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.

The Differences

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.

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18 Comments on Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: A Multiplayer Comparison


On October 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Other than realizing you cant play Battlefield with the same playstyle as CoD, I’m not seeing where this learning curve you speak of is.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm


I’m referring specifically to the fact that Battlefield tends to be a lot bigger than other similar shooters. It’s more wide open, which takes time to get used to, and the class system is a little different than many other military shooters (though not so different from, say, TF2). But basically, the point is that coming into Battlefield 3 green, you’re going to get killed a lot before you get comfortable because of the nature of the game, the size of the maps, the strength of the bullets, the spawn points and squad spawning, etc. Doubly so if you come in with mostly just CoD experience.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm


Also we’re directly comparing to CoD. So there’s more of a learning curve with BF3 than MW3, which I think is fair. Vehicles, squad gameplay, classes — all of them require time to learn the ropes.


On October 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Not just that, but the openness that you have with a BF game. Endless options as to how to handle a situation. Hop in a vehicle, get into the enemy base, and steal their tanks and jets.

Somebody is camping? Take your pick. Snipe back, get in a tank and blast at them, circle around the rear and try to stab him, get in a plane and bail out near him, or just drob a bomb on him. Hey, why not call in a UAV and kill him from a safe distance. Or, call in an airstrike.

Gameplay far more limitless than that which would be experienced from a COD game with a similar situation going on. Less options, less technique, less fun.


On October 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Actaully your claims that CoD will have more to unlock is utter rubbish. Each gun will have a minimum of 10 unlocks in Battlefield and Dice has said that it will take in excess of 100 hours to unlock everything for each kit, meaning 400 hours as infantry to unlock everything for all 4 classes without even sniffing at the vehicle unlocks…..

In Black Ops I prestiged 15 times in a little over 300 hours and unlocked everyhting by 360 hours.


On October 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm

learning curve is about 2 hours having never played any bf before… just enough to realize u cant use the same tactics a mw…maybe ur just good at mw and bad at bf…as for spawning i heard that done to death in cod…


On October 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm


Bf games have hit delay, you can argue it takes more teamwork bu not skill since bullets register weherever the hell they want.

Cod elite is better than battelog on free mode, it simply offers more.

Pc version of mw3 will have ingame server browser lan and mods, things that bf3 lacks.

and matt in black ops i unlocked all weapons in 3 hours in mw2 it took nearly a month, its not the same.


On October 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

The game mode you play in multiplayer also makes a big difference. BF’s rush mode puts one team in defensive position so majority of the players take defensive action or ‘camp’. Just like the beta, campers are all over the place just waiting to pounce. And with a higher number of players even on large maps, you’ll be easy to spot and taken down. As with COD with majority of game modes, most players are moving all the time to engage.


On October 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Has anyone noticed how annoying and repetitive the gun/grenade sound effects are for the Modern Warfare series? When using Turtle Beach’s PX5 headset and playing BF3, the sound is so awesome that I could record the sound effects of guns and explosions and just listen to them while I sleep.


On October 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm

The biggest learning curve with BF3 is that it’s not a mindless run-n-gun like MW3 is. Your team actually matters.

The two games are completely different from each other in that regard, where one good player can win a MW3 match while it takes an entire team to win a BF3 match. That alone makes BF3 the far superior game to me.


On October 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The claim that you can be spawncamped too easy in BF3 is kind of.. unfair. The spawn points, especially in rush, are far away from the action. The only way you get spawn killed is if you spawn on a teammate that is getting killed. Which is completely your choice; you can always spawn in the backfield where you are not going to get killed.

COD however I find myself getting spawncamped easy. There is no rhyme of reason to which side which team is on, which has caused me to spawn and a couple seconds later have 2-3 of them run from behind me. Also claymores. Yes, there are claymores in BF3, but they are not as prevalent and annoying as in COD. Since COD is a run and gun and do over game, claymores are beyond annoying and I find them set EVERYWHERE. I hate having to pick the perk to see them, to me it is a waste.

BF3 is a game you get heavily involved into. You care about who wins, and even though you NEED teamwork to win somehow you find yourself more important than in COD where it is all lone wolf.

I will be buying both though, mainly because of the single player for COD. Not that I think either campaign is going to be better than the other though. I will be surprised if I can stomach COD online for more than 30 minutes at a time.

uglyoverlord 11

On October 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I try not to take much stock in so called industry or media critics opinions of games…The gaming community make up their minds about the game and they are the ones who make a difference to how a big release is received.
BF2 multi player was incredible it was the first time I have played online for more than a year non stop!The depth of game play, the tactics,the fact that you need your team to survive, or achieve your objectives whether defending flags, MCOM stations or attacking them was just breathtaking!

I regularly check before re-spawning to establish the location of my team if in attack mode heading towards an MCOM station..will they require covering fire or do I spawn in as a sniper and take out the opposite sniper protecting the MCOM station?

This is the future of multi-player FPS and imagine my joy at playing BF3 Beta to find it even better than BF2 Bad company!, the ability to go prone, utilizing the heavy machine gun with bi pod, the clever use of thee tactical flashlight !!!
I have played COD in fact every COD right up to MW2 and I swore never to waste money on a game that did not deserve my hard earned money. I’ve seen the trailers for MW3 and I am thoroughly underwhelmed and not impressed the clear fact that they actually look like cartoons or games?? with over elaborate unrealistic stories, it just seemed very weak!

I have no doubt that MW3 will sell millions…most likely to people looking for a quick shoot fix, run around like an idiot don’t employ tactics, in fact don’t shoot and you’ll find you’re at the end of the campaign! but if you want a really great FPS a multiplayer that will keep you awake for many many nights, then I think BF3 is the winner by a million. The fact that some critics are actually comparing BF3 and MW3 proves to me they aren’t gamers! just journalist writing about an industry they just happen to be in. We shouldn’t be comparing these games, its like comparing a ford fiesta to a Ferrari! lets stop this debate people will always drive fiestas but you just have to see a Ferrari to want to own one! BF3 has just become the gaming world’s Ferrari! but affordable


On October 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm

The main reason i’ll be buying bf3 instead of mw3 is I won’t have to buy the next bf the same time next year to stay up to date.


On October 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm

This comparison article is a joke


On November 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm

i have played many fps in my day along with bf series. team play is awesome thing to add to a game, but the amount of focus and quickness and response time needed in mw series is insane. both have things i like, depending on which i feel like playing that night i may choose one over the other. from my experience i have been choosing mw series because it is a quick in and out of game play. i dont find my self having entire days with nothing to do like some gamers. i might get 30 min- 1 hour to play or maybe 15 mins. i can jump into mw have some fun and then go about my business. also it is completely frustrating having to run for 5 mins on a map to get to a vehicle or another point of interest. i know bf has fixed this for the most part now, but from my interest like previously stated i like to get in and out. i dont want to have to wait to get some action. im not knocking bf series i think its great along with other previous team orientated first person shooters like wolfenstein ( which i believe all other team fps stoll their ideas from ). bottom line is i think it depends on what the person wants out of a game to say which is better, if you have a lot more time on your hands and you like team play, definetly bf, if you want in your face action mw.


On February 2, 2012 at 6:27 am

I totally 100% support vinny’s statement. What defines a game is the gamer. Frankly, I rarely ever play CoD, and even then, I only play CoD4, but whenever I play it, it’s because it’s what my friends like to play. It’s great for when time is running short and you can only play a couple of rounds. I find myself in that situation a lot. When I do have time to take a break, that’s when I play the more team-oriented games (BF).
My point in this comment:
Stop arguing over which one is better and just play. You waste your time.


On March 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm

COD: 4 ppl who jsut wanna run around and play a quick game BF3: takes time, for people who wanna play strategic games.
so both have their own aspects.


On June 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

BF3 for me takes the cake. The option of all of the vehicles is incredible and really opens up the battle’s scope and realism.