We revisit the great ‘Call Of Duty’ versus ‘Battlefield’ showdown of 2011


Heading into the winter of 2011, all eyes were on the showdown between ‘Battlefield 3’ and ‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’.

2011 was a bumper year for gaming, with the likes of ‘Batman: Arkham City’, ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, ‘Portal 2’, ‘Gears Of War 3’, ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘Skyrim’ all hitting shelves, but the clash of the FPS titans dominated most of the media coverage this time 10 years ago.

Like any good media campaign, the war was fought on many fronts.

‘Call Of Duty’ had the advantage as it were, heading into the showdown full of confidence coming off the back of the era-defining FPS ‘Black Ops’ and with MW3 serving as a direct sequel to ‘Modern Warfare 2’.

‘Modern Warfare 2’ was a cultural sensation, and to this day is mentioned in the same breath as ‘Halo 3’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ whenever games of the 2000’s are invoked.

The ending of 2’s single-player campaign was a cliffhanger, and fans had to wait 2 years to find out what happened next.

That built-in audience and captive interest in how the single-player interest was going to unfold was a major advantage for ‘Modern Warfare 3’ heading into the autumn showdown.

For all their qualities, the ‘Battlefield’ games were no Billy Wilder film when it came to scripting.

‘Battlefield’, despite the financial backing of the mighty EA, was the underdog heading into the bout, but was ready to play; the game boasted a brand new Frostbite engine, an exhaustive multiplayer suite and a marketing blitz to boot.

To that end, it is estimated that EA spent over $100 million dollars on the marketing campaign alone.

If ‘Call Of Duty’ was going to win the battle to be the game under the tree on Christmas morning, it wasn’t going to have an easy time of it.

In hindsight, it is strange seeing two big FPS games with lavish marketing budgets advertise the single-player element when the multiplayer was the bread and butter of these experiences, but from a marketing standpoint, it was probably a lot easier to take pre-existing assets from the scripted single-player campaign than the unscripted chaos of multiplayer.

The voice cast for ‘Modern Warfare 3’ was fairly solid, with names like Idris Elba, William Fichtner (that guy from ‘Prison Break’ and the guy from ‘Armageddon’ who delivers the ‘space dementia’ line) and Timothy Olyphant lending their voices to the campaign,

‘Battlefield 3’ who had solid video game talent like Gideon Emery and Travis Wittingham involved, but the campaign itself was a poor man’s ‘Call Of Duty’ from the interrogation plot framing device to the ‘shocking’ headline-grabbing moment of Paris being nuked in an attempt to capture some of that sweet media outrage that ‘Modern Warfare 2’ received with it’s ‘No Russian’ set-piece.

‘Battlefield 3’, has a single-player campaign that is as worth committing to memory as the lyrics of an S Club 7 song, and the main hook of trying to find a missing nuclear bomb is a cliche as old as video games themselves.

Cliches themselves are not inherently bad things so long as you do something interesting or new with them, but ‘Battlefield 3′ is basically a run-of-the-mill episode of ’24’.


‘Battlefield 3’ and it’s depiction of Paris

‘Modern Warfare 3’ and its single-player campaign went for Hollywood bombast and spectacle, with a plot centring around Russia launching an invasion of Europe – yes, all of it.

Logistics aside (only unpleasable game critics pick about a game’s plot for realism) it does set the scene fairly well for players – Russia has invaded Europe, a place people know and live in, go get it back.

The shocking tabloid headline-grabbing moment involves a shootout on the London Underground to prevent a bombing, which invoked memories of the 7/7 terror attacks to some British media outlets.

In the first ‘Modern Warfare’ game, the player is memorably cooked alive in a nuclear blast and you play as a soldier in their dying moments, ‘Modern Warfare 2’ has it’s infamous Russian airport massacre sequence which the player can take part in, and the best ‘Modern Warfare 3’ could muster up is killing a child on-screen in a bombing.

By that stage, it seems that the developers were in their own minds just seeing what they could get away with, but frankly, no one raised a fuss.


The final level of ‘Modern Warfare 3’ saw players fight a private army in Dubai

The multiplayer mode is the lifeblood of any good FPS, and both games had memorable offerings.

‘Battlefield 3’ and its great novelty was destructible environments, and the Frostbite engine did a great job of serving up some dynamic environments such as that one map that had a massive radio mast that was collapsable and changed the complexion of the map.

The one area where ‘Battlefield 3’ had the advantage over ‘Modern Warfare 3’ was the vehicles.

While both campaigns had on-rails sequences in fighter jets or attack helicopters that were basically ‘press X to continue the plot’ functions, ‘Battlefield’ let players hop into the cockpit of a fighter jet and let players live out their ‘Top Gun’ fantasies.’

‘Battlefield 3’ also encouraged teamwork a lot more than ‘Modern Warfare 3’ ever did, and also had a higher player count to boot.

However, when you’re discussing first-person shooters of the 2010’s, the ‘Modern Warfare’ games set the template to follow.

It had the ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ philosophy of game design off to a fine art, and the addition of the perks system helped establish a more arcade feel.

Both games play fundamentally different, with ‘Battlefield’ taking the more realistic approach and ‘Modern Warfare’ serving as the more fast-paced ‘Rambo’ alternative.

Movement in the ‘Battlefield’ games still to this day feel that bit more restrained and slow-paced in comparison to ‘Call Of Duty’ and its fast-paced nature, which ultimately boils the two games down to a matter of personal preference.

‘Battlefield 3’ was released in late October 2011 to positive reviews and a strong first week of sales (5 million copies, to be precise) but ‘Modern Warfare 3′ ended up breaking its own series’ lofty expectations.

‘Modern Warfare 3’ was at the time the biggest entertainment launch in recorded history, with first-day sales alone of well over 6 million.

From a pure numerical and financial standpoint, ‘Modern Warfare 3’ won the great FPS showdown of 2011, and judging the games as a whole 10 years after the fact, it has lingered culturally, too.





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