A great article from Digital Foundary on the the technology differences between BF3 and MW3.
After the months of aggressive marketing, week one sales suggest that the biggest battle in video games is perhaps over before it has really begun. Based on week one figures, the stark reality is that EA’s Battlefield has sold less than a quarter of the amount of units shifted by Call of Duty: Black Ops last year – meaning it would require a monumental drop-off in sales performance for MW3 to be in any way comparable. The biggest video game face-off of the year appears to have concluded with a whimper rather than a bang.
In terms of sheer ambition, DICE’s new Frostbite technology is nothing short of astonishing. Exercising the potential of the DirectX 11 APIs that developers fully expect to be a core component of the next-generation Xbox, Battlefield 3 produces beautifully lit environments using a tile-based deferred shading technique, allowing for hundreds of different light sources to be in play at any given point. Point lights, lens flare, emissive particles – watching Frostbite render out Battlefield 3’s most intense scenes is an absolutely remarkable experience, especially on PC.
The overall impression you get from playing both single-player campaigns back to back is that the advantages DICE has in terms of its technology have not been transformed into gameplay that makes the most of them – even the showpiece destruction technology seems to be limited and toned down compared to what it is capable of in multiplayer mode. On the flipside, the Modern Warfare 3 achievement is remarkable: the campaign is fast and indeed furious, beautifully paced and teeming with interesting scenarios and variety. What is may lack in technical advancement is more than made up for by the action and the gameplay.
What we’re seeing here with these two games is a clear difference in priorities: DICE has scaled down its PC tech to work on current generation consoles, while Modern Warfare scales up for PC, with only very limited success. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of its sales will be on console, it’s doubtful that Activision will be too upset about the shortcomings of the PC game, but it’s difficult not to believe that Battlefield will be offering a far more robust challenge to the current market leader when next-gen consoles appear in 2013. Frostbite 2 is simply incredible today: by the time new hardware is available, it’s going to be even better.
In the here and now, Activision can congratulate themselves on the creation of the quintessential console shooter – a superb value package that delivers in all three of its major modes: campaign, co-op and multiplayer. For its part, Battlefield 3 isn’t the same consummate all-rounder, but it’s still one hell of a good online shooter, and different enough from Call of Duty to enjoy phenomenal success in its own right – and going forward, as the next-gen draws closer, DICE and EA are well-positioned to fully capitalise on the immense potential of that beautiful Frostbite 2 technology.