There is a war being waged. I’m not talking about a real-life struggle in another country, or a virtual facsimile of said war projected from an oversized high-definition television screen. I’m talking about a war between two similar yet disparate factions that have only one thing in common: They love shooting the crap out of strangers online. Yes, the aggressors here belong to two camps, staring at one another from across a battlefield littered with broken controllers and shattered dreams; they are Battlefield and Call of Duty fans, and they can’t wait to convince you to step across their respective lines.

But why so hostile? One could just as easily play both, yes? You’d think so, but with Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 due to hit shelves within weeks of one another, not everyone has the time to master both. Besides, the passion behind all this fist-shaking friendly fire is kind of exciting, when it remains civil and in good fun, at least. Take one of the recent salvos fired from Camp Battlefield, for instance.

Any unsuspecting gamers excited about the next Call of Duty could easily head right to the URL “” to get their fix, but they might be surprised at what they find. At the time of this writing, someone had created the URL and set it to redirect to the official Battlefield 3 website. Digging around Google Cache for an earlier version of the URL revealed a video and message disparaging Activision’s franchise. An excerpt: “Modern Warfare is crap. On November 8, 2011, the most over-hyped first-person action series of all time returns with the copy and paste sequel to the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 … Pre-order Call of Duty MW3 today… to secure exclusive bonuses only available online for Modern Warfare 3 fanboys who don’t know that Battlefield 3 is the better game.”

Childish? Sure. Effective? Maybe a little. The URL redirecting trick is certainly a more clever ploy than a juvenile, discouraging note. Ultimately, though, it’s going to come down to a matter of personal preference, and judging from their showings at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 have something special to offer.

Battlefield 3

If you’ve ever played a Battlefield game before, you know that while they’re certainly bound within the same genre of the immediate competition, they do their own thing and they do it well. This rings especially true when it comes to the series’ multiplayer, though that’s definitely not the only way to fully enjoy Battlefield 3.

This time the war at hand is far separated from the more, um, silly fare of the Battlefield: Bad Company games. Not to say that those are on the level of the literally cartoony Battlefield Heroes, but they definitely were not aiming for a gravely serious tone. The year is 2014, aka the ever-popular “not-so-distant future.” As Staff Sergeant Henry “Black” Blackburn, the player is deployed along with the United States Marine Corps to the Iran-Iraq border. Blackburn and his team must find a U.S. squad investigating a possible chemical weapons site and return them safely through the fire of a hostile militia.

The odds of this going well, naturally, are slim to none, as this mission serves as the impetus for all the raucous action to follow. In addition to the traditional first-person combat, the single-player campaign will offer a few limited opportunities to operate vehicles, a mainstay of the multiplayer. Speaking of which, that’s where pretty much everyone will be spending the majority of their time, and the class-based gameplay here—Assault, Support, Engineer, and Recon—looks slicker than ever. Tweaks to each class, such as the ability for players who choose Assault to equip defibrillators and medkits, will alter the tried and true dynamic in myriad ways. Their Battlelog suite of online features are also all free, unlike Activision’s Call of Duty Elite package.

PC players get the real deal treat when it comes to Battlefield 3. Massive 64-player online battles will light up the screen, serving up a bit of military controlled chaos when it drops this October. As much as I personally prefer gaming on my 360 and PS3, it’s tough for console gamers to even claim a comparable experience when the war waged on PC is so much more expansive. This type of sizable skirmish is perfect for the Battlefield series, too, with its focus on vehicular combat in addition to on-foot firefights. Even without the benefit granted to PC gamers, Battlefield 3 may be preferable to some simply because, as far as modern warfare pseudo-simulations go, it’s undeniably bigger in almost every way.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

On the other hand, it’s difficult to argue against the blockbuster power of the Call of Duty series. Even if some say first appearances reek of a “been there, done that” quality, Activision’s behemoth has special means of titillation. The breathtaking E3 2011 demo showcased a scenario that isn’t exactly loaded with originality—the player and his squad surface after an underwater mission to find themselves bobbing in U.S. waters in the middle of an attack on our own shores—but the production values alone manage to make the concept soar.

The Russian Federation is not only attacking our homefront (kinda like the Koreans did in … Homefront), but expanding their offensive to Europe, thus continuing the story established in previous Modern Warfare titles. Think full-on World War III and you’ve got the idea. By now most seasoned gamers know what to expect from a Call of Duty game, with the only real variable being bigger, badder, and more explosive; a true fat cat studio mentality, but one that’s appreciated nonetheless.

Like Battlefield 3, the meat of play will come long after the 8-or-so-hour campaign has reached its conclusion. At the time of this writing, Activision isn’t divulging every last detail of the enhanced multiplayer, though MW3 does boast a survival aspect not unlike Gears of War 2’s Horde mode, as well as Spec-Ops co-op challenges.

Activision may be trying to eat off the same plate as EA, and vice versa, but keep in mind the hungry, hungry demographic prepared to shell out money for one or both titles. The Modern Warfare series has always been the Michael Bay-esque Hollywood stunner of all the war titles on the market, so it ultimately comes down to (a) how much you enjoy this type of heavily-scripted campaign rollercoaster ride and (b) if you like your multiplayer full of perks and, of course, lots of rowdy little kids and homophobic teenagers. Not that both titles won’t enjoy similar audiences, but Call of Duty IS the standard-setting playground for the masses.

No matter the choice made this fall, I can’t personally imagine either title being a disappointment of epic proportions.

Back to the issue this appears in