Gaming giants square up on battlefield
LOS ANGELES - Beyond the flashing flatscreens, blaring speakers and “booth babes” at last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, there was no bigger showdown at the video game industry’s annual extravaganza than the one brewing between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 from Activision Blizzard Inc. and Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts Inc.
For the past four years, Activision reigned supreme with its Call of Duty franchise, breaking game sales records and earning praise for its polished shoot-’em-up realism.
The Santa Monica, Calif.-based publisher may finally have a worthy adversary when EA releases Battlefield 3 on Oct. 25, two weeks before Modern Warfare 3 comes out Nov. 8.
“Naturally, it’s good for the consumers to have one of these heavyweight fights that’s going on right now,” said Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager at Stockholm-based Battlefield 3 developer DICE.
While the goal of Call of Duty and Battlefield is the same - shoot combatants, preferably in the head - when their newest sequels are released this fall, they will share several other similarities.
Most notably, both are set amid modern-day worldwide conflicts with soldiers fighting on expansive urban battlegrounds in such cities as Paris and New York.
DICE developers are plotting for Battlefield 3 to look sleeker than previous editions. They’ve developed a new version of their Frostbite game engine to craft the sequel, which promises more realistic graphics, fuller sound and amplified environmental destruction.
During E3, at the front of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s South Hall, EA previewed a Battlefield 3 multiplayer level set within the tunnels and streets of Paris.
Meanwhile, at the back of the sprawling expo, Activision showed off a Modern Warfare 3 co-op level that tasked players with surviving waves of enemies, including suicide bomber dogs.
“If Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a Hollywood-esque action play, Battlefield 3 is more like a documentary,” tweeted Hideo Kojima, the Tokyo-based developer behind the third-person Metal Gear franchise.
Throughout most of the last decade, EA and Activision were equal rivals when it came to military shooters, but Activision brought the battle to the 21st century. The contemporary iteration introduced terrorists as adversaries and laser-sighted rifles as weapons.
The leap forward paid off. It was the best-selling game of that year, going on to sell more than 13 million copies.
The Battlefield franchise, which has always been geared more toward PC than console gamers, lacks the firepower of Call of Duty. The last full-fledged Battlefield game, last year’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2, sold a respectable number of copies: more than seven million, which seems small when compared to the haul taken by Call of Duty.
“Battlefield wants to take them on directly, but they’re trying to do it through innovation, and I don’t know if that’s necessary,” said Brian Crecente, editor of gaming blog Kotaku. “I think it’s more about polish and delivering an experience that can really be replayed online. That’s where Battlefield is going to have to take on Modern Warfare 3.”