Battlefield 3 versus Modern Warfare 3 versus ArmA2/3! Part 1.
Firstly, let's get something straight: no I don't own BF3 or MW3, because I'm stinkin' poor. But I have played them and seen the vast majority of both games.
The almost gang-violence-like hatred between proponents of BF3 and MW3 is astonishing, and there's even a subset of BF3 players that like to get elitist towards MW3 players, chiding them for liking an "unrealistic" game.
Pot, meet kettle. Let's talk about these games, their strengths and weaknesses, and why I prefer the tactical shooters I do.
Both BF3 and MW3 fall by the wayside when it comes to realism. Neither was designed to be very realistic. BF3 can boast things like "bullet drop" (simulated ballistic trajectories) and such, but ultimately neither game is exactly built on crushing realism.
Many of the soldiers I know actually prefer Modern Warfare 3, because it doesn't make any pretenses at realism - at least not after the first game. It's a frantic, fun, arcade-style shoot-em-up, and none of my friends are unaware of that - it has nothing whatsoever to do with actual soldiering. I agree that those who believe MW3 is "the most realistic" need to be slapped and told to go home, but I personally play MW3 fully aware that it isn't meant to be a simulation of realistic combat.
The Modern Warfare trilogy has built itself around exciting set-pieces, plot, characters, and amazing music.
Battlefield started out as very similar to ArmA1 (which, even at the time, was very old), but has since narrowed its scope. The gameplay has always been quite good, with reasonable sized maps, but as several of my BF loving friends have said: you still find yourself at risk of ludicrous Modern Warfare style multiplayer tactics.
To be fair, this is because my friends all share a love for sniper rifles, and typically people have NO fucking clue what a sniper is/does. I'd need to check, but I suspect at least one is doing the ArmA-newby mistake of "sniping" at assault rifle range and complaining when he gets his face perforated by 5.56s.
But that's the problem. Battlefield's maps have shrunk since the series started, becoming a sort of compromise between ArmA and the hectic, small-scale fighting you see in MW3 - albeit with realistic ballistics (which isn't something to be proud of in a small-scale shooter; it's not that important, it just screws you over whenever you have mild latency).
Let's get this out of the way: I prefer MW3. Because I also play ArmA2 and to a lesser extent, America's Army 3 ("Hooah. Hooah. Hooah. Hooah. Hooah. Hooah." *vote-kicked*).
BF3 is perfectly fine. Battlefield Bad Company 2 (and the Vietnam expansion pack) were great fun. I certainly am not going to insult those games. The problem is, at the moment I enjoy the two extremes: the almost whacky, arcade-style of MW3, which I don't count as a "military" game at all, and ArmA2 which is jaw-dropping when it comes to sheer scale, realism and combined-arms game-play that is totally absent from the other two.
America's Army fits in there too: it's basically Counter-Strike with less weapons, but a way more mature player-base and additional cool features. I love CS too, but I don't need 50 different guns, I just need more ways to use them effectively.
When I played CS semi-competitively, people stuck with the M4, AK-47 and AWM 90% of the time anyway.
So, ultimately, BF3 has no real allure for me, and the player-base strikes me as no more mature than MW3's, only more likely to be elitist and snobby at others for playing a game that isn't as popular as MW3. Groan. Take a look at EA's marketing for this game, it's embarrassing.
It certainly is a good game, though the "Quick Time Events" suck balls, the dialogue and voice-acting is cringe-worthy (compared to MW's impeccable VA's, music and sound effects) and it's difficult to get as invested in the plot as we did with Modern Warfare.
On the flip-side, I agree with Yahtzee 100% about MW3. The idea of Russia attacking all of Europe simultaneously is hilariously impossible. That's a war they know they have no chance of winning, the very idea is insane. People who care about this mythical "plot" thing would know that Russia in the MW trilogy has just gone through a violent civil war where the under-equipped (still using AK-47s and Mi-24Ds) Ultranationalists were somehow victorious... then they invaded the United States of America and got brutally smacked down.
Now they're challenging the might of Britain, France, Germany and Scandinavia?! Alone?! This was a valid fear in 1965, because of Russia's allies and Europe's weakness after WW2, but where is China? Where is Pakistan? Where is Russia's big-boy allies that make a REAL World War 3 such a horrifying thought?
As for the "shocking moment" where a little American girl (sigh) is killed in Britain by a chemical explosion, that's just weak.
It's pretty much exactly as Yahtzee said: it actually isn't that big of a deal that a little girl was killed. Anyone who knows me or reads my stories would know that I like brutal realism - or, if not realism per se, then it is that I appreciate writers not being afraid to show how far the darkness truly extends in real life. It's jarring when you can tell that the rules of a fictional reality are being written to avoid addressing things for the sake of political correctness, and people do sometimes need to be reminded that these things happen. How else will we stop it or change anything meaningful if we go around each day convincing ourselves that it doesn't? It's no different from climate change.
Speaking of Yahtzee, I also agree that I don't see much reason to go to the effort of modding in child-killing into video games - I poke fun at developers who leave it out or make children invincible in their games, but see no reason to mod that shit in. The concept of a child being killed in war doesn't send me spiraling into the mindless emotional state it seems to send others. Oh, it sickens me, and I would love to send the perpetrators to hell... but there are too many perpetrators and too few bullets to fire into their crotches.
Children are massacred every day. Primarily by their own parents. The number of children who die in the USA to child abuse is several times the number of abuse-deaths in Britain even when adjusted for population size. Police in Brazil will grab street-kids, drag them into alleys and put a bullet in their skull.
It shouldn't be seeing a single child be murdered that gets you riled. It should be the sad knowledge that there's nothing special about it. That it's usually mommy that does it, not the mean Russian bogeyman. MW3 didn't toy with my expectations, it didn't give me any reason to care about this virtual child - likely one of tens of thousands that died during the Russian invasion - and it was just weak.
When I heard about it, my mind went into overdrive. Infinity Ward are good, they have to know what do with this, right? Okay, forgive me, this is gonna be a little creepy, but what about this?
Maybe you're playing as the SAS, battling through the London underground with civies in tow, protecting them from the (cartoonishly monstrous) Russians. But just as we're about to get them all aboard a helo to safety, machine-gun fire rakes the group, taking out mommy and daddy and everyone else and the player's character fights to get the girl on board, only for her to die moments later, looking right at you with terrified, pleading eyes. Her dreams of a future snuffed out. Innocence and life destroyed by a pointless war, and there was nothing you could do to stop it. Isn't that the subtle subtext of the Modern Warfare series? "This is cool and all, but war is disgusting and unromantic and many people die in misery for no good reason?"
No, fuck that, instead we get the most insipid nonsense I've ever seen. Great work, IW, you managed to make a children's rights advocate not give a fuck that a little girl got blown up. That takes effort. This gung-ho nonsense is painful.
Jesus, that passage above reads like some of the sadistic bullshit I've read on CubCentral. Excuse me, I'm going to be sick and punch myself in the nuts. ....
Anyway. Back to game mechanics and things that don't make me nauseous and angry.
Even in its strongest areas, MW3 did not deliver well. I cared enough to see Makarov die for his crimes, but the value of scenes such as the nuclear blast (MW1) or the burning of Washington DC (MW2) has been diminished in the third installment. We see so many monuments destroyed it becomes routine (and not in the harrowing way that we saw DC burn) and with so many "surprise" deaths of player characters in this trilogy, the only thing that shocked me was when [spoiler redacted] died... and even that seems rushed.
Oh, and the airport scene in the second game was weak too. I didn't consider it the "shock" of the game, and if you want to know what kind of person I am: I only once have ever fired on the civilians in that mission. Once. Then I was so disgusted with myself that I turned on Makarov and his cronies, killing them and restarting the mission. The second time, I did nothing. Still, good men standing idle... it was a disturbing scene.
Speaking of this, despite my earlier agreement with Yahtzee, I could see a perfect opportunity for them to have "realistically" included children in that scene, and it would've been far more chilling than the "exploding van" from MW3.
Makarov walks in first, before you're able to raise your weapon, calmly puts his gun to an older child's head (the whole "vacuous little white American girl" thing is trite and annoying; make it a promising young Little League star or something who just donated his tenth birthday presents to charity) and blows him away, signally the start of the massacre. All other children are seen in locations you can't shoot, but perhaps Makarov et al get them nonetheless.
I challenge anybody to not immediately aim that M240 at Makarov's greasy head and put him away, or punch the air when he dangles for it. You want to make a statement about how much of a monster this man is, go for it, IW. Don't resort to womanly "exploding vans" and then sweep the fact that those chemical bombs would've murdered tens of thousands of other children twice as horribly under the table.
So, we've talked about MW3 and BF3. Everyone reading this has probably played one of them. They're good for what they are, although I prefer MW3 for its almost whacky arcade-style shooting, cinematic set-pieces, music and characters.
What about the other end of the spectrum, the soul-crushingly realistic?
Well, let's see now... because there's a very high chance nobody reading this has even heard of these games. I've waited too long to review these! Next: ArmA2 & AA3.