Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: A Multiplayer Comparison
In a world where one military shooter reigns supreme, a rival upstart and its zealous cult followers hope to topple its rule.
Slightly less dramatic but no less ridiculous is the on-going battle for dominance in the multiplayer shooter market. The contenders: Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, fighting under the banner of Activision and the current leader with a million gajillion active players on every platform. The challenger: DICE’s Battlefield 3, under the Electronic Arts banner, and a seasoned (though PC-centric) warrior in its own right.
With Battlefield 3′s open multiplayer beta available on the PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 last week, just about everyone interested in the knock-down drag-out battle between the two titles has seen what the challenger has to offer. And we’ve had the pleasure of putting the current champ through its paces, first at E3 2011, then at San Diego Comic-Con 2011, and finally in its full glory at Call of Duty XP.
So now that we’ve seen MW3 and BF3 in action, how do the two compare? Without passing judgment (there will be time enough for that once both games are available for their real-deal retail releases in the next two months), we’re stacking up Battlefield and Modern Warfare, to see how they’re different — and how they’re the same.
1. Learning Curve
Being a relatively inexperienced Battlefield player before the beta, here’s a lesson I learned through attrition: BF3 is not an easy game to pick up. With large maps, awkwardly controlled vehicles, several classes to master and a damage system that can have you dropped long before you see an enemy, this is a game that requires a significant time and skill investment to become a good player.
Modern Warfare 3, while introducing new aspects to the series, will largely be unchanged from its previous iterations. In addition, Call of Duty wrote the book on the modern online FPS experience: it defines the controls, the tactics and the way gameplay handles for many imitators. As such, many, many players are going to be able to pick up a controller and be good at MW3, or at least passable, with little to no investment. A large percentage of those players may never become better or get a deeper enjoyment out of the game than just running around and shooting people until they’re killed, but they will get that very seminal, baseline enjoyment out of the game every time.
Not so with Battlefield. This is a game that will take practice and attention to get good at, and many players may be turned away straight off because of the game’s higher learning curve. BF3 is a game in which you can spawn in and get shot in the back of the head immediately — and repeatedly. And the respawns seem just long enough to become infuriating, instead of MW3′s rapid-fire respawning to get players back into the fray.
That said, Battlefield 3 may offer a deeper experience for players than MW3. Team-based gameplay (which we’ll get to in a second) and an emphasis on tactics and class-based operations are going to require more players to think about what they’re doing. MW3 can be deep, too, and certainly the best players will make something much more team-oriented and tactical out of the game, but the learning curve isn’t nearly as steep.
Bottom line: Modern Warfare 3 remains easily accessible and fun for everyone, whether novice or experienced. Battlefield will require a much bigger investment and has a longer period of getting-your-ass-kicked learning, which will turn some players off.