Editorial | 12/23/2011 at 9:17 AM

Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3: Co-Op Showdown

Who deserves your gaming dollar?

Before this fall started there was a battle heating up on the gaming front. It was a battle of military shooters - Modern Warfare 3 vs Battlefield 3. Activision entered the contest as the reigning champion, their franchise selling millions of copies each year across all three platforms; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. But EA wanted to challenge the dominance with their own storied franchise with BF3.  We take a look at both games and ask - "Did their co-op promises deliver?"

While we may be a co-op focused site, games are constantly competing for our dollar. Both of these games touted their cooperative modes before release and we, in turn, promoted them to you. So while the single player campaigns, versus, and co-op make up the whole package - we want to examine what was promised for co-op and what was delivered.

Battlefield 3

We got our first taste of BF3’s co-op mode during Gamescom back in August, a mere 2 months before the game launched. While up until that point Battlefield 3 was rumored to have a full co-op campaign, it was finally revealed that we’d instead be getting a separate set of missions more akin to Modern Warfare’s Spec-Ops mode. We also learned co-op is online only in BF3.

Initially we were disappointed as we thought EA would step up to the plate and offer a more campaign-like experience. But this was just the first time we were set up for a downer. The next came when we finally got our hands on a retail copy of the game. Originally we were promised ten maps to play - in reality we got 6 missions.  And despite promises of some uniquely designed co-op scenarios, we rarely saw it in play with the exception of a sniper mission and a helicopter mission.


Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3’s co-op mode was revealed quite a bit earlier than BF3's, coming almost a full 6 months before release and fully playable at E3 2011. 

There were no surprises here, and despite the game not getting campaign co-op, we were getting a brand new survival mode on top of the Spec-Ops missions. Once again this mode is playable both locally and online, giving MW3 a big advantage over it’s competitor.

The addition of the survival mode was no doubt attributed to Sledgehammer Game’s involvement with the project and a commitment to “replay value” as Glen Schofield told us in our interview.  Not only was survival addictive and fun - but we have 16 additional spec-ops missions to play as well - a full 10 more than it’s competition.

Head to Head


  Battlefield 3 Modern Warfare 3 Missions 6 Maps 16 Maps Survival 0 Maps 16 Maps Local Co-Op No Yes Number of Players 2 2 Progression System Unlockable Versus Weapons Unlockable Co-Op Weapons, Items

It’s pretty clear cut at this point who the winner is in terms of features for co-op - Modern Warfare 3. The difference is night in day - Battlefield 3 feels like a co-op mode that was tacked on as a diversion while Modern Warfare 3 feels like a lot of attention was given to players. While the missions in Battlefield 3’s co-op mode were slightly longer at times, there’s very little incentive to replay them once you unlock all the weapons, which just so happen to be for the game’s versus mode.

On the other hand, Modern Warfare 3 keeps you coming back with a carrot on a stick by unlocking stuff for 40 progressive character levels, each earning weapons and equipment usable in the game’s survival mode. The survival mode itself, while mostly straightforward, is still addictive and definitely an intense experience.

Looking at the bigger picture, Modern Warfare 3 also takes the crown in terms of the game’s campaign - providing a much more rewarding single player experience with a story and set pieces that are simply more engaging than Battlefield 3. That said, BF3 takes the multiplayer crown with large, diversive maps with a wide range of vehicles and action that isn’t so blurry.

Battlefield 3 sure is pretty.

In terms of raw sales, an area Call of Duty games have always done well in, each is holding their own. Battlefield 3 is over 8 million copies sold across all three platforms up until December 1st - a very respectable number. Modern Warfare 3? It sold 6.5 million copies on LAUNCH DAY alone. No doubt the name of the franchise helps carry it.

In the end we were tasked with making a recommendation. If you had to pick one modern combat game this holiday season what would it be. If a rewarding multiplayer versus experience is your thing, Battlefield 3 is where it’s at.

But in terms of co-op and campaign the answer is easy - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is where your money should go.