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Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

Jonathan Lester
Activision, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, DICE, EA, FPS games, Infinity Ward, multiplayer
Battlefield 3 | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

As Stan said to Stella: we've had this date from the beginning. Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are both extremely capable shooters that stand tall on their own merits, but by actively seeking competition through their vicious advertising campaigns and releasing so close together, EA and Activision have brought this battle on themselves. Turning boring consumerism into an exciting war between franchises and fanbases is one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book, and the two publishers have been playing their roles brilliantly.

But we're all about the games, not the franchises. It can be very difficult to choose between them, so much like we did for FIFA and PES 2012, we've put together a buyer's guide. The point of this article isn't to pick an overall winner, rather, it's compare each aspect of the two titles so you can work out which game is right for you. Well, okay, we're not above a little friendly competition...

Before we start, here's the state of play.


Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

DICE clearly didn't put much effort into their singleplayer campaign. It's hyper-linear, frequently aggravating, dry and incredibly derivative; never giving Frostbite 2.0 an opportunity to strut its stuff to any great degree. After all of those misleading trailers, it's no wonder that we're so disappointed. In comparison, however, Modern Warfare 3's campaign is also hyper-linear, frequently aggravating and incredibly derivative... but is delivered with such breathless pace, astounding set pieces and raucous fun factor that you simply won't care.

This is arguably a hollow victory. Infinity Ward consistently retreat back to the snug safety of their comfort zone (why, oh why, is the AC-130 back again?), and the set pieces don't quite match some of Black Ops' most cinematic moments, but what completely tips the balance is the fact that the Spec Ops and Survival missions can also be played solo.

Winner: Modern Warfare 3

Cooperative Modes

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

Another victory for the old guard. Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops suite is actually one of the highlights of the entire package, featuring a selection of 'what-if?' missions that show us different (and occasionally hilarious) alternate perspectives on the action. On top of that, the new Survival mode is probably the best cooperative experience of the franchise so far. The fact that you constantly and persistently rank up to unlock new gear with each kill means that you and a wingman will be sorted for a fair few days, if not the coming weeks.

Of course, I need to mention that Battlefield 3's Conquest mode requires you to cooperative effectively to win. It's almost like a co-op mode. Except it isn't. Instead, DICE provided a miserable clutch of painfully uninspired levels that aren't worth your time and effort.

Winner: Modern Warfare 3


Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

This isn't a competition. It's a slaughter. Infinity Ward's engine puts up a brave fight with its smooth animations and 60 frames per second, but the monstrous power of Frostbite 2.0 blows it out of the water in every conceivable way. From luscious textures and ANT-driven animations to the visceral environmental destruction, Battlefield 3 rightfully claims its crown as one of the best looking games of this generation, let alone this debate.

Be sure to install that texture pack, though, or play it on the PC. Yeah. I'd go for the latter option.

Winner: Battlefield 3

Competitive Multiplayer

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare's multiplayer founded a dynasty and arguably defined the last four years of FPS games. It's incredibly dynamic, fast and fluid; polished to an incredible degree and featuring astoundingly addictive customisation options. Modern Warfare 3 delivers more of the same, and the same is brilliant. The new perks, Strike Packages and Weapon Proficiencies add extra flavour and better balance.

But while Modern Warfare 3 dwells on polishing past triumphs, Battlefield 3's multiplayer is a truly next generation experience. The vehicular combat and rampant destruction feels like the future of what FPS games could, nay, what they should offer from now on. Comparing and choosing between the two is therefore a seriously difficult affair, and luckily, the ultimate judgement comes down to your gaming platform of choice.

Winner: Read on...

PC Multiplayer

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

64-player Conquest is, quite honestly, the way forward. As enormous teams cooperate, surge forward and desperately defend, jets screaming overhead, your expectations of what FPS multiplayer ought to be doing becomes irrevocably that much higher. Coupled with great graphics, the ability to pick your servers and Battlelog in-browser access, it's a dead cert. The lack of ranked dedicated servers for Modern Warfare 3 does it few favours.

It's not just the enhanced gametypes and graphics that work so well on the PC. Carl was spot-on when he stated that Battlefield 3 is a "slower" and more methodical affair than its schizophrenically insane counterpart, which lends itself perfectly to a mouse and keyboard for that extra tactical precision when you need it most. Whether you're lining up the perfect headshot or hurtling through the wild blue yonder, accept no substitute for a decent rig. So if you've got a decent rig, accept no substitute for Battlefield 3.

Winner: Battlefield 3

Console Multiplayer

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

There's a good reason why Call Of Duty has such a close association with home consoles (the Xbox 360 in particular, since Activision treated PS3 owners rather shabbily in the past with some horrendously optimised ports). Everything from the blisteringly quick servers, streamlined matchmaking and connection speeds - which allowed me to go from the main menu to my first kill in one minute thirty seconds - is perfectly suited to the instant gratification we like from console ownership... and that isn't even discussing the nature of the gameplay itself. Modern Warfare 3 is instantly accessible, outrageously slick, visceral and exceptionally fast-paced, providing a nigh-perfect console multiplayer suite.

Again, Battlefield 3 certainly deserves some credit here. Matt pointed out in his review that Conquest is still one of the finest things to play on console, even with its reduced numbers, and that the emphasis on co-operative play is very welcome indeed. But when we're sprawled in front of our tellies after a hard day of... sprawling in front of our monitors...  it's all about the Killstreaks and quickscopes.

Winner: Modern Warfare 3

Stat Tracking

Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

We reckon that BattleLog is pretty good, to be honest. It sits there in your browser and acts like a social network on top of a way to browse servers, but there's certainly a lot of room for improvement as far as convenience is concerned.

Call Of Duty Elite, on the other hand, is a mixed bag in the very early stages. The in-depth statistics, player tracking and heatmaps are an excellent idea in theory, but there's still no sign of the PC version. On top of that, the console scene throngs with error reports as the service heaves under the massive influx of new subscribers. It's probably unfair to directly compare the two... though there's definitely a case to be made that they're both as bad as each other.

Winner: Draw


Buyer's Guide | Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3

On the one hand, value is impossibly difficult to quantify. Especially in this case since both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 offer multiplayer suites that could, without hyperbole, probably last forever.

But in terms of raw on-disc content, which is undeniably important in these leanest of times, the judgement is very easy to make. By bolstering its multiplayer with solid singleplayer shenanigans and a fantastic cooperative suite, Modern Warfare 3 is definitely the meatier option and one that caters for a broader crowd. As we said in the review, it's a complete package.

On top of that, there's no online pass. No confirmed DLC scheduled to hit a month after launch and dangled in front of us at every opportunity. We like that a lot.

Winner: Modern Warfare 3

The Verdict

Despite their overt similarities, Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are two very different games. One is a benchmark-setting vision of the future of multiplayer, whereas the other is an inclusive complete package that caters for everyone but doesn't push the envelope in any way. The choice is yours, but if multiplayer is your arena and the PC is your weapon of choice, Battlefield 3 might well be the better option. Otherwise, Modern Warfare 3 is here to take care of business for the more holistic gamer.

As far as the future is concerned, we can see EA's next Battlefield game being the true pivot point, the turn of the tide against the status quo. But for now, it's damn close... and it's up to you.

Add a comment 1 comment
Lemming  Nov. 11, 2011 at 08:03

Bf3 is the obvious winner on the PC but I'm still convinced it's the better product on the consoles too even if it is limited by the current gen hardware. MW3 has a very stylised single player full of stunning set pieces but is ultimately hollow. BF3 feels like war should feel.. it's chaotic, confusing and oppressive. It avoids the shock tactics call of duty uses and steers away from the big "white house burning" or "eiffel tower exploding" set pieces that COD insists on throwing in every 5 min (except for the terrible final level on bf3 set in times square.. groan!).

As for multiplayer I think bf3 mops the floor on the xbox and ps3. COD has tiny maps that get real boring real quick. BF3 I can play the same map many different ways by spending a game fighting in the jets today, maybe playing infantry only or rush tomorrow and then camping a distant hill as a sniper the next. COD just does not have that variety and it's always just run and gun.

As for the point on stats and DLC I see call of duty elite as the worst cash in ever seen.. around the same as a years xbox subs for the premium. The DLC while not on the radar is sure to be significant, expecting at least 3 or 4 packs coming in at 1200 microsoft points each. At least bf3 threw in the DLC for limited edition buyers (which i suspect most tried to buy) although I agree the online pass is lame.

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