Think about military first-person shooter games. Most likely you thought either Call of Duty or Battlefield, and if you didn’t, you’re probably one of the ArmA or Counter Strike cult followers and I commend you.

But if you thought CoD or Battlefield, though, you’re part of the majority. These two games have been battling it out for the title of “best military FPS” with neither seeming to have a clear lead. Perhaps it is the striking similarities between each game’s stories and characters that make it difficult for one to pull ahead.

Makarov. Kirilenko.

Soap. Haggard.

Blackburn. Mason.

Dima. Reznov.

There will forever be comparisons and relations between the Call of Duty series and the Battlefield series. For starters, they are both modern war games focusing on special force operatives that seem to always wind up fighting the Russians.

They are both beyond famous for their multiplayers, and they both have dedicated mainstream fan followings that separate them from nearly any other FPS game (excluding Halo). Regardless, even the most neutral of gamers will have a stronger leaning towards one series over another, and the fact of the matter is that Call of Duty and Battlefield are very, very different in many aspects.

For one, Battlefield is and always has been a more tactical game – with both the campaign and the multiplayer: EA/DICE has always put the focus more on the unique experience, giving the players more freedom in their approaches. Rather than script an entire scene and demand the player follow a single path, Battlefield has historically allowed the player to complete the same mission in different ways. They can fall back and take a recon position, or go in guns blazing and take out an entire force, and the only punishment is death.

Call of Duty, on the other hand, has always focused more on the story; the scenes are entirely scripted and force the players to follow a specific pathway. If they see an enemy facing the opposite direction, they have to knife them, and failure to do what the game suggests results in a mission failure. The freedom of choice is removed – the player loses their discretion – and the game becomes a much more closed environment, drawing attention towards the characters themselves and the situations more as movie scenes and not sandboxes.

This idea of tactics and choices stretches into multiplayer, as well. Battlefield multiplayer has always been set in large maps with enormous amounts of interactivity and accessibility, in which players can take up positions in towers or buildings and snipe their opponents, or they can jump in a tank and wreak havoc in the streets. They can stick with this play-style the entire match, as the multiplayer is generally much slower-paced. Because of the massively-sized maps that players are battling on, Battlefield multiplayer has a more realistic feel in the fact that players can choose a loadout and stick with it. If they play recon, they can stay at the back of the battle and pick off enemies without worrying about being knifed every three seconds.

The flipside to this is Call of Duty’s multiplayer: fast-paced, heart-pounding action is perhaps the easiest way to describe it. Maps are smaller, more intimate creations; players are on foot the entire time and are moving every single moment. In CoD matches, players who stay still for even a few seconds are killed. Unlike Battlefield, there are no “sides” to the maps; players spawn wherever there is a “safe” zone, which can result in several members of the same team spawning in completely different areas on the same map. This spices up the match, adding variety and unpredictability: a multiplayer match in CoD is never guaranteed to play through the same way due to the fact that locations and players are constantly changing, and a player’s gaming style has to adapt depending on the people they are competing with.

There are strong similarities between both games, a lot of which can be argued as “rip-offs” of the opposite game.

For example, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a general storyline strikingly similar to that of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and on the contrary, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 seems like a contemporary remake of Battlefield: 2142.

When two leading military FPS games like Call of Duty and Battlefield are both successful and equally popular, it is hard not to imagine fans competing against each other in defense of whatever game they support. It is this case when there are any competing games within the same genre, for example:

  • Grand Theft Auto vs. Saint’s Row
  • Hitman vs. Assassin’s Creed
  • Bioshock vs. Fallout
  • InFamous vs. Prototype

However it always seems that CoD and Battlefield get themselves into the biggest – and perhaps most vicious – debates. From professional game reviewers like those at IGN, GameInformer, Gamespot and G4 to your average gamers like those that stalk the GameFAQs forums, heated arguments over which series is better can be found.

The point that I’m trying to make is that trying to compare Call of Duty with Battlefield is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, both games are military FPSs, but the execution of those games are so different from each other. It’s pointless to get caught up arguing over which one is better.

Regardless of how good one game is, the other is good as well. Call of Duty focuses on the gunplay: Treyarch and Infinity Ward don’t care if it’s realistic or not, as long as the player has fun blowing up supply trucks and mowing down enemies and Battlefield focuses on the realistic experience and portraying a realistic military experience. Electronic Arts and DICE put more time into the weapon design, sounds, and overall look than Call of Duty so that they can have a more natural feel.

Treyarch/Infinity Ward do not innovate their graphics engines or focus on improving the appearance of their games – EA/DICE do.

EA/DICE do not go for over-the-top battle scenes and constant run-and-gun – Treyarch/Infinity Ward do.

Call of Duty and Battlefield are very different experiences; they are designed, developed, and executed very differently and this is obvious to anybody that has actually taken the time to compare the games. With similarities in storylines aside, the gameplay of both CoD and Battlefield are individually unique.

My challenge to you is simple: play several games from each series, preferably corresponding ones (i.e. Call of Duty 3 and Battlefield 2142; Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2; Black Ops and BF3). Without looking at storylines, get a grasp of actual appearance and gameplay. Compare the two, and see if they feel remotely similar enough that it is possible to say that one is “better” than the other.

They are different games for different players. Fanboys unite – you all do the same things, just differently.

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This article was first posted on November 30, 2012