The war of the war first-person shooters
“Different strokes for different folks”.
It’s one of the English language’s most bizarre sayings – one that would confuse the hell out of non-English speakers, I’m sure – but it essentially means that different people like different things. That one thing won’t suit us all.
I like to apply the phrase to EA’s Battlefield 4 and Activision’s Call of Duty. Both are first-person viewpoint war games, both have single player campaigns, both have online components, yet they seem to be the two games that are the most divisive when it comes to which one is best.
It seems fans of one like to slag off the other but here’s my take on things: If you don’t like Call of Duty, don’t play it. Same for Battlefield. No-one is forcing you to spend time on a game you don’t want or like. Both have millions of fans, each happy with the game they’ve picked, so why the bitching?
Personally, I don’t have an allegiance to one or other. I’ve played both BF4 and COD Ghosts, and if I’m being honest, my favourite Battlefield game is Bad Company and my favourite COD game is Modern Warfare. Neither of them the latest in the long running franchises.
Now, most people won’t buy either of these games for their single-player component, and rightly so as both are highly MP-focused, but I’m not most people and still like to play solo campaigns, often more so than online offerings.
Here’s my take on campaigns from BF4 and COD Ghosts: They do a solid, if somewhat unremarkable job. I didn’t hate them but I didn’t fall in love with them either. I wouldn’t take either out for a second date .
Both have a silent protagonist, which sort of bugs me about a lot of shooter games. It bugged me back in the day that Gordon Freeman from the Half Life games was mute. It bugs me now. With today’s games wanting to immerse the player in the experience, having a silent lead character just disconnects the player from the action. I might as well be playing as an ice cream cone.
Ghosts tries to mix things up a little – one of the opening missions takes place in space but it’s too brief, and the remote sniper is great fun – and Riley, the trained dog, is a nice touch, but it seemed to me that just as you were settling in to controlling him and thinking “This is pretty cool”, the control was ripped from you and it was back to the tried-and-tried “move forward and shoot everything in your path” gameplay.
BF4’s campaign was more enjoyable than I expected but it’s still a cliche riddled affair, with stereotypical characters that I didn’t care for (I couldn’t even tell you their names). I played it on PC and it looks wonderful when things are cranked up to “OMG” fidelity.
Both suffer from instances where one moment you have to lead the way and open a door then the next there’s no way you can progress any further until your team catches up – and open a door for you. Ghosts’ campaign also dishes out trophies (I played it on PlayStation 3) like they’re going out of fashion: It seemed like most missions had two or three trophies each.
Right, now to the MP. I’m not a massively successful online gamer – sadly, my twitch reflex isn’t what it used to be – but if I had to pick a game that had MP that I enjoyed the most, I’d take Battlefield’s MP over Call of Duty. That’s not to say that Ghosts’ isn’t enjoyable – I really enjoyed its infected mode – it’s just that BF4 online game gelled more with me.
BF4’s MP is an assault on the senses, though, with explosions everywhere, voices echoing in your head and bullets zipping all over the place (generally into my avatar’s body from an unseen sniper).
It probably doesn’t help that I’m not very good at MP, though: I always tend to get killed more than kill. My Kill/Death ratio would generate much laughter and mirth around hardened MP players, but I stick with it, slowly but surely earning points so that I can rank up.
How bad am I? Well, I’m ecstatic when I manage to hit an advancing enemy with one bullet from the almost entire clip I’ve emptied into him. Some people might call that luck but I call it … Nope, who am I trying to kid: It’s pure luck that I actually manage to kill enemies in this game. And I’m OK with that.
I’m not going to dwell on specific maps and all their intricacies – there are plenty of other reviews around if you want those details – but some of the best moments in BF4 were when I spawned into a vessels and manned one of its side guns. I once spawned into a tank and made so many kills it made me giddy … then the game crashed, causing me to loose all my points. Another time I spawned onto a boat. I shot down a helicopter that time, just continuously firing at it using the boat’s mounted gun as it flew past. It took a few hits but he just seemed to hover conveniently near where we were. It was strangely satisfying seeing it erupt into a cloud of smoke and fire. Moments after that, I got killed by a sniper.
One MP mode in Ghosts that I like is Infected, where one player starts out as an infected human while the other are soldiers. Slowly but surely as each soldier becomes infected, it becomes an exciting game of cat and mouse as the surviving humans ward off the advancing infected. It’s a pretty neat mode and a nice change of pace from the usual capture the flag or deathmatch-type affair.
It may be naive of me, but I believe there is ample room in the gaming landscape for both Battlefield 4 and COD: Ghosts, but, I guess, if someone held a gun to my head and told me to pick one or else, I’d have to say I liked BF4’s overall experience more than COD: Ghosts, both in MP and single player.
Not that I’m an expert, mind you. I can’t tell you the intricacies of how each weapon’s rate of fire differs from the last game, impacting on game play, or how the scoring system has changed for the better/worse. I can’t tell you whether vehicles are now overpowered (although on some BF4 maps I noted that if you didn’t manage to get a vehicle you were pretty much screwed): I just play the damn things and tell you if I like them or not. That’s how I do it.
“Different strokes for different folks”. It’s rather appropriate here, I think.