It doesn’t matter whether I am mashing the button to get through the green waveform that greets me when I boot up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, or the dirty, distorted bass before the menu of Battlefield 3; either way there is only one thing on my mind. No, not social interaction, a key element in first-person shooters to a lot of people, but that next reward. I was only so many kills from unlocking the next weapon last time I quit, and I’ve been anxious to finally be rewarded for my service time and skill.
When shooters took RPG elements and added them to the mix, it was an evolution in the genre. That “just one more game and I’m sure to unlock (insert weapon/attachment/camo here)” mentality is an addictive quality for shooters. Few have mastered the progressive tree of unlocks, but two big franchises you can count on are Call of Duty and Battlefield. They both offer incredibly deep unlock systems that can cater to various individuals. I’ve sat down and spent some time (3 hours to be exact) with both games and jotted down some numbers to share.
01:00 Hours – The Frontlines
Battlefield 3’s matches lasted longer, which is the most obvious observation. During the first hour of play, I only got four rounds in. Ribbons, something awarded for doing certain things (ie. get 7 assault rifle kills in a round), come frequently and eventually lead to medals. Both are a great source of XP, so collecting as many as you can benefits you in many ways. Throughout those four games in the opening hour, 61 unfortunate soldiers died by my hand and 19 ribbons were unlocked. Most importantly, I leveled up three times, unlocked one gun, and seven attachments (I tried to use the same two guns to keep some sort of consistency).
After an hour, the sense of reward came from leveling up my class (I played Assault pretty much exclusively for this report) to unlock a gun I could use on either side of the battlefield. The first gun in each class is different depending on which side you are playing. So picking a class and sticking with it is beneficial in the beginning, though once you get a sense of how things work, swapping classes to whatever your team needs is how a good soldier fights.
This is where the experiment got fun. Modern Warfare 3 proved its difference in structure from the opening few games. In an hour, nine games were played (opposed to four), 106 opponents were killed (nearly twice as many as in Battlefield), and 12 levels were gained. Let me repeat that part; at the end of hour one, I was level 13. I had unlocked four weapons, and six attachments (again, I used the same two guns exclusively for this experiment). Instead of ribbons, you get accolades, though they don’t add up to much when it comes to progression. I stopped keeping track of them because of that, and that usually after every game I had four to five (five being the max).
My sense of reward in Modern Warfare 3 was simply leveling up. Each level brought something new; weapons, perks, equipment, challenges (something I didn’t keep track of, but they are a serious way to level up if you pay attention to them), and more. Emblems and titles are interchangeable and you unlock them at a fairly decent rate. I unlocked nine emblems and 45 titles (at one level, I unlocked a plethora of flag emblems).
02:00 Hours – The Fight for the Middle
The second hour of Battlefield 3 was a little more tense, and I was on a better team. That meant matches were shorter and equated to more games played. Six games later and I had killed 96 people and unlocked three new guns. One particular game had massive results (33-7 on Rush), so I gained a whopping 41 ribbons during this hour.
Two levels later, I could tell progress was much slower compared to Modern Warfare 3. I didn’t feel let down at all though, as the reward system still offered plenty in terms of weight. I was unlocking ribbons like crazy, and the attachment system (which is much like Modern Warfare 3’s) kept me itching for that next kill.
During the second hour of Modern Warfare 3, I only obtained 77 kills, putting the total up to 183 (opposed to 157 total in Battlefield 3) and got seven games in. Three weapons were unlocked, with seven attachments, but by this point I was level 19. In comparison, I was only level 7 in Battlefield 3.
The close-combat and faster gameplay style of Modern Warfare 3 was definitely showing in numbers. I didn’t need to play a third hour to come to this conclusion, but since I sat down and named the requirements for this field report ahead of time, I decided to stick with it.
03:00 Hours – The Final Hour
In the last sitting, 51 kills were had and one level was gained. Nothing surprising by this point, but five games were played and 21 ribbons were obtained. I unlocked one new gun and four new attachments during this session. While all of these numbers will vary per person, the totals are vastly different between the two games, just like my feelings towards them both in terms of their addictive nature.
First, let’s wrap up with Modern Warfare 3. Progression slowed down (as it should), as during these final nine games, I only gained four levels to hit the final number at level 23. Only one new gun was unlocked (truth be told, I was very happy with my USAS for small maps and the SCAR for more open maps, so new guns didn’t intrigue me), and three more attachments for the guns I used most. My kill count for this hour was a total of 111 kills.
The Final Numbers
Battlefield 3: 15
Modern Warfare 3: 24
Battlefield 3: 208
Modern Warfare 3: 294
Battlefield 3: Level 7
Modern Warfare 3: Level 23
Battlefield 3: 5 guns, 21 attachments
Modern Warfare 3: 8 guns, 16 attachments
Field Report Conclusion
The two games here do progression in amazing ways. While different and unique they also both offer similar concepts, but the real difference isn’t what you are unlocking or why, but the addictive nature of them both and how they are so different. In Battlefield 3’s case, it was leveling up the class I preferred to play to make sure I had both great guns to select from and the proper gear to do my role on the battlefield efficiently. Even though progress seemed slower, I was progressing in different ways.
In the case of Modern Warfare 3, everything is simply faster. The rewards system matches the gameplay, which is a great pairing. You gain levels like crazy, and each level grants you something new; whether a perk, a gadget or a gun. So for the first few hours, you honestly don’t go a single game without unlocking something (with even mediocre skill).
Other games have their own unique (okay, sometimes not unique but blatant copies that still don’t stack up against these two) progression system, but what DICE and Infinity Ward did with their games is unprecedented. They are both true masters of their craft and have designed an addictive architecture to the shooter genre.
Activision provided Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for this article. EA provided Battlefield 3 for review late last year, which was used for this article as well.