenades clank realistically, tanks rumble across the earth, helicopters make all the rights sounds you’d expect. Explosions are a little on the underwhelming side, but this was really the only meh among the excellent sounds of MW3. BF3, on the other hand, has a pretty dumb soundtrack. It really didn’t do anything for me and is barely noticeable. Hearing the battles going on the distance did far more for me than any bit of music that was in BF3. There were some other nitpicky things, like low-flying jets being pretty quiet, but all-in-all the sound effects are roughly the same as they are in MW3.
The voice-acting is a different story. I’m not quite sure why the CoD series keeps enemies speaking in their native language, and all allies speak English. It makes little sense, especially considering this is World War 3 going on. I should not be hearing a German tank commander barking orders to his men in English, nor should I hear the Russian president address his staff in English when everyone in the room is Russian. It pulled me out of the experience. Now, the voice acting itself is fine. I’ve always found Cpt. Price to be one of the better voices in games, and many of the other voices are done well despite everyone putting on their best perpetual badass voice. In BF3, the voices are more natural. If you play as a Russian, that’s what you hear. Yes, subtitles are provided so you can understand what’s going on. This really made me smile as I actually felt much more immersed in the game than I could have been in MW3.
This was incredibly difficult for me to actually compare the two. Yes, both games are military shooters using mostly realistic weapons and utilize the sit-still-for-5-seconds-to-fully-heal nonsense. In all honesty, both games have solid controls and play well for what they are trying to accomplish. Allow me to elaborate a bit.
MW3 is a fast and simple game that rewards quick reflexes and the ability to get in and get out. Knifing someone is just as fast as its always been, to the point where it’s easier to just run up to someone and knife them. Specialty grenades, like flash bangs, work like a charm when I ran into a tight spot in both single player and multiplayer. Just make sure you use them correctly or you’ll end up blinding/smoking/killing yourself instead of/in addition to the enemy. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with sniping in CoD almost entirely because of the “hold you breath and shoot” mechanic. Steady your aim for a few seconds of a steady scope, or time your shot right instead. It still works the same way in MW3 as it always has, so if you hated it then you’ll hate it now. Shotguns are strange in that you can actually snipe/be sniped by them. It was something that I found problematic in MW2, and it still exists here. Does it rely heavily on luck? Yes, but only for some of the “lesser” shotguns. More powerful ones have an absurd range for a weapon designed for close-quarters combat. Oh, and if you were like me and loathed noob tubers in MW2…well, just as annoying to see in multiplayer in MW3.
The weapon selection ranges from realistic to ridiculous. Seriously, what on earth is up with that sniper grenade launcher thing? One of the biggest problems I have with shooters is that some of the weapons are so powerful and effective there’s no reason to use anything else. MW3 has this problem, and amplifies it with quite a few useless weapons. Multiplayer really proves this point, as many players used only a couple weapons out of the few dozen in MW2 and will no doubt do the same in MW3. I understand the best way to win in any game is to take advantage of what works the best with the least amount of effort, but there should have been a bit more balancing involved. Quite frankly though, the absurd amount of multiplayer game modes, each with unique objectives and a vareity of player skills, co-op, and an exciting and replayable campaign means there’s no possible way anyone will be bored anytime soon. There’s just far too many ways to play the game, and the newer gametypes added to the multiplayer suite are quite fun. Anything that discourages camping, actually, is a great addition.
BF3 isn’t exactly slow, but it is a much more relaxed game compared to MW3. Theres far more realism involved, and as someone who absolutely loves sniping it makes me smile to have to adjust my shot based on distance and not whether I’m holding down a button. Knifing requires careful timing and should not be relied on in close quarters unless you have the element of surprise. Teamwork is paramount; no one player can carry a team. The four classes are also all unique in that each uses a different set of weapons. In addition, the equipment and essential roles they play allow proper teams to be set up where each player is just as important as the others. While you could have everyone just grab the most powerful assault rifle and go to town like in MW3, odds are you will lose. Engineers are needed to repair your damaged vehicles, recon provides valuable scoting information, assault members act as your medics, and support provide the extra ammunition. Of the classes, recon is the only one you don’t really need but is still nice to have. Being able to get the drop on your enemies is always nice. Old strategies like overloading on medics (now the assault class) still work if your enemy is too stupid to use explosives and flanking, but honestly people play to their own styles and it is unlikely to see too many of the same class.
In terms of weapons, BF3 has what you expect. There isn’t anything over the top. Some weapons are obviously more powerful than others, but quite frankly it takes long enough to acquire every single weapon that you’ll get plenty of time figuring out each one as you get them. Remember also that, unlike MW3, unlocking specific weapons means playing specific classes. Reaching level 30 doesn’t mean you’ll have a variety of sniper rifles, assault rifles, LMGs, etc. You actually have to play and learn to get what you want, something many games lack. Vehicles, both ground and air, add one hell of a variety of gameplay options in multiplayer beyond the classes. Tanks, LAVs, ATVs, and other transports are easy enough to maneuver and with engineers can be quite difficult to take down. Helicopters and jets, however, take quite a bit of time to get used to. Odds are, you’ll nosedive frequently. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s an absolute blast raining death from above.
Single Player Campaign
I have something to admit. I went in to this thinking BF3 would blow MW3 out of the water here only because I was so disappointed with MW2. I was wrong. Way, way wrong. MW3 has such an epic campaign that if you haven’t played it yet, I suggest you do. Don’t worry about not knowing what’s going on in the story. Playing a MW campaign is like watching a Michael Bay movie; you’re there for action, not plot.
The biggest reason MW3 is epic is because it actually feels like World War 3 is really going on. Everything is in ruin, your allies are of all nationalities, and you go all over Europe, Africa, and a slight tour in America fighting against a common enemy. Don’t ask questions about how a single terrorist was able to convince an entire army to ignore their president and just try to screw over Europe. Go with it, and marvel at how amazing the campaign is. I was not bored once during the entire campaign and wanted to go back and play it all over again when it was done. There are plenty of “holy sweet Jesus” moments in the game, so much so that you’ll wonder how any subsequent CoD game can top it. Honestly, I would say let the series die here so ends on one hell of a high note.
BF3 was…disappointing, to put it mildly. I was bored. Very bored. In fact, it felt like I was slogging my way through the campaign. The story was just as nonsensical as it was in MW3, but with a fraction of the intensity. Sure, the story is intriguing but a lot of the campaign is just replaying what your told. That’s right, there’s very little surprises in the actual campaign because you get told what happens before playing it. I was hoping that it would pull a Star Wars Episode III or Halo: Reach, where you know happens at the end but want to know how it happens. Unfortunately, the missions are so short I was wondering why I was even bothering at all. You don’t fly the jet in this campaign either; you act as the gunner. That’s right, one of the biggest attention-getters prior to release doesn’t even happen in campaign in any meaningful way. You can probably tell at this point I did not enjoy the campaign at all.
Both campaigns suffer one massive flaw, though in the case of BF3 this was quite alright for me. They are both incredibly short, running at about 5 hours a piece on my first playthrough. In the case of BF3, that’s fine. There’s no real reason to return to BF3’s campaign as there are no collectibles or achievements tied to it. For MW3, it ends all too soon. Thankfully, searching for the enemy intel and earning the achievements give you more reasons to return to the excellent campaign.
I’ll be honest, it was quite difficult to compare these two games. I would really like for those of you who have played both games to give your opinions on them, but please keep it civil. Part 3 will be out later next week, so keep a lookout for it.