THE CALM AFTER THE STORM: A RATIONAL GUIDE TO BATTLEFIELD 3 AND MODERN WARFARE 3

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

The gaming world’s ultimate showdown took place in the latter half of 2011, when Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 were launched within a month of each other.  Most gamers (including this particular MW fan-boy) were blown over and confused by the blitzkrieg of marketing offenses and pre-launch videos offered by Electronic Arts and Activision.  Most gamers reading this article might have already purchased a copy of one of these games.  That said, for the few who are still undecided/waiting for prices to reduce/thinking about getting a multiplayer pass, this review might help you make an informed decision.

For the uninitiated, MW3 builds on the success of the original MW, MW2, and related title Black Ops which dominated the gaming industry with unmatched gamer experience (both visually and game design).  BF3 comes from a slightly different genealogy that started in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 and primarily aimed at the PC gamer.  Its last iteration, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was critically acclaimed—but a moderate success commercially when compared to the Modern Warfare titles.

So how do these games stack up against each other?  Modern Warfare 3 (to a large extent the series) makes you feel like Superman.  It’s relatively simple, unabashed arcade shooting style which focuses on the ability of one man to change the world provides the gamer a fast-paced ego rush that in itself is a highly-entertaining gaming experience.  Battlefield 3, on the other hand, makes you feel like Batman.  The learning curve is steep—some parts of the game almost force you to give up the controller, while others require you need to change the way you play—and you don’t have any superpowers that make you invincible.  Working effectively with your squad, selecting the right weapons, mastering key tactics, and being nimble on your feet are some of the aspects of the game that any gamer needs to master.

Let’s see how these games compare across categories.

Graphics

Frostbite 2: Sometimes you just want to take a break and enjoy the surroundings

Battlefield 3 leverages the brutal computing power of the Frostbite 2 engine (Link).  This translates into smooth animations, immersive yet destructible environments, dynamic lighting and real-world visual effects (e.g., shadows, water droplets, smoke, and other textures).  The wide range and high quality of visuals present in all different game modes are astonishing but they can overwhelm the gamer at times.  Sometimes finding that critical piece in the jigsaw puzzle can be taxing due to overwhelming visual input.

Modern Warfare 3 is based on an evolved/tweaked version of the I-Ward/MW2 engine.  The lack of innovation/investment results in the graphics in MW3 feeling a little dated when compared to BF3.  The lighting and animations seem to have been enhanced in comparison to MW2 but is nowhere near the realism of BF3.  That said, the speed and build quality will keep gamers engaged.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

Single Player Campaign

Makarov is back.

Captain Soap MacTavish, Captain John Price, and their evil nemesis Makarov return to light the world on fire in Modern Warfare 3.  MW3 continues from where MW2 left off.  It feels like a high on adrenaline, big budget Hollywood movie but sadly backed by a flat storyline.  It does have ‘scripted’ plot twists but I bet those of us used to the franchise see most of them coming.  I still love the characters, the transitions between missions, and the amazing superhero type quests in exotics locales.  It gets you high on the familiar, keeps you away from everything that you hold dear, and makes you beg for more.  That said, I would have preferred if the storyline hadn’t been carried over from MW2.

I had high expectations of the campaign mode in Battlefield 3 as a result of the incredible storyline of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and the pre-launch teaser videos provided by EA.  BF3 puts you in the shoes of Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn fighting the evil PLR held together by the main antagonist, Solomon.  The single player mode is based on a storyline that has been seen before, boring scripting, an AI that knows all and kills all.  It does have a couple of over-the-top moments where it feels awesome (but these are limited to the cut scenes between missions/introductions to mission).  The campaign seems like a bunch of cool ideas which were over cooked and poorly executed.  Further, sometimes it seems that the developers consciously designed the single player mode to be frustrating and painful.

Advantage:  Modern Warfare 3.  It’s moronic but I still associate with the characters.

Multi Player Modes

Aerial dogfights on BF3: You should play the multiplayer just for that!

Realism, different abilities for different solider classes, huge maps, insane graphics, vast magnitude of weapons… phew!  Multiplayer is what Battlefield 3 was designed for.  24 console players (or 64 PC players) can collaborate and overrun/capture/annihilate enemy positions in the immersive multiplayer maps.  The author of this article wasn’t a big multiplayer fan (apart from the customary FIFA sessions online) until he came across this game.  The multiplayer of this game is addictive beyond comparison and will turn you into ‘Level-Up’ junkie who only cares about when he can fire a Stinger missile, drive an Abrams Tank, or fly a Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot.  The most critical differentiator here is that the maps turn into huge battlefields with different types of gamers (infantry soldiers, tank commanders, and combat aircraft pilots) fighting against each other at the same time.

Modern Warfare 3 builds on and enhances the multiplayer experience from MW2.  It’s fast, addictive, and you will not get bored playing it over and over again.  Infinity Ward has added the ability to set up streak rewards for support play rather than the aggressive over-the-top one man army style antics (gamers who focus on maintaining a high kill-to-death ratio over supporting the team).  Overall, it’s a great package that’ll make you log on and play because of the large number/experience/quality of gamers using the multiplayer functionality.  That said, I’m disappointed that Infinity Ward hasn’t pushed the envelope over here.  They seem to be happy with just sticking with what has worked in the past.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

My Choice

It comes down to choosing between a glamorous supermodel for a single encounter vs. the girl who you truly love (is that even possible?) for the rest of your life.  I choose Battlefield 3.  What do you choose?

Where to Pick One Up?

Why, at GamesINC of course.  At the time of writing, we have copies of Battlefield 3 pre-owned and Modern Warfare 3 both new and pre-owned on PS3.  If Xbox is your platform, then we only have Modern Warfare 3 new – but we should getting BF3 new, as well as pre-owned versions of both in the near future.

Looking Forward To

The Last of Us

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART I

You have to admit, the year 2011 has been like no other when it comes to gaming.  There have been great games in every genre that has revolutionized how we think of gaming.  Further, a new genre of (ahem) casual gaming has been defined by multiple motion gaming releases, games the true core gamer would not have considered otherwise but is now willing to throw caution to the winds and play a bit of bowling over beer with friends!  We compiled this list of games that we were glad to have played this year.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and is also the first of our multi-part series of articles.

Third-Person Shooter:  Gears of War 3

Join Marcus Fenix in his search to rescue his father

Now what gamer is not a fan of the ultra-adrenaline junkie that is Marcus Fenix, with arms the size of Bollywood damsels in distress!  In Gears of War 2, Marcus and his faithful friend Dom battle hordes and hordes of Locusts to save the last city of Jacinto.  Gears 3 is very similar to the legend of Gears 2, with a lot more style and polish.  Every movement appears more distinct, more pronounced, every shade of color a bit easier to look at.  The storyline still attempts a good bit of emotional ups and downs, but only as much as a Rambo-like character can pull off.  Gears 3 starts with a surprising twist to the story: Marcus’ dad is still alive! In this season though, audience favorite Dom takes a plunge at the invaders with a truck load of explosives and lays down his life for his squad.   Four-player cooperative campaigns and new multiplayer modes also makes Gears 3 a sweet game to play online against teenagers high on coke (the cola variety, of course!).

First-Person Shooter:  Battlefield 3

Take a moment to admire the power of Frostbite 2

Ok, I will go ahead and say it.  I am a Battlefield fan and no, I don’t think Modern Warfare 3 sucks.  Both are great games, but I am going to write about BF3 because I am the one with the laptop right now.  EA’s Frostbite 2 engine’s capabilities really shine through in this edition of Battlefield.  The level of detail that this engine manages to add to the campaign is immaculate.  A scene where you turn around from crossfire to notice a helicopter flipping in mid-air, only to have a 80 storey building come crashing on it, provides you with a sense of awe.  The enormity and mammoth-scale of it all makes you sit up and notice.  The storyline itself is much more predictable than BF2: Bad Company and follows the usual formulaic components of Russians, nuclear weapons, and middle eastern rogue regimes. But that isn’t what puts BF3 on our map, it is the multiplayer action that this game brings to us.  The MP action is almost like a different game and allows you to do a lot of different things you wished the campaign would (e.g., not making you wait for that exact moment so you can hit X to score that perfect punch on the enemy’s face!).

Sports:  FIFA12

Enter a whole new world of tactical defending

It is difficult to be a core gamer and not like the FIFA franchise.  The biggest change EA delivered on its franchise is augmented defensive plays.  Tactical defending provides a lot more realistic feel to the game, allowing you to contain, marshall, and jockey your opponents.  On the other hand, precision dribbling now allows you to keep the ball with you longer…once you have figured it out!  The last thing that makes the FIFA12 experience stand out is the Player Impact Engine, which — like the name suggests — makes for better collisions.  Each player’s “mass” and angle of impact (among other things) are taken into account to simulate collisions that are as close to the real thing as current technology can get.  So this legend is another game that you must possess.

These are only three games to feature on the first of our series.  Within the genre’s above, what other games do you think should make the cut?  Crysis 2? Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Uncharted 3?  Post your comments below to let us know!

2011 DISAPPOINTMENTS: SHOOTERS

There are multiple articles out there on what you should buy in 2011 and what you should look out for in 2012 — and we will write one shortly on each of those as well — but this one is a bit different.  There is only so much money that your parents will give you for pocket money, and only so much you can earn in your internship, and only so much free time your life-sucking corporate job will allow you, so it is of utmost importance to choose the games that justify your time, effort, and money.  We asked our team what games they absolutely regret playing this year.  Not surprisingly, a  lot of them were in the shooter genre.  This is a genre already overcrowded with a lot of players, each one trying to become the next Call of Duty franchise.  But as we have always seen, not every dog (really) has its day.  Here is a list of games that made us want to shoot the publishers and ask for our money (and time) back.  Admittedly, we have not tried every single aspect of these games, so we urge you to take our thoughts with a pinch of salt.

HOMEFRONT: THQ

Homefront is a game that had potential but was marred by a struggling storyline and unremarkable gameplay.  Homefront is based on a alternative future in 2027 where North- and South-Korea unite to form an United Korea, and launch an all-out attack on the United States.  Incredulous?  Yes, that is how we reacted too — LOL-ing in real life.  We were more comfortable with sticking it out with the Russians or, our more recent favorites, the Afghans.  Anyway, despite our first impressions, we tried to give it a shot and started the campaign.  The gameplay, although not worse (or better) than any other shooter, didn’t really excite us.  Follow your leader, shoot at enemies, finish a task, then follow your leader again — this isn’t really different from what other shooters do but Homefront doesn’t do it differently or better than any other shooter.  It just ends up playing very much like a poor cousin to the Call of Duty series.

An interesting story failed by less-than-awesome execution

The most disparaging thing about the campaign is that it sort of keeps you interested in playing through because of the promise of greater glory down the path, and then suddenly, out of the blue, ends.  Just when you thought you were advancing to the next chapter that promised a return to glory!

The somewhat redeeming factor is the online multiplayer.  Its nothing  different from other online multiplayers, but a few aspects — like how you score more as a team than as an individual, and how you can customize your suite of arms — do make it enjoyable.

Overall, this is a game well played, but if you are looking for that perfect shooter, we suggest you move on.

BRINK: BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Now this is a game I was actually looking forward to but, in hindsight, it was probably a lack of research on my part.  The storyline works quite well —  Brink is set atop a floating city, rightly called The Ark, occupied by thousands of people escaping the horrors of ecological disaster.  Soon, the social order of the original occupants is disturbed and two factions emerge from this chaos: Security and Resistance forces battle for control of the Ark and you are made to choose right at the outset which team you are going to support.   This premise makes for some good storytelling and gameplay, but unfortunately the developer Splash Damage fails to capitalize on it and create a compelling campaign experience for us.

Great graphics? Except that this isn't really in-game footage.

Brink allows you to choose first, which side to play on and then what “class” of soldiers to play as.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much difference between each of those classes during gameplay… until you hit a point and realize that you have chosen the wrong class (e.g., when you blow your way into an enemy stronghold as a Soldier only to realize that you needed to be a Medic to rescue the Person of Interest you are trying to rescue from the stronghold).

Another thing that completely does not work for me is how characters have this shining border around them: this looks bad enough on multiplayer modes in certain games, but in a campaign mode it is much much worse!  This completely ruined the experience for me so much that I didn’t bother finishing the campaign mode at all.

An important aspect that Brink messed up in is storytelling.  Although the storyline had potential, the cut scenes seems to make their way into stories at odd timings (e.g., you are shooting at an enemy soldier lunging for you and suddenly the cut scene shows you following your team mates into a different door).  Through the campaign, Splash Damage seems to have given up on the story altogether.  That may explain why the game was completed ahead of schedule and released a week earlier than announced.  We wish they had stuck it out a bit longer.

DUKE NUKEM FOREVER: 2K GAMES AND GEARBOX SOFTWARE

Speaking of sticking it out a bit longer, no list of lame games will be complete without talking about Duke Nukem’s return to Forever.  This game took about 15 years to develop and it actually plays like it should have been released in 2001.  Clunky controls, immensely tiresome loading times, and bad execution make this game a terrible waste of time and money.

Duke Nukem’s sense of chauvinistic humor may have been acceptable in the 90s but leaves a bad taste in your mouth today.  And if you were looking for some sad internet porn, you would go to sad internet porn sites — not a lame console game with frame-rate issues.  While its predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, used some amount of obscenity to drive the story along, Duke Nukem Forever seems to have been created just for that.

To say gameplay has taken a hit in this season of Duke Nukem is putting it mildly.  There is really no gameplay worth writing about.  Most games go through a linear process of shoot ’em up > cutscene > shoot ’em up, but the cutscenes in this game are so ill prepared and tedious, it makes you want to shut down your console and get on Facebook to bitch about the game instead.  Even within the sequences where you get to blow up aliens, there are instances of lack of simple attention to detail: for instance, when you hold down the left trigger, you don’t bring up the ironsights… instead the entire screen seems to move forward a bit.  Didn’t developers already fix this years back?

And if that doesn’t hold you back from playing this game, checkout this video:

So this is our short list of games you shouldn’t spend your time on.  What games do you wish were on this list?  Let us know!