Retrospective: Modern Warfare 3 versus Battlefield 3
Mario vs. Sonic. Metal Gear vs. Splinter Cell. Gran Turismo vs. Forza. You vs. everyone. The video game community has long been the grounds for spirited rivalries between similar franchises. Message boards become war zones, and comment sections transform into battlegrounds as devoted fans deliver their arguments and mud slinging vitriol, defending their favorite franchises with words delivered in machine gun staccato, as fast as their fingers can type and their Internet browsers can refresh.
It comes as no surprise that two of the biggest military FPSs of the year had their own sets of fans and rivals. The million-dollar juggernaut, Modern Warfare 3, would face strong competition from the class-based multiplayer shooter, Battlefield 3.
While I have already reviewed both titles here on OMGN, I like to look at things as objectively as possible and provide another light on what was the better popular shooter this year.
Broken down into six categories, I'll be giving a winner from each category according to the reviews with a brief explanation. It's heavyweight versus heavyweight. Who will come out on top of this rivalry? The battle begins ...
While BF3's single-player story was technically a well crafted and decent playing romp, the storyline and cliched characters along with the linear gameplay were out of place -- not like a Battlefield title at all. Forgettable characters and a vague storyline made this an incredibly forgettable title I had no desire to replay.
MW3, while staying very close to the structure of past titles and having copious amounts of explosions and over-the-top scenarios in place of well-written characters or story, was still an entertaining ride. It's the Michael Bay vision of World War III, and despite the shallow banality, it still provided an entertaining way to pass a few hours before jumping into the multiplayer. Something Battlefield 3 could not do.
BF3 had Team-based FPS action on large maps littered with usable vehicles, upgradable weapons, and unlockable gadgets. Along with a variety of modes and the beauty, fluidity, and destructible environments of the Frostbite 2.0 engine, BF3 was a monster of a shooter, and despite the initial flaws and bugs (most of which have been addressed and fixed), was a fantastic shooter to play with a group of friends. Teamwork, more than K/D rations, triumphed here, which was very refreshing in an age of shooters obsessed with rampant killing.
All of these additions made MW3 feel positively archaic with its smaller, less diverse maps and lack of reliance on teamwork. When you also consider the numerous glitches, bugs, and quirks that have plagued the series since Call of Duty 4, it's no contest which had the better multiplayer offering.
If you thought BF3's single-player campaign was boring and repetitive, you would possibly gain a whole new appreciation for it after playing through the co-op missions. Filled with boring objectives, bland levels, and the lack of ability to play with a partner locally, only the ability to unlock weapons for use in multiplayer kept this mode from becoming completely irrelevant.
MW3 took the core gameplay of the series, stripped away the ridiculously unbalanced multiplayer and story from single player and left the player with a variety of game modes. Survival was this game's version of zombies, but the added unlockables and increasingly difficult enemies made this an addictive and fun mode to play with friends or solo. The specific missions were even better with a wide variety of objectives, from assassinations to bomb disarmament, that could be played both locally and online. MW3's co-op didn't just best BF3's, it annihilated it.
While it may be too early to tell, based on past actions and the words of MW3 lead designers wanting new content on a near-constant basis, MW3 will deliver new map packs, spec ops maps, and possibly other features to its fans. When combined with the elite service, the amount of items, bells, and whistles should be enough to keep fans happy.
BF3, on the other hand, recently released its promised expansion: Back to Karkand with new maps, vehicles, and weapons. Beyond this, there has been no word on any future content. The developers expressed an interest to continue supporting BF3 long after its release date, but they also promised the same thing for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and after a bright-looking first six months, there wasn't a single drop of content afterward. The hopes aren't high here.
While MW3 features map packs and a stat-tracking service for its fans in the coming months, Activision is its own worse enemy in terms of longevity with the announcement of yet another CoD title for 2012. This effectively divides the community, leaving only a few left playing last year's title with a majority of the fanbase migrating on to the latest installment.
BF3, as of now, has no future sequels planned in the immediate future; however, the sheer size and variety of gameplay should give fans plenty of reasons to keep playing, especially if CoD still sticks to its arcade shooter formula. There is simply no other FPS like it on the market that blends fast-paced gameplay with rewards for teamwork. Three Call of Duties could be released in 2012, but as long as they play largely the same, BF3 fans will stick with BF3.
Visuals and Audio
As great as MW3 looks -- a great feat considering the age of the engine -- BF3 has its competitor beat in the visuals department. With buildings collapsing, detailed character models, and excellent draw distances, BF3 took full advantage of its Frostbite 2.0 engine and made a game that was as fun to watch in motion as it was to play, something that can rarely be said about a military FPS. MW3's visuals still look pretty good, but they bring no comparison to the vastness of BF3's battlefields and fluidity of its characters and vehicles. Where MW3 feels very much on rails, BF3 feels organic and ever-changing.
BF3 also wins in the audio department. From the crumbling buildings to the detailed sounds of bullet casings hitting the floor and pavement crumbling, BF3 provided a robust selection that gives your system a workout and shakes the living room. MW3's sounds were just ... loud ... with guns that sounded too similar to one another and a focus on being as loud as possible rather than as detailed as possible. Against BF3, there was no comparison.
The Winner: Tie
Well ... I certainly didn't expect this outcome. It's a happy and surprising one. Both have their pros and cons, and both are unique in certain areas. Take your pick and leave the bickering fanboyism at the door. Have fun and frag on!