Modern Warfare 3 vs. Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be the biggest rivalry in gaming for 2011. Activision and Electronic Arts have been firing choice words at each other for the months leading up to E3, and finally had their day to square off with their E3 2011 booths just a stone’s throw away from one another. Rumor has it that EA even turned down Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick from even seeing their upcoming shooter.
Both games were behind closed doors to the public, but press had a chance to examine one of Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer modes, as well as a look at some campaign gameplay. Over at the Battlefield camp, DICE offered a brief demonstration to the press which highlighted most of the features that we already knew about, as well as a jaunt through the multiplayer component.
We had the chance to play both games on the last day of E3, back to back.
The behind closed doors access at the Activision booth gave you access to the two single player demo reels. The first, which was the underwater scene from the Microsoft press conference, which was better than I remembered it, if just for the simple fact that it was shown in a home theater type set-up, in an environment that much more resembled my gaming area than I had previously seen the demo reels before. Once reel one was complete, they moved onto demo footage of the SAS. The group of British Operatives started their mission moving in an almost Rainbow Six fashion, before the shit hit the fan, and fully automatic weapons needed to be brandished. The reel progressed into what unfolded as the subway chase scene, which although the premise is fairly common place now, there was definitely a level of intensity that is rarely matched in games that try to do similar instances. The terrorists, who were shooting RPG’s out the back of the train, while the driver was both swerving to avoid the explosives, and navigate the dark tunnel, looked like something that would definitely be fun to play. You could tell that once again, Modern Warfare 3 is going to have a high octane campaign that the franchise is known for.
After the demo’s were over, we were ushered into the next room, here 12 or so monitors awaited us to try out the new Spec Ops survival mode. Each press member was paired with an Activision employee who walked us through the demo of the mode. If you’ve ever played the Special Ops mode from Modern Warfare 2, you’d be somewhat familiar with what we played. The premise is fairly simple, kill enemies and progress from round to round, as the enemies get increasingly difficult. You’ll start out killing standard soldiers, but soon see a wide array of baddies that got very hard, very quick, in the mode. What I saw were Juggernauts, Soldiers, Dogs, Riot Shields, Attack Choppers, and also enemies that detonated after you killed them. To deal with the ever increasing threat, there is a money system, as you kill things in the game you earn points. Those points can be spent on a number of different weapons, munitions, special items, even things that would be reserved for killstreaks in the standard multiplayer. One of the perks that we used was a reserve unit. So in addition to myself and my counterpart, we also got four computer controlled soldiers to help fortify our position.
All in all, I was impressed with both offerings that Activision had on display at the show. Running on the Xbox 360, the game looked incredible in the single player portion. While the Spec Ops mode, which also was being shown on the Xbox 360 has a little less graphical flair, but made up for it in fun.
After the time spent with Activision, I moved to the EA camp where the publisher had a huge presence at the show, with Battlefield being their crown jewel and most prominent piece at their display. Showing on multiple monitors throughout the inside and outside of the booth, were the Fault Line Trailers, which showed off what I had already seen quite a few times as they had already been trickled out by the company months ago. EA was doing things a little bit differently than Activision. At their booth, they were allowing both press and convention goers the opportunity to the get hands on with the PC version of Battlefield 3’s multiplayer, offering a chance to play Rush mode.
In the closed door session, DICE explained the game, but anyone who was familiar with Battlefield or had read or heard any of the already announced features were very much aware of what the developer had to boast about in their almost 15 minute pre-presentation of the game. It was reiterated that Battlefield 3 was built on the Frostbite 2 Engine, with a heavy focus on destructible environments and team based, class-warfare. As the developer spoke about the team’s latest project, a few new highly polished screenshots were shown off that really looked great. As the developer concluded his presentation of the game, he led us into a area where there were PC stations set up with Razer mice and keyboards as well as headsets to host the multiplayer gameplay part of the demonstration.
We got into the now classic Rush mode, where teams are split into Attackers and Defenders and must protect or defend two area before progressing into the next area of a much larger level. The battle took us through a park like area, and underground subway location, then through what appeared to be a commercial area, then on to the final stage of the level at the stock exchange.
Being on the PC, the game looked exceptional. The gameplay was extremely tight, especially for a Battlefield game which has traditionally went for a more realistic approach to their game. In the past, this has led to a more plodding and methodical experience. The speed has picked up considerable in the game, with one of the most notable inclusions to the gameplay being a vaulting mechanic that allows you to traverse the environment extremely quickly. Hip firing, pulling up scopes, or switching in between your grenades, specials, or knife was also extremely quick. It could have just been the way that the demo was built, but the game definitely had a much quicker feel to it.
Now I love my PC games just as much as anyone, but I would have liked to have had the option to play Battlefield 3 multiplayer on the Xbox 360 or PS3. Even if just to get a feel for what the console version is going to look and feel like. Sadly, there were no console versions of the game available for play or see anywhere at the E3 convention. It was one of the things that nearly every journalist that I talked to at the show was wondering about. Walking out of the Battlefield presentation I had a lot of questions left unanswered. While the destruction physics looked better than they have ever looked before, Battlefield’s major draw wasn’t shown at E3. The famed planes and tanks of the game were nowhere to be seen. So as the result, to a Battlefield fan, the game felt like an extremely watered down version of the game. One that only scratched the surface, but definitely not a showing that left me walking out of the booth with a feeling that what I had seen was any better than what was being shown over at Activision, it was just different and looked a little bit cleaner, which was likely attributable to one game being shown on the Xbox 360 and one game on what was likely a high powered PC.
For the most part, both developments studios played it very safe at the convention. A large portion of what each developer had to show, had already been shown to the world. Call of Duty didn’t showcase any of the games most popular features, which is the multiplayer. And Battlefield showed multiplayer, but not any of the parts of it that really have differentiated the game from other FPS’s. Personally, I’ve purchased each Call of Duty and Battlefield offering dating back to Battlefield 1942. I don’t see this year being any different. But to those on the fence about where to best spend their money this fall, E3 didn’t do too much to sway me in either direction. I suppose the real battle will be in the marketing for the games leading up to their release this Fall.