boxing knockout

The bell’s only just rung for the first round, but EA has already planted a haymaker in the centre of Activision’s face.

Reyes has dropped to one knee, he’s bleeding from a split lip and through the ringing in his ears he can hear the ref counting down, somewhere far away.

Will he rise to his feet again? Will the legacy remain intact? Will he do the unthinkable and claim a stunning victory?

Yeah, probably.

The contenders

Battlefield and Call of Duty have been trading blows since military shooters were a thing. With their first releases being 2002 and 2003, respectively, the two franchises have been going at it for over a decade.

For the most part, things were relatively even. Each game had its supporters of course – mostly split between those who favoured the tactical, team-based combat Battlefield offered versus the lone wolf, ‘Murica experience of Call of Duty.

Then came Infinity Ward’s masterpiece, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and everything changed. While often credited with the revolution of taking war games from trenches and Thompsons to modern-day combat, EA actually got there first with Battlefield 2, which released a couple of years before that.

While admittedly a decent game, it just didn’t have the sex appeal of Call of Duty 4. The original Modern Warfare didn’t just bring UAVs and and red-dot sights to the genre, it brought that Hollywood blockbuster feel that is synonymous with CoD games today. Not to mention overhauls to the multiplayer that are core features nearly a decade later – such as killstreaks and perks.

And, of course, SPOILER - killing the main dude. What was his name again? Soap? Stark? I forget.

And, of course, SPOILER – killing the main dude. What was his name again? Soap? Stark? I forget.

Battlefield, sadly, just couldn’t compete. They went in the other direction with Battlefield 2142, a game that was good but not great, and followed it up with Bad Company, which was received similarly.

Meanwhile, Call of Duty cranked out another olden-times war game with World at War, a game which was received poorly due to a desire to stay in modern times, but was buoyed by an afterthought add-on that became the biggest selling point of the game – the zombie mode.

Ever since Call of Duty 4, Battlefield has been playing second fiddle. Call of Duty, under Activision’s mighty marketing budget, has become the juggernaut franchise it is today in spite of fans becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the direction the series has taken. Simply put, nobody else is really doing what Call of Duty is doing, in the way Call of Duty is doing it.

The enormity of the franchise maintains itself – everyone buys Call of Duty almost by default, because like it or not it’s the game everyone knows they’ll be able to find opponents to fight online with throughout the next year or so.

Battlefield, meanwhile, has struggled with inconsistency. Battlefield 3 was a breakout success that launched the battle of the fanbois, while Battlefield 4 was only declared good after it had been patched to hell. Then Battlefield Hardline tried something totally different, was punished for it and fans returned to Battlefield 4.

Trailer Wars

And here we find ourselves this year, for the next round. There’ve been a couple of teasers here and there, but the reveal trailers were the real opening salvo – a taste of what the games are actually going to be.

And, for the first time, Battlefield crushed it. If you’re reading this you likely already know that the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare trailer is the most disliked gaming video of all time. Activision was dismissive, saying they’re “used to it”.

I don’t entirely buy that – it would be naïve to think this hasn’t had an impact internally. This is a billion-dollar franchise, and right now people will be scrambling to work out what everyone hated and how they can fix it. Also, did I mention that the Battlefield 1 trailer is the most LIKED trailer of all time? With the amount of thumbs up and down going around right now I’m tempted to think someone introduced a bot at some point, but the damage is done.

I hated the Call of Duty trailer, and there are two key issues that I think were not only lacking in the Call of Duty trailer, but were also very much present in the Battlefield trailer. For reference, here they are again:

Issue #1: Listening to the fans

This one is irreversible. For a while now, fans (including myself, although “fan” may be a stretch for me) have been clamouring for a return to the good old days of rusty carbines and machine guns that overheat. I know I’ve said it myself many times on this site: after each year we’ve gone further and further into the future, like a war film directed by Daft Punk.

I think this is partly the reason for the hatred of the Infinite Warfare video – the space segment. Nobody wanted to see space, nobody wants zero-gravity battles and shooting at each other in shuttles. I think Activision is so terrified of letting go of a formula that works (especially after getting burnt by World at War) that they’ve stubbornly refused to deviate, instead attempting to “innovate” in completely the wrong direction.

Battlefield, of course, has done the exact opposite. They’ve gone all the way back to World War 1, and even gone so far as to have people charging on horses, cutlasses in hand. Trenches and zeppelins and bi-planes abound, and for gamers it’s like seeing an old friend again.

Issue #2: Sex appeal

I’m not talking about a latex-clad Femme Fatale. I’m talking about that Hollywood blockbuster feel I mentioned earlier, that feeling of leaping off an exploding submarine and clinging to a helicopter, tossing a grenade over your shoulder for good measure.

It’s absurd, it’s ridiculous, it’s escapism in its most glorious form – it’s Call of Duty. The new trailer just felt so… blah. You can see where it was sort of going for that, but it fell flat. There were no crazy set pieces, no giant spectacle, no hype.

The big space reveal just elicited a groan, and lacked any real excitement. That Call of Duty magic that makes the game’s marketing so successful was missing in action.

Interestingly, the Battlefield trailer had it in spades (what I did there, you see it). Usually the more conservative and realistic of the two games, it seems EA have decided to go in a new direction with this returning-to-roots reboot. The whole trailer had an anachronistic steampunk feel to it, someone got hit in the face with a spade and it looks very much like you’ll be able to bum-rush a trench on horseback.

The music choice had its detractors but I liked the ebb and flow of it. I finished the Battlefield 1 feeling more excited for a military FPS than I have in quite some time. I don’t even remember what the music in the Call of Duty trailer was.

SNORE.

SNORE.

Will it matter?

A little. I think Call of Duty can fix the sex appeal issue in future trailers – I imagine the game still has that Hollywood feel going on, even if they didn’t convey it all that well. I think we’ll be seeing more of that in the future.

They can’t fix the Infinite Warfare space-battles thing, but I think a lack of competition is going to mean that’s mostly okay. As much as people compare Battlefield and Call of Duty, they’re very different experiences.

Those who enjoy the 64-player, squad-based multiplayer maps with tanks and airplanes and what have you are going to gravitate to Battlefield, while the run-and-gun close-quarters fans are going to stick with Call of Duty.

Mostly. I do think that’s a big factor, but I don’t think it’s quite so cut-and-dry either. If Battlefield can continue to impress with the trailers and announcements; that combined with the return to World War 1 is going to be enough to sway some Call of Duty die-hards. For any fence-sitters (such as yours truly), BF1 is winning hands-down right now.

I don’t think it’ll be enough to Lannister the King, but I think it’ll be enough to make a dent.

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