“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and “Battlefield 3.” Each has a “3” in the title. Each cover has a half-silhouetted soldier holding a gun. Each is one of the year’s biggest multiplayer games, set in a modern military setting. Comparisons are going to be made.

With all the buzz surrounding these two games, it would be hard to blame anyone for thinking they play exactly the same. Electronic Arts’s marketing of “Battlefield 3” has probably hurt more than it has helped this perception with an aggressive push, featuring overt jabs at the competitor with taglines like “Above and Beyond the Call.”

But the marketing only emphasizes that it’s “better,” not necessarily that it’s “different.” And the decision to pull the “Battlefield” toward “Call of Duty” and not away from it is a shame, because they differ wildly in gameplay.

Instead of claiming it’s the superior product, “Battlefield 3” should have emphasized its realism. As trite as it might sound, the game lives up to its title: It actually feels like you’re on a battlefield. It looks and sounds incredible: Gunfire is appropriately deafening and walls crumble naturally with mortar shots. Moreover, the guns act and behave realistically compared to most shooters on the market. They feature some serious recoil and sniper bullets will obey gravity realistically, falling as they go farther out. It’s an immersive experience that makes the player feel part of a military team. Organized, coordinated efforts with other players are encouraged, and movements have to be careful and deliberate — bullet damage will drop you in no time.

“Modern Warfare 3,” in comparison, is an arcade game. It would be easy to call it overrated due to its incredible popularity, but as it turns out, it’s good at what it does.

Nothing about “Modern Warfare 3” feels entrenched in realism, but it doesn’t have to. It focuses on the moment-to-moment action, tapping into people’s twitch reflexes better than almost any form of entertainment. The split second in which both opponents see each other and try to pull the trigger first is always an adrenaline rush, which is why the “Call of Duty” series still remains compelling. Maps are small and condensed, forcing players to constantly be engaged in combat, always making matches tense and competitive.

Comparatively, the maps in “Battlefield 3” are wide and expansive, which creates an entirely different dynamic. Game types are predominantly focused on pushing up to a point and taking objectives, which involves scenarios like storming beaches or buildings with a squad of teammates, while the other team tries to gun you down. Getting across the open battlefield to the objective without getting shot is a challenge in its own right, so staying alive is as equally exciting as gunning people down.

Since the maps are so large, “Battlefield 3” includes tanks, jeeps, helicopters and even fighter jets that players can pilot. Keeping with the theme of realism, these vehicles take some time to control properly. This makes sense, but it’s frustrating for new players, considering how awesome the vehicles are. Still, it’s spectacular to experience the role of a foot soldier running to an enemy objective as helicopters crash dangerously close by and player-controlled jets fight each other overhead. The map size and vehicles provide an epic scope to the battles, giving an actual feeling of immersion in war.

Public perception has pitted these two games against each other in a popularity contest, only focused on which one will be bigger or better. This is a shame, because despite their similar setting and genre, they differ in gameplay and target audience. Plain and simple, “Modern Warfare 3” is a twitch-based shooter, and “Battlefield 3” is a realistic tactical shooter. Pinning them as one and the same does a disservice to both and doesn’t let buyers know they’re totally divergent experiences.

Some people may want the same adrenaline-fueled action of “Call of Duty,” and that’s fine, but for those looking for a change of pace, the remarkably realistic yet accessible multiplayer of “Battlefield” is an immersive experience unlike anything else.

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