Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Reviewed, BF3 Compared

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Both are gorgeous blockbuster titles—but if you had to pick one, which should it be? Our answers may surprise you.

Single Player:
When it comes to their storytelling aspirations, the folks at DICE clearly intended to deliver a five course steak dinner compared to Infinity Ward's McDonald's combo meal. Unfortunately for all concerned, EA's poor scripting and practical implementation undercut its aspirations. It's like arriving at a five star restaurant, only to be informed you'll have to wear a wetsuit three sizes too small and dine under the vulpine gaze of a lascivious Alan Greenspan.

You know the cooks worked hard and the food is delicious, but the wetsuit chafes badly and Alan is wiping at his mouth while murmuring something about "irrational exuberance" in a thick voice. Then you notice he's only got one hand on the table...and you just can't take it any more.

Multiplayer distances don't get much larger than what you can see above

Infinity Ward serves up a plot so thin it couldn't keep an Ethiopian stripper decently covered, but it does so at a pace Michael Bay might envy. Is it "good?" No. We've seen Saturday morning cartoons with fewer plot holes and better character development. Is it fun?  Definitely. It's too short to anchor the game as a must-have purchase, but it's still fun while it lasts.

Winner: Modern Warfare 3

Graphics and Audio:

No, the MW3 engine isn't quite as good as BF3's, but you'll never notice in the single-player campaign

Modern Warfare 3 has the dubious honor of launching less than a month after Battlefield 3 was lauded for its next-generation graphics and great positional audio. MW3's single-player campaign is gorgeously cinematic in places and the multiplayer maps are impressively detailed. Explosions, smoke effects, and audio cues are all well done. It's beautiful in its own right, period.

Battlefield 3 is better.

Even the smaller BF3 maps offer far more open space to play in

It's not just that the Frostbite 2 engine can handle maps that apparently dwarf anything Infinity Ward could produce, it's the space between buildings, the availability (and usefulness) of ground cover, and destroyable terrain. Both games have indestructable objects, but MW3's world is considerably more static. This has a practical impact on gameplay. Both games offer the option of going prone, but it's easier to hide in BF3 (this is partly due to the general availability of ground vegetation). Because buildings sustain damage and can even collapse, the same map may play differently from one game to the next. Both games offer positional audio, but it's easier to hear where shots (and footsteps) are coming from in BF3 than in Modern Warfare 3.

Ultimately we prefer the Frostbite 2 engine—but more because it allows for a much wider range of maps and play styles. The graphics in MW3 may not match Battlefield 3's, but they're pretty darn good in their own right. The limitations on map size and design are more frustrating.

Winner:  Battlefield 3

This question mostly comes down to personal preference. MW3 offers customization options and perks that BF3 doesn't, including earning the ability to call down air strikes or take a stint as a gunner on an AC-130. There's much less of an emphasis on teamwork; players can earn points for tossing down a stack of ballistic vests, but support activities play a much smaller role.

The smaller maps and simplified gameplay make MW3 potentially better for a quick game session, while BF3's vehicle options, greater number of players, and emphasis on teamwork require a bit more of a time commitment. They're different games, with different goals, and while MW3 has it's strong points...Battlefield 3 is better.

The "simple gameplay" argument would only put Modern Warfare 3 on equal footing with DICE if BF3 was impossible to pick up for a 20 minute session. It isn't. BF3 might require a tad more brain power and a bit of strategic thinking, but it's a first person shooter, not first person chess. MW3 offers more maps and more game types, but they all end up feeling like the same map (and, with few exceptions, the same game).

Winner Battlefield 3.

Best Overall:  Battlefield 3

In 25 years of gaming, this is literally the first time I've ever proclaimed that a multiplayer game with a single-person boat anchor was superior to a title with solid (if uninspiring) offerings in both categories. MW3 wins points for a fun single player campaign, but serving up the same experience five years running isn't an impressive use of development time, no matter how much money it makes the game's publisher.

With over six million copies sold thus far, MW3 is already a massive success--but if you've only got money for one, we'd recommend Battlefield 3. Alternatively, we'd recommend waiting a few weeks, and picking up BF3 once the price comes down + an old Call of Duty for the combined price of $59.99.

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OptimusPrimeTime 3 years ago

"Good rundown, great comparison, bad jokes, r0FL. Overall solid. I have not had the time to play any of them, so I can't give a proper comparison of my own. Blacks Ops was a great experience and I will pick up MW3 at some point. as well as BF3"

"@Joel, out of curiosity, what keyboard and mouse do you use, and for your sound analysis, speakers or headsets and what brand?"

Joel H 3 years ago


I use a Razor Tarantula that I bought because it suited me very well for typing and a Logitech G90 mouse. I've also used (and very much liked) the cheaper G90. I can't really recommend either purchase as reason to improve your game, because I'm terrible at both games with both peripherals. ;)

For my sound analysis I'm using a simple pair of Razer Moray earbuds. Very good response on them, but I was surprised at how effectively BF3 models sound on a stereo headphone jack. MW3 isn't bad by any means, but the positional audio isn't as exact. It makes a difference.

OptimusPrimeTime 3 years ago

"Thank you. For all my all purpose needs in music, movies and gaming, without bothering my neighbors, I will probably buy the Psyko Carbon that I've read about in Marco's blog , the Razor tarantula looks cool, but the I'm still inclined to the Merc Stealth. Thanks for your reply."

Joel H 3 years ago

The Tarantula is *old.*  2-3 years at least. They've got much newer swag out these days.

ThunderBird 3 years ago

'Infinity Ward serves up a plot so thin it couldn't keep an Ethiopian stripper decently covered'........Classic!!!!

I reinstalled COD MW3 the other day and it feels like a "run and gun" game now after playing BFBC 2. I like a team based game where thinking and strategy is involved.

Thanks for the review of both games.

AKwyn 3 years ago

That review confirmed everything that that we all thought from the beginning. Battlefield 3 is better...

Call of Duty hasn't been the same since the two founders from Infinity Ward left... Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 looked good but I was willing to only play it's single player and buy Call of Duty Modern Warfare for it's multiplayer... I mean Infinity Ward's decision was a bad one when it came to the PC... I mean no custom servers, what were they thinking?

While this game does have custom servers and does have the Infinity Ward "name". It just isn't the same... Without those two people without the helm. Modern Warfare 3 was destined to suck, though it's single player campaign sure does look fun. I mean it sucks that the two creators had to get into a fight with Activision and get themselves fired but they're at EA and they're probably doing something good over there...

I'm not going to talk about Battlefield 3 seeing as how there's a lot of praise and what I said is somewhere in this forum but I am going to say that if those two win the lawsuit, they should halt any further Modern Warfare games because Infinity Ward (and most of the Call of Duty games) are not the same without them at all.

Inspector 3 years ago

BF3 FTW, many of my friends got both and are saying blackops was better... I didn't even bother to get MW3, BF3 all day!

lipe123 3 years ago

MW3 is a no brainer, its mw2.5 and its not worth a penny more than a 15$ DLC.

BF3, I bought and played a few days and stopped. The game is pretty and mostly fun but the teamwork is terrible and there are tons of bugs and obvious ommisions in needed content. It's just really hard to have a round where at the end of it you feel "happy" regardless of win/lose.

So much spawnkilling due to bad spawn on sqaudmate options that place you in the largest open area with the most enemies looking stright at you. Team/squad mates don't play together at all and it feels like everyone is going for a different objective.

In Diablo 3 we trust! (black ops until then)

AKwyn 3 years ago

[quote user="lipe123"]So much spawnkilling due to bad spawn on sqaudmate options that place you in the largest open area with the most enemies looking stright at you. Team/squad mates don't play together at all and it feels like everyone is going for a different objective.[/quote]

Obviously, this is common within all games involving teamwork, not just Battlefield 3. Black Ops I can mostly understand (due to the shoot-and-run style gameplay of it) but if you want a team experience then you might want to join a clan...

Otherwise, try to stick with a person as much as possible and remember... You are a spawnpoint, they may be forced to spawn on you and take a different strategy...

Also the anger is mainly because of people taking cheap shots using a rocket launcher, grenade launcher or anything else when a gun would be perfectly fine... I mean come on, your close enough to a person and all you can do is shoot a rocket at them? That's telling me they're either too inexperienced or can't be bothered to use much else...

SmogHog 3 years ago

For me the best part of MW2 and MW3 is the Special Ops.

All the annoying video in Black Ops killed the game from being great..

The single player campaign in BF3 has some very fun gameplay but there's alot of things that don't belong in a FPS. and some quirky gameplay.

MW3 on the hardest setting is great fun in my estimation.

BF3 is best for the on-line gamers.The campain is short and not worth the money.

I wish a future game comes along where the developer actually gets how grenades really work and they don't bounce like basketballs or can be thrown the length of a football field..I've thrown a few.

Make the games hard to win but don't make them stupid in doing so..

omegadraco 3 years ago

Going to have to wait until the prices drop on both of these games. I would like to play both of them but especially with this nice review it is not worth my money. Hopefully I will be able to get them for like $30 bux in a year or so and by then will have a machine that can actually run them decently.

rapid1 3 years ago

Skyrim "3.4 million sales in two days" MW3 was like 6 Million I think BF3 has lost double to MW3 and is about even with Skyrim how is it going to be a best of 2011!

Joel H 3 years ago

'Best" doesn't mean "highest sales." And 3 million plus sales is still huge.

rapid1 3 years ago

Off to play SWTOR Beta :p

gazd1 3 years ago

Good to see this review! Good to keep informed!Yes

ZSattar 3 years ago

Very good review. I own both games, BF3 is much much better in terms of gameplay, sound effects, graphics etc. 

Problem with Cod is they are using a old engine, they need a new one. 

detnight 3 years ago

I have played all of the CoD ,modern warfare , and battle field games and have yet to finish a single player game yet. I buy them to play online with. My son and son-in-law play the single person games and they perfer the MW games. I like the BF2 and my new favorite BF3 because I like the larger maps and I like to blow up things. But I will still buy all of the games in the CoD, MW and BF for the PC ONLY. Games have come along way since Quake, Doom and Delta Force all played on dial up.

Samar 3 years ago

Nice Comparitive analysis.

cowboyspace 2 years ago

I love MW3 for me This is the best FPS,the mission are just impressive and not to mention the well detailed graphics.

im9drums 2 years ago

I love all the games in the call of duty series. the online multiplayer are great. especially if you know alot of people you are playing with.

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