Three the magic number?
The past couple of weeks has seen the release of two first person shooter games (FPS) which are part of two separate franchises which have been around for nearly ten years: Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Both games, whilst being first person shooters, have different gameplay styles and have been competing with each other since they first launch. The launch of the ‘3’ games within two weeks of each other means a lot of gamers (including me) have parted with their pounds.
I’ve followed the Battlefield series since Battlefield 1942 on the PC back in 2002. Through Battlefield Vietnam to Battlefield 2, then onto the console with Battlefield 1943 and the Battlefield Bad Company games. Battlefield 3 (or BF3) is the latest installment, and one which has been eagerly awaited.
The singleplayer campaign mode is disappointing. The plot went from one linear firefight – chase – set piece to the next, with the set pieces very much a Simon-Says style follow the screen prompts sequential button press-a-thon which would be embarrasing on a children’s game. The game designers learned nothing from last year’s Medal of Honor, which whilst still linear, offered the player some flexibility in routes and flanking positions, which was sadly lacking in BF3. In the previous incarnations of Battlefield before Bad Company the campaign mode was little more than a series of training missions for online play, with a plot which was little more than a series of battle locations around the world. However, whilst a cinematic plot driven campaign is welcome, it also has the disadvantage of not giving enough practice with weapons and vehicles before going online.
Online multiplayer has always been what Battlefield was about. The first Battlefield 1942 had no character progression or weapons and kit development; you had a choice of five character classes, each class with a different weapon and kit loadout between Scout, Assault, Medic, Anti-tank, and Engineer. But this simplicity meant everyone started with the same choice of kit loadouts, so skill, tactics and team playing rather than the advantage of superior upper rank firepower sorted out the noobs from the top guns. As well as the classes, there was an array of vehicles to spread mayhem with. From jeeps, to to tanks, to aircraft, all the way to battleships.
This theme has continued throughout the series, and BF3 has all the vehicles and equipment of the modern battlefield and more: tanks, helicopters jets and even dune buggies. However, I feel this game is less a Battlefield 3 and more like a Bad Company game. It has much the same weapons and class progression as BF:BC2 as you rise through the ranks online and even the same environment physics. There is I feel a step backwards in this game, which drops the tactical command features of BF2 which were so integral to encouraging team play rather than the lone run-and-gun style so prevalent at the moment on BF3. Perhaps this will be addressed in future downloadable content packs.
However, BF3 is still enjoyable, provides plenty of game modes and options for your I’m particularly looking forward to release of the Return to Karkand add-on pack, particularly as Karkand was one of my favourite BF2 maps and it’ll be interesting to see what the developers have done in their reboot of a fan favourite.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Like the Battlefield series, MW3 has a long heritage going back to the first Call of Duty game in 2003. Like the Medal of Honor series, the CoD singleplayer campaign mode was tightly scripted, a feature that has followed the game’s incarnations over nearly ten years.
The MW3 campaign continues the MW story of Capt Price and ‘Soap’ MacTavish in their mission to end a war between Russia and the West, and resolve an ongoing personal grudge with evil warmonger Makarov. It’s definitely not one for the kids. Even though it’s 18-rated, many parents buy MW games for their children, but this episode in the series takes it even further than the civilian murder carnage of MW2, and being very cinematic it places the player right inside the action, witnessing events you wouldn’t want children to see.
The online mutliplayer mode has always featured smaller maps than the Battlefield franchise, which made for fast and frantic gameplay, often the fortune of games flipping in moments. The game is called MW3, and it’s a worthy name for the campaign, but in terms of the online play it’s definitely MW 2.5. It features much the same weapons, perks and upgrade options of MW2, albeit with a revamped interface and lobby. Even the infamous ‘quick-scope’ remains. I thought that some tips would have been taken from CoD: Black Ops in which the weapons were much more balanced, and the perks were purchased with upgrade points rather than achieving challenges, allowing the player much more choice rather than being forced through a restrictive upgrade path.
The new online maps seem to be much smaller than their MW predecessors, although they are graphically more complex and structured in such a way to discourage camping and encourage more ‘run-n-gun’, making hold points almost a thing of the past. However, it’s early yet, definitely too early for me to identify particular map areas which give a tactical advantage. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops in future map releases.
There are some weapon aiming issues and some weapons seem too overpowered, but hopefully these will be patched.
However, MW3 offers some new online game modes, including the new ‘Kill Confirmed’, where you collect enemy dog tags after killing them, and I predict this will be the big hit of MW3 online. There’s also an upgraded ‘Survival’ cooperative game type, which is probably aimed at the fans of Zombies in World at War and Black Ops.
Both of the ‘3’ games are fun, whilst at the same time a little disappointing in what they could have done; missed opportunities. One thing both games have failed to do is to add anything startingly new. They are simply a slight evolution of what came before, and while you give the fans what they want, the first person shooter market is so saturated that it needs a game to shake things up a bit. Even the ‘Elite’ optional addon for MW3 is merely an iteration of a feature first launched as a beta with Black Ops. One of the things missing from both games is online character customisation allowing you to create a unique looking online playable avatar. Medal of Honor went a small way allowing you to unlock a couple of character skins, but games like SOCOM and Brink have shown what is possible with character customisation.
Despite these minor irritations, I’ll still be playing both ‘3’ games, and probably get sucked into rising through the ranks and completing challenges, enjoying meeting people around the world, and fragging them to bits.