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I came over the Battlefield 3 as a CoD lad. I knew that the two games were far different, despite being in the same genre, and both having that age old plot of America vs Russia. I went in open minded, and here's what I think:
Firstly, the single player campaign mode. I realise most people don't bother with this any more, but that's like buying a mansion and only using the living room. Single player gives you a feel for the controls, which in general are the same as most FPS. There were a few slight differences from CoD, which take a little getting used to, but thinking about it, they make more sense to be that way round.
The campaign is pretty poor otherwise if I'm honest. But pbviously Battlefield has always been about the multiplayer, and the single player is sometimes tagged on as an afterthought, so I'll forgive it for that.
Now the multiplayer. In short, it really shows up Call of Duty as the kid's game it really is. Everything just seems slicker in comparison. And rather than having a host player, Battlefield utilises dedicated servers. So if one person has a poor web connection it doesn't screw up the gameplay for everyone else. You will need a fast internet connection, as on slower connections I was finding it much more difficult; you'll be shot multiple times, and after you die, then the guy who killed you appears right in front of you. So if you have anything less than 8mb broadband, then prepare yourself for this. But these days, with broadband getting faster, it shouldn't be a problem for most people.
Battlefield is much more about teamwork than Call of Duty, which employs the trustworthy point and shoot method. The enemy could kill you twice as much as you kill them, but if they're not working together to secure objectives, then you're going to win.
You can also now pay £40 on top of the game's purchase price for the Premium pack. Basically this includes all the DLC maps, and is definitely worth it. There are other things, like a different model of knife, and weapon camos, which seem a little pointless, but most will be buying it for the maps (map packs singularly cost £12 each, there'll be 5 of them). You can also buy the Premium version now, for £40 from some game shops. This already includes Premium membership, so if you're buying it new then you're best off doing it this way.
One of the features is you can rent a server, then you set the maps, the game modes, rules and so on. On paper, this sounds like a great feature, but in reality it was a terrible idea. Mostly because some of the server admins are petulant children, and will kick you out of their server if you dare so much as do better than them. Maybe you've unlocked weapons they haven't, maybe you're killing them so much they get into a tantrum, maybe something else. As long as you find a good server with admins who aren't so petty, you'll be fine.
Another bonus over CoD is the lack of children. Playing CoD, I've got so sick of children playing and just screaming down the mic. One kid even got his mother to talk to me on the microphone because I kept beating him. I told her exactly what I thought; if she's too dumb to see the massive 18 sticker on the front, then perhaps she's too dumb to have children at all. Yes, you do get the odd idiot on there, but in general it's a much more mature environment. Most kids I've played against on CoD have all said they do so because Battlefield is too hard for them. It's not exactly difficult, but it requires teamwork, something which a lot of them don't understand.
All in all, you'd be mad to go for Modern Warfare 3 over this. Unless you're 12, in which case badger mummy and daddy for a copy of MW3 and stay out of my games.