Battlefield 3 is a much more expansive, tactical game than Modern Warfare 3. That’s not to say MW3 lacks a wide selection of game modes, and in fact has far more variety.
Battlefield 3 carries on the tradition of massive and authentic battles. The basic game modes from the original games are still the best: Conquest (where you capture and hold flags scattered all over the map) and Rush (where you either attack or defend two bases, and move on to the next until you finish the map or run out of respawns). BF3 brings back the basic team deathmatch mode that everyone will remember from the beginning of time, but it is not a major selling point here. Fortunately, the deathmatch games take place on smaller maps, but the action is still not as fast and furious as MW3.
Long-time Call of Duty fans will find two new game modes in MW3. One is a variation of team deathmatch called Kill Confirmed, and it is arguably the most frenetic mode on offer. Not only do you need to take out enemies, but you need to grab their dog tags as well. Skip that step and you do not get the points for your team, which is how you win the round. And, by the way, you get rewarded for recapturing your own dropped tags.
Overall, MW3 does use large open maps and provides a ton of game modes, but the maps are not nearly as massive as the ones in Battlefield 3. Whether you prefer the mayhem of close combat in MW3 or the more widespread tactical approach of BF3 is a matter of personal taste. In the end, we picked the Kill Confirmed mode as an overall winner for game mode comparisons.
Winner: Modern Warfare 3
Weapons and vehicles
There’s a satisfying punch to most of the weapons in both games. We’re big fans of military shooters because we know these weapons exist in the real world. Both games feature weapons from all over the world, including some that are cutting-edge prototypes. As with the previous games, unlocking more weapons in both games means getting a chance to try out more real-world assault rifles, pistols, grenades, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles.
Both games also provide a healthy balance between weapons. You can’t just go around shooting a BFG at everyone like you could in the early days, because the heavier artillery is harder to transport, much less accurate, and they take longer to load and shoot. There isn’t such a major difference between BF3 and MW3 that one game seems more balanced than the other when it comes to weapons, melee combat, and explosives, although the comparatively smaller maps in MW3 sometimes makes it easier to see the differences with some weapons (as well as making submachine guns more practical).
Both games spent a great deal of time fine tuning the guns to give them a semblance of reality. In MW3, you will typically have smaller areas to battle it out, which means you can immediately judge the accuracy and rate of fire for each gun. The larger maps of BF3 mean that you may see an enemy long before you are close enough to do much damage (not counting a sniper rifle), so the accuracy and range take on a different meaning. In terms of reality, the guns from both games are probably close, but each game utilizes them differently.
Of course, Battlefield 3 has a much greater emphasis on vehicles. MW3 doesn’t avoid vehicles altogether, but you will pilot an airplane or shoot as a gunner less frequently, and only via killstreaks. MW3 is mostly a singular-soldier game, whereas Battlefield 3 emphasizes planes, tanks, helicopters, and four-wheeled transports for multiple gamers to all use.
Once again, this difference is a matter of taste. Most of my sessions in BF3 involved long battles over huge maps that required a fair amount of time to get to the action on (unless you could snag a vehicle), while most of the battles in MW3 started out by getting shot in the head almost immediately before I could even look around. I’m calling this one a tie: some will prefer the close combat, some will prefer vehicles, and both have merit.
Graphics and sound
We played both games on the same Sony BRAVIA KDL55HX800 55-inch 3D display with an Aperion Intimus five-speaker wireless surround sound system. The display and sounds provided a deep sense of immersion into both game worlds.
The truth is, MW3 uses roughly the same graphics engine as MW2, although some online comparisons show that there are subtle differences – mostly, that MW2 looks a bit more washed out. Both, however, continue to push 60 fps, which is remarkable.
Everything in MW3 looks amazingly detailed – water pipes glisten in the sun, helicopters rage over the battlefield, and soldiers look more detailed than any previous Call of Duty game, although the difference isn’t jaw dropping by any means. As for audio, the surround sound is brilliant: bullets whiz by as shell casings clunk to the ground. Explosions are thunderous but not quite as ear-splitting as those in Battlefield 3. There’s an immersive sense in the visuals and audio that you are in the middle of a hectic battle. Unlike BF3, there are few points in the multiplayer when you sit back and just soak in the atmosphere. When you do that, you quickly go rag doll.
As much as we like MW3 graphics and sound, Battlefield 3 uses the brand new Frostbite 2.0 game engine that is better in every way possible. BF3 obliterates MW3 in terms of finer visual touches like dust and grime that flies in front of your field of view, smoke effects (both at close range and off in the distance), buildings that look ultra-realistic, and tanks that lumber along like the real thing. The Frostbite 2.0 engine also allows for destructible environments, including both cover and buildings, something that is sorely lacking in MW3.
The Dolby Digital audio is astounding – on the Aperion surround system, the floor seemed to shake several times from the explosions – and I was in a basement with a concrete floor. Bullets zip from one end of the room to the other, and even subtle effects like the hum of an engine sound authentic. For those who prefer games that are artistic and immersive, Battlefield 3 is one of the best ever on consoles, and on PC it is a work of art.
Winner: Battlefield 3
Those who have kept tab of the scoring so far will note that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 wins by a nose. The game has a more frantic feel with better gameplay options. The biggest knock on MW3 is that it lacks significant innovation from previous games. But if you aren’t already a fan of either series, and are looking at it objectively, the Call of Duty game style has more to offer.
Killstreaks keep you hooked to the action because you want to keep trying to outdo your last effort. Badges and other unlockables seem to make the multiplayer that much more entertaining. Yes, Battlefield 3 is the better game in terms of visual realism and sound, but MW3 is the one that made me want to keep playing.