Clash of the titans
Two of the biggest shooter franchises are out in the wild, and you want to know which is better. In one corner is Call of Duty: Ghosts, a shooter with a history of revolutionary multiplayer gameplay in confined, fast-paced matches and explosive single-player stories. In the other corner is Battlefield 4, the quintessential massive multiplayer shooter. Whether you're demolishing buildings in a tank or gunning down opponents with an assault rifle, you have the freedom to play any way you want, which has given birth to unforgettable "Battlefield moments."
Which blockbuster first-person shooter is better? That's the question we have to ask, isn't it? It's why you're here. After a few weeks of exhaustive play, we're ready to officially take a look at the features both games have to offer, and determine which does it better. In the end, we'll tally up the score and declare the victor. And none of that "herp derp they're both winners!" nonsense--a real winner.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: Call of Duty: Ghosts' campaign is as "more Call of Duty" as you could possibly expect, even with the swap from near-future to slightly-further future. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though--the set piece encounters are absolutely massive, and the story provides you with ample excuses to shoot waves of enemies in crumbling buildings. Oh, and there's a dog in it, which, you know, is pretty freaking majestic.
Battlefield 4: Battlefield 3's single-player campaign was downright terrible, and while BF4 doesn't fix all of the problems, it definitely moves in the right direction. Missions throw you into explosive situations and allow you to choose how to approach them, mimicking the feel of multiplayer extremely well. The characters are even likable this time around--more so, even, than Ghosts' leading brothers. It has some issues with pacing, and it definitely feels like levels were cut due to time (or to make DLC) that would have explained some of the missions better, but it's still surprisingly enjoyable.
Single-player Winner: Call of Duty: Ghosts
So, yeah, it's not super original, but we're fans of the world created in Call of Duty: Ghosts. The post-war locations provide a unique take on the areas we've already battled through, and though the characters aren't all that interesting, the Ghosts themselves are absolutely awesome. Call of Duty has never had that super awesome squad of mysterious badasses, and with the Ghosts it finally has its Spartans.
Battlefield, on the other hand, provided a campaign that felt much more in line with the multiplayer, but it faltered when it tried to wrangle it all into a cohesive story. Weird transitions between levels made it feel more like a montage than an actual campaign, and the characters--although interesting--never fully come into their own like Bad Company's.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: Ghost's multiplayer has been honed and polished to a fine sheen over half a decade of annual releases. The level design is superb, as each environment supports various play styles with long view distances for sniping, multiple layers for vertical gameplay, and silky smooth controls the series is known for. You might feel like you've done it all before, but if you enjoyed it before, why won't you enjoy it now?
Battlefield 4: Four words: "Only in Battlefield moments." Yeah, it's marketing lingo slung out to describe the stuff you can't do in any other shooter, but, damn, it's true. What other game lets you mow down infantry from the gunner seat of a helicopter, jump out of said chopper before it gets hit by an anti-air rocket, parachute to the ground while dropping C4 on an enemy tank, then set off the multikill explosion as you touch the ground and then y--DUH NU NUN NUN DUH NUN? Every match can play out entirely different from the last, and you never know what to expect when you drop into a new game.
Multiplayer Winner: Battlefield 4
With Ghosts, you're really just getting more of the same. Every match will have you running down the same corridors and sniping across the same kill lanes. All of the gameplay remains distinctly Call of Duty, without much that is surprising or feels new.
In Battlefield 4, sure you'll be playing on the same maps, but its really who you're playing with that makes the matches amazing. Your squadmates' loadouts and play styles can change the way you approach your objectives match-to-match. In addition, any random location on the vast maps can suddenly breakout into an epic firefight that can feel completely different from any other spot in the environment. It all creates a breeding ground for some of the most memorable, and unexpected multiplayer moments you may ever experience in a competitive shooter.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: Infinity Ward has been down this road before, so despite launching on six platforms at once (holy wow), the game hasn't struggled too much so far. Sure, there are some scattered reports of technical issues here and there, but things are holding up well across every platform the game has released on.
Battlefield 4: Though the PlayStation 4 (and last-gen) versions of Battlefield 4 have been fairly stable, the PC version has had it rough. Sometimes everything works fine, and you're able to enjoy incredibly fun multiplayer matches without a problem. Other times? Lag spikes, server kicks, and weird audio glitches. Things are getting better, but we're still a few weeks away from a glitch-free experience.
Launch winner: Call of Duty: Ghosts
Chalk it up to experience or--rather--regularity. Whatever it is, there's no arguing that Activision is simply handling this launch better. There are less issues with Call of Duty, and the online systems are functioning well.
There are other problems with Battlefield's online component as well that are compounded by the issues. Leaving a game (or getting kicked out for absolutely no reason) means you lose all of the points you've earned that round, and if you're using an experience booster you still lose the time spent before being kicked.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: With dozens of weapons, perks, attachments, killstreaks, and character skins to choose from, Ghosts definitely has some of the most elaborate multiplayer customization features in the series. I mean, holy shit, you have 30 perks to choose from, you can finally make a female soldier, and the loadout system supports any run and gun shooter play style you'd want. You might feel overwhelmed by the options.
Battlefield 4: In Battlefield 4, when you're choosing a class, you're choosing how you'll play the game. Assault can load up on the best grenade launchers to wreak havoc, or take a medicine bag and defibrillator to support the team. Recon can hang back and provide sniper support, or strap on some C4 and a carbine for close quarters sabotage. Just about anything you could think to do on the battlefield you can do in Battlefield 4 thanks to the vast customization options.
Customization Winner: Battlefield 4
Call of Duty might not be as much of a sausage fest anymore thanks to the new female soldiers, but Battlefield 4 still outdoes Infinity Ward's shooter with much wider spectrum of gameplay options in its customization features. Unlocking new weapons is awesome, but being able to swap the weapon parts to make it more specific to your play style can make a huge difference. Want a long-range shotgun that fires a deadly slug? Go for it.
Every class feels unique from the others. Then, once you get some new gadgets and weapons unlocked, you can really make each class your own. Just the fact that you can create a character that doesn't even need to shoot a gun to help your team is a testimony to how versatile the gameplay options can be. Seriously, when was the last time you left the killing to your teammates and decided to help the team by setting down an ammo case or spotting tanks in a Call of Duty game?
Call of Duty: Ghosts: What's the next best thing to shoot besides zombies? Aliens. Obviously. This year, developer Infinity Ward unleashed an alien horde for players to pit their squad tactics and skills against. Like Treyarch's Zombies mode, Ghosts' Extinction co-op puts you through a single, progressive map to which you can blast every skittering alien standing between you and destroying their gooey, nasty nests.
Battlefield 4: There might not be a dedicated co-op mode in BF4, but the squad system alone is one of the best cooperative experiences you'll have in a shooter this year. Every soldier class supports the others, and if you have a full squad of friends dedicated to taking one for the team, you're group is essentially unstoppable in a match.
Co-op Winner: Battlefield 4
Had Call of Duty: Ghosts come out of the gates with fully featured co-op like Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops mode or Treyarch's Zombies, we'd probably have a different result. But Ghost's Extinction mode is a bit limited. With only one map and one game mode in Extinction, there isn't much to keep you coming back to Ghosts' co-op.
On the other hand, if there was any reason to gather up some friends and play together it would be for the co-op experience you get from being in a fully functional squad in Battlefield 4's multiplayer. Sure, it's not co-op versus AI, and you're not fighting waves of computer-controlled enemies, but, sweet baby Yeezus, is the squad functionality a blast. It makes you really feel like you're playing with your friends, and not just hanging out in the same lobby.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: Infinity Ward changed the way the maps work from a traditional Call of Duty multiplayer match by including various interactive elements. Certain walls can be blown away to rid a sniper of his cover, you can trick an enemy into environmental traps that will have them tumbling down a cliff while inside a city bus, and some vehicles can be destroyed. If you get the luck of the draw while accomplishing your Field Order bonuses, you may even get a map sweeping nuke that will change the face of one map.
Battlefield 4: Let's see here... there's crumbling skyscrapers, maps that can become completely flooded, the ocean beach with a humongous battleship, and you can blow apart walls and chip away at cover with bullets. Almost everything on the map can be damaged or destroyed in some way. What more could you want?
Environmental interaction Winner: Battlefield 4
Take a look at the destructibility available in Call of Duty: Ghosts and put it side-by-side with Battlefield 4's Levolution (ugh, we can't believe we just said that); the difference is night and day. Ghosts' only lets you interact and destroy designated parts of the environment. Sometimes you can blow up cars. Other times, nope, can't do it.
Levolution and destructibility in Battlefield 4 literally changes the landscape of the maps. When you destroy the skyscraper in the Siege of Shanghai map, the entire area around the building becomes rubble. In Flood Zone, the street level becomes completely covered in water. Battles will ravage buildings as grenades demolish walls and bullets break apart concrete. The visual display and the gameplay applications in BF4's destruction are simply amazing.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: The newest entry in the CoD franchise is, hands down, the best looking game in the series. Characters move more realistically and the environments have more details packed into them. It's a noticeable step up from the last game, especially if you're playing on consoles.
Battlefield 4: The Frostbite engine has already given us a peek into what the next-gen hardware is capable of. In the singleplayer campaign, the characters faces are realistically detailed, debris breaks apart and flies around the screen in the wake of an explosion, and the map destructibility provides some impressive weather and destruction effects.
Visuals Winner: Battlefield 4
At its next-gen best, Call of Duty: Ghosts looks like a crisper version of a really good looking current-gen game. Sure, there are some moments in the single player campaign that make a fantastic display of what the CoD engine is capable of, but you won't be blown away.
Battlefield 4 moves into the next-generation with incredibly realistic character models, impressive lighting effects, and amazing destruction thanks to the Frostbite engine. When it all comes together, it is simply the more immersive and impressive leap in visuals from last-gen. In a side-by-side comparison, there's no question.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: The Call of Duty series is no slouch when it comes to adding new map packs, co-op modes, and other DLC on a regular basis. Surely, Ghosts will be no different. There hasn't been any official word, as of yet, that there will be map packs coming our way any time soon, but there have been rumors of new maps being in development. Lots of Ghosts DLC is coming, to be sure.
Battlefield 4: Battlefield 4 already has a full lineup of multiplayer expansions announced. Right now you can get all five expansions packs by purchasing Battlefield 4 Premium. Plus, if you opt into buying the new content early, you'll get early access before each is released, so you can start working your way to all those new weapon unlocks.
DLC Winner: Battlefield 4
This may be a category better revisited after several of the games' DLC packs have released, but so far, we know BF4 has a massive DLC lineup that you can order right now. If BF4 follows Battlefield 3's lead on DLC, there are dozens of new weapons, maps, and vehicles coming that will highlight the various aspects of Battlefield's gameplay, and we can't wait to see check it out.
Infinity Ward is still keeping Ghosts' DLC content plans behind closed doors. The developers definitely have something in the pipeline which will no doubt include map packs and possibly DLC weapons (shown in leaked images), but so far there's nothing official to confirm. So it looks like Battlefield 4 wins this round... for now.
And the FPS champion is Battlefield 4
Yes, it is definitive. From our time with both games, Battlefield 4 is clearly the better shooter this time around. Multiplayer provides a unique experience every time you jump into a match, and the technical prowess of DICE's shooter stands tall above its competitor, providing both visually stunning graphics and map-altering destruction.
Call of Duty: Ghosts, while a great game in it's own right, is simply outclassed by DICE's shooter in just about every category. If you're only interested in Call of Duty's brand of gameplay you're not going to be won over by Battlefield, but if you're interested in larger-scale battles it's 100% the place to go.
Better luck next year
Those are our thoughts on the shooter debate. Do you think we got it right? Will you demand a recount? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.