For good or for ill (and, for the last several years, it has definitely been for ill), the Call of Duty franchise and the Battlefield franchise have been at war. Their theater is the entire video game industry. Despite the wishes of non-fans that the two game series would cease to dominate the media attention around gaming, they are here to stay.
For those of you who don’t keep track: First of all, good for you! Call of Duty and Battlefield started their rivalry in the late 2000s. Call of Duty has put out the Modern Warfare series, the Black Ops series, and Ghosts. Battlefield put out the two Bad Company games and the 3 and 4, which are part of their primary series. The competition has been tough, culminating in DICE putting out a broken Battlefield 4 just to make sure that the game beat Ghosts to the consumer market.
For clarity, I’ll say this now: This year, Call of Duty won. They shouldn’t bother with the end zone dance, though, because calling that victory “a narrow one” would be exceptionally generous. The most I can possibly say for Ghosts is that it worked. It had a stupid single-player campaign, uninteresting characters, and multiplayer innovation that is tepid at best. When the only additions you can make to your no-guts-no-glory military shooter are dogs, aliens, and zero-gravity combat, you might just be working in the wrong genre.
When this started, the games were actually trying to be interesting. Battlefield: Bad Company was a comedic parody of the sort of modern war games common at the time. The three most memorable trailers were parodies of Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. Modern Warfare 1 & 2 were both genre deconstructions which inspected the very concept of duty and what it means to be a soldier. They were as close to being moving and emotional as I think the genre is going to get.
My final conclusion about this year of competition is that it is starting to get old. I suspect the glory days of both franchises are behind them. I haven’t seen either game featured on any “Best of 2013” lists. Actually, I’ve seen both of them on some “Worst” lists. They’ve been completely overshadowed by more interesting games. I think it’s time DICE, Treyarch, and Infinity Ward moved on. Unfortunately, I doubt they will.