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Battlefield 3 Kills Call of Duty; Was That a Headshot or a Hand Grenade?

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After several failed attempts, Electronic Arts may finally have what it takes to beat Activision's leading FPS.

Just over one decade ago, EA (NASDAQ: ERTS) was all but the king of first-person shooters. At that time, Steven Spielberg was riding high on the success of Saving Private Ryan, and he was eager to bring that kind of war experience to video games. This led to the creation of Medal of Honor, the World War II first-person shooter that launched Michael Giacchino's career. The series gave birth to an entirely new breed of action games, one that stressed gritty warfare and (years later) intense multiplayer action.

By the fall of 2003, EA's prized franchise began to fall apart. But the Medal of Honor games weren't necessarily to blame. Rather, it was the founding of Infinity Ward (which was started with several of the developers that worked on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault), the departure of Michael Giacchino (he composed the music for the first Call of Duty before moving onto movies and TV), and the simple fact that Activision (NASDAQ: ATVI) had now produced a better game.

EA spent the next several years trying to compete with Call of Duty; with each new chapter in the Medal of Honor series, victory seemed further and further away. During these years, Activision had its share of problems. But no matter how many times it stumbled, Call of Duty always managed to persevere at retail.

This time, however, it seems as if that's about to change. While the Medal of Honor series has yet to rebound, EA has another franchise that's set to explode: Battlefield. The third chapter is slated to launch in the United States on October 25, and after a jaw-dropping presentation at this year's Gamescom, it's hard to look at this game with anything but absolute awe.

Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be everything the Call of Duty series has claimed to be for years: the best in multiplayer combat. It looks faster, more challenging, and more intense. While most war games are typically referred to as a “clone” of Activision's franchise, Battlefield 3 stands to be the first game that makes that claim irrelevant. From this October forward, people may begin to refer to other war games as “Battlefield 3 clones.”

Thus far, the hype has been enormous. Perform a quick search on Twitter and you will find hundreds (if not thousands) of results for “Battlefield 3.” The new Caspian Border multiplayer trailer has created tremendous buzz for the game, spawning multiple YouTube postings and a very detailed analysis of the trailer's exploits.

As if that weren't enough, the game is positively gorgeous. It appears to use every ounce of power available from the current PC and game console technology. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are old – really, really old. Battlefield 3 makes it easy to forget that. Viewing the latest trailer (any of the trailers, actually) is akin to the experience gamers had when they saw Resident Evil 4 for the first time, which looked so much better than everything else.

Now I know that graphics aren't the most important thing. “In the end, gameplay reigns supreme,” they say, and it's true. But that whole “beauty is only skin deep” nonsense has no meaning until we sit down and play the game. Liked it or not, we may never do that – we may never pick up the controller – if the game looks like everything else out there. That's where Battlefield 3 stands apart.

I'm not going to lie – 2011 has been a horrible year for gaming. Between the lackluster lineup for Nintendo 3DS, the lack of new games for every console, and the delay of PS Vita, the once-thriving industry has slowly turned into a sleeping giant. One game alone cannot change that fact.

But let's think back to 1994, the other awful year in video game history. I was so bored that I began to lose interest in video games. Star Fox was not enough to keep me entertained. But then November came, Donkey Kong Country arrived, and from that point forward everything changed for the better. The following year gave us the Saturn and PSone, 1996 gave us Nintendo 64, and so on.

Surely Donkey Kong Country was not responsible for everything that happened after its release. But it was a great, late-generation game that reminded us of why we bought these consoles in the first place. I believe Battlefield 3 will do the same.

If not, at least we'll have the joy of watching it acquire more critical acclaim than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. (And, in time, achieve higher sales.)

Follow me @LouisBedigian

Posted-In: Activision Battlefield 3 Call of Duty Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Donkey Kong Country electronic arts MicrosoftTech Best of Benzinga

 

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