As a loyal Call of Duty player for the best part of a decade, I “defected” and joined the roster for Battlefield 3 on the PS3 over the weekend.
The boom in WW2 genre gaming started with EA’s Medal of Honor in 1999. I remember scouring under every sofa cushion for every £1 I could find, and signing up for a every household chore going to accumulate the £30 or so for the PlayStation 1 game. With a great variety of weapons and locations and advanced enemy AI for its time, this was GoldenEye for the PS1 generation.
After a few years of MoH’s reign, in 2003 Call of Duty snuck in for the PC to take the series down a peg or two. It was the first time that I experienced multiplayer away from sharing the screen with 3 other players, and being able to sneak a glance at their location. Being on one screen with your enemy’s location unknown really made the experience quite intense, as you were listening for footsteps, reloads or distant gunfire. If MoH defined the single player gameplay, CoD created the rule book for future multiplayer elements.
During the sequel years for these quibbling brothers, distant relative was also in the mix. In 2002, Swedish developer Digital Illusions CE gave birth to Battlefield 1942 which carved its own little niche in the market. It saw the dynamic opportunities multiplayer gaming has to offer as opposed to the “on rails” elements of single player. It created larger maps combined with a capture the flag game mode, and introduced vehicles. Now you could choose your method of attack rather than choosing your weapon.
So, where to next after victory for the allies in 1945?
“Get Back into the Battle, Soldier”
So, back to the present day. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was, and still is, the best military first-person shooter I have played. The engine was solid (no guns poking through walls or objects), outstanding graphics, adrenaline-fuelled set pieces and an insanely addictive multiplayer. Technically, it was perfect. The variety of maps and game modes, ease of jumping into a game within 2 mins of booting up your console and rank progressions really changed the way popular culture views online gaming. It brought it to the masses. CoD launches became a media event with celebrity endorsements. In my opinion, rivals have tried to imitate this but have come nowhere close to touching the bar, with the slight exception of Battlefield 3 (BF3). With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 riding in on the huge success of Black Ops and smashing every sales record in the book, the annual franchise has ultimately reached a saturation point.
BF3’s marketing took the CoD machine head-on aiming to pierce its “adamantium” exterior. Graphically, the Frostbite 2 engine looks spectacular with realistic lighting effects. The trailers were really gripping and conveyed that Battlefield 3 was a grittier and more realistic game than its big-budget counterpart. BF3’s multiplayer does exactly that, and next to the Frostbite 2 engine the game’s sound stands miles above the competition. During a conquest (basically, capture the flag) game on the Seine Crossing, an RPG whizzed past my ear and blew a hole in the wall of a street café. This was on a 2.1 surround speaker set up and I lept off of my sofa, imagine what that would sound like with 5.1 as the game has been mixed in! Even creeping up to a sniper post on top of a building, walking past a certain point I could hear the water pipe draining out. That’s the attention to detail that has been paid to this game.
The larger maps and vehicles also provide multiple ways of achieving your objectives, other than the run and gun tactics of MW3. It also promotes teamwork and is somewhat more rewarding. “Camping” in CoD will either get you kicked or bad mouthed, but in BF3 it is sometimes essential in defending an objective while other members of your team head on to the next one. Every player can serve a greater purpose, and it’s more about the points accumulated rather than your kill/death ratio. Destructable environments are fun too; whilst upon a high vantage point I needed to clear my line of sight to the objective which was blocked by a tree. A quick grenade later, that tree was gone! As for the single player, it feels like a totally different game. Set pieces aim high but can fall short when it relies on a quick time event which is used too liberally for my liking.
BF3’s engine isn’t as solid as CoD’s, but it is a refreshing take on the military FPS multiplayer. In an ideal utilitarian world, there would be a game with the single player campaign of Call of Duty and the multiplayer scale of Battlefield 3. Modern Warfare 3 was panned by some fans for being more like an expansion pack than a true sequel, lets hope Infinity Ward listen and take some notes.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Single Player)
Battlefield 3 (Single Player)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Multiplayer)
Battlefield 3 (Multiplayer)