Battlefield and Call of Duty: A Detailed Analysis of Both Franchises Pt. 2

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Before reading, make sure to catch up with part 1 of our analysis!

The Graphics Engine:

DICE and the community have been putting a lot of emphasis on the importance of a games graphics engine. Call of Duty, in particular, has garnered a lot of criticism for making incremental updates to the engine used in Call of Duty 4 (and in some respects, Call of Duty 2), and not started from scratch, like DICE did when they engineered Frostbite. I’m a little puzzled by this though, because DICE themselves have used their first engine for almost a decade. I know that sounds blasphemous, but I don’t consider reusing an engine a bad thing anyway. The maps were still epic, and the gameplay was still fun.

Refractor 2:

This was the first engine ever used in the Battlefield Franchise. Refractor 1 was designed (fittingly enough) by Refraction Games, who were bought by DICE, and worked together with DICE to build Refractor 2 for use in Battlefield 1942.

Battlefield 1942 (2002):

After DICE finished 2 expansions, and handed Battlefield: Vietnam off to their Canadian studio, the time came for a true sequel to Battlefield 1942. Rather than develop a new engine, DICE updated Refractor 2.

Battlefield 2 (2005):

DICE continues using Refractor 2 to this day, and so far, has been used in:

Battlefield 1942 (2002)
Battlefield Vietnam (2004)
Battlefield 2 (2005)
Battlefield 2142 (2006)
Battlefield Heroes (2009)
Battlefield Play4Free (2011)


So where does Frostbite fit into all this? When DICE began work on the Frostbite engine, they asked themselves what they wanted to do that hadn’t been done before. So while keeping their excellent support for large maps, they created an incredibly dynamic engine, with dynamic lighting, destructible environments, and (award-winning!) prioritized sound. All very modern, and requiring a lot of processing power.

The Frostbite 1.5 version of Wake Island:

However, the biggest drawback to the introduction of Frostbite was that Bad Company wasn’t available for the PC, where Battlefield was born. This was also the case with Battlefield: 1943. To put it another way, DICE made a sequel to a beloved game unavailable to the same audience as the original!

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  • I like that Call of Duty and Battlefield are competing but it’s not sparking as much innovation as I’d like. Sure BF3 has a brand new engine, but there isn’t a whole lot changing on CoD’s side. It’s my opinion that companies should try and build better and stronger engines than before. You get really similar looking and feeling games if you keep recycling the engine year after year. It get’s stale.

    • That is part of the reason as to why I am getting tired of Call of Duty. There is no innovation for me and it has become the same thing year after year. Personally, I am getting tired of it, to the point where I am bashing it because of how good its competitors look. I made the decision this year to purchase Battlefield 3 over Modern Warfare 3, and MW3 has become a bargain bin game for me, I won’t buy it until it is maybe $30 at most. Call of Duty needs a refresher, and if that means building a new engine, then so be it. I enjoy both types of combat, fast and slow. Call of Duty is fast, yes, but if every year is virtually an overpriced expansion pack, then I am sorry, that is boring. I cannot wait until Tuesday for BF3, I purchased a new video card for it (GTX 570) and I am going to play it flawlessly, and love every minute of it.

      • explain me what is “innovative” about bf3.
        It looks like a generic war game with grey guns and uses resources from bc2 and moh.

        Classes? bf2142
        weapons from bc2 and bf2 with model design as moh
        vehicles and jets are from bf2 but less since there are 2 factions.
        character customzation interface from moh

        So what is new into the game? Dice tried to use innovative stuff in secret weapons of ww2, or vietnam or special forces or 2142, suprisingly bf2 was more generic and they liked that one more.

        So lets not kid ourselfs, no fan of any franchise wants their game to be changed.

        doom 2, a doom 1.5, best doom. Doom 3? worst doom.
        that says it all

        • A brand new engine which is pushing the bounds of current gen technology is pretty innovative. Sure, the core concepts are the same, there’s no reason to change that. It’s what makes the game great. The disillusionment comes from Call of Duty’s lack of attempt to even try and forward industry standards. They are shipping out games each year that really don’t make you go “wow”. Sure they have blockbuster like campaigns, but it feels so scripted. Same with multiplayer, you get such similar experiences on the same map, both because of size and because they aren’t dynamic. DICE is changing both how games look and how they are being played. Of course, these are just my opinions which I will not state as a list of facts 🙂

          • “brand new engine”

            NOPE bc2 used frostbite 1.5, this is frostbite 2.

            If it was “brand new” you will be able to see it, compare bf 2142 with bad company, even the weapons look  diffirent, bf3? the weapons look like moh, AKA last game dice made.

            I dont see how better graphics and the same bland war game with no gadgets or art like cod does is “innovative” quite the opposite infact, bf 2142, vietnam, special forces, they were all far more innovative than generic grey bland field 3.

            How can cod push the industry standards? It is a 60 fps game on 5 years old console. The fact they improve graphics in each game even slightly is noteworthy, not to mention iw engine has never stopped getting improved. Mw2 on my pc looks better than rage, fear 3, operation flashpoint dragon rising, moh and homefront.

            So it looks great.

            As for the ” wow”

            What does really? only games with graphics, comapre the bf games, they are all alike. Infact forget about that, lets pick uncharted 3, assasin creed revelations, killzone 3, dead space 2 and mass effect 3, they all look like their predecessors.

            As for campaigns? 99% of the fps outhere are copying cod’s style camapign so is bf3.

            Multiplayer? Yes you get similar experiances same as bf,  why would you change a game that 25 million people like?

            its like thins doom 2 a doom 1.5 and the fans were happy, doom 3? they hated it, same could be said for mp.

            Its worthy to note people hated mw2 mp despite its “small changes”

            Bf vietnam and bf 2142 are considered the worst bf games and a letdown to the fans, so if you gonna change the game and piss off the fans, you might as well go back to the way it was, innovation sadly doesnt work, those 2 were innovative, fans preffered the classic gameplay and also dice tried innovaton with mirror’s edge, didnt work out either.

            Speaking of that, remember prince of persia in 2008? Fans were pisses and ubi made a clone of the previous pop games in order to satisfy the fans.

            • Good lord your response is fractured, so I will do my best in responding. It is a brand new engine, if you deny that then you’re living in some type of fantasy world. It is not the same frostbite engine that DICE has used for previous games, they built it fresh. Ipso facto, it is a new engine. Like you said, it’s not Frostbite 1.5, but Frostbite 2. Not the same, ya dig? Simply because it is called Frostbite does not negate that fact. The only reason CoD can get 60 frames on console is because it isn’t in true HD. Battlefield 3 is 720p, with 30 frames. It still looks and runs well. As for the rest of what you said, it’s all fervent opinion. Please, organize your opinions better it’s making the discussion difficult to continue.

            • “if you deny that you live in a world of fantasy”

              AHAHAHAHH sorry,there is soemthign called “knowledge” and” missinforrmation”

              Just like skyrim”s “suposselly” new engine.

              Have you heard? skyrim is 6 gigs on the pc and people wonder why? Gee i dont know go play fallout 3 in 2008, all the dungeons use the same textures and so do all 5 dlcs, new vegas and all tis dlcs use those textures as well so we got 2008-2011 =700 hours at looking the same textures and bethesda posts crap like

              “if you know how to make an open world the size is small”


              This is what is going on here as well, “frostibite 2” is pretty much an upgrade on “frostibite 1.5” used on bad comapny 2, so NO its not a “brand new engine” Might you wanna take some english lessons if you think it is.

              By that logic mw3 IW 5.0 is a “brand new engine” and not an update  on mw2 that cod hater spam about “boo it uses the same engine”

              PRO TIP, game engines nowadays are upgrades on the previous engines, NOT new. Uncharted and assasin creed are doing this ALOT same goes for the unreal engine that those games are based on.

              Now dont dare argue with me crap about graphics on consoles bf3 hardly looks that much better than bc2 how would it? with dated hardware.

              Cod is 60 fps ALWAYS unlike say rage that goes below 60 fps all the time and loses visual quality.

              Thinking about dumb consolites think rage has better textures than cod. AHAHHAH, just so you know resolution is not everything neither a number next to the engine.

              Good exaple is crysis 2. “cryengine 3” is actually inferior than cryengine 2 and neither crysis 2 or crysis 1 on a console look as good as crysis 1, far from it actually, dumb console playesr that dont know shit about graphics, that is all.

            • Let me get this straight; because an engine has never been used in a game before, been in development for +3 years,  and is unlike it’s predecessors it’s not new? Skyrim does have a new engine, just because they render a lot of their dungeons to look similar doesn’t mean it isn’t a new engine. Frostbite 2, whilst sharing the Frostbite name with Frostbite 1, is a new engine. It hasn’t been used before. It is new. Think of it like this, if a new movie in a series comes out, is it not new because it shares the same name? “bf3 hardly looks that much better than bc2 how would it?” That is an opinion. “Cod is 60 fps ALWAYS unlike say rage that goes below 60 fps all the time and loses visual quality.” CoD is only capable of doing this because it isn’t in true High Definition. Please don’t tell me to take an English lesson when you have a poor hold on the basic mechanics of it, those being spelling and punctuation. Anyways, this conversation is nigh upon pointless as you are stuck in a deep rut of Call of Duty fanboyism.

            • “Because an engine has never been used before in a game and has been in development for 3+ years”

              Frostibite 2 is an upgrade on frostbite 1, its not new.

              Cod on the other hand doesnt take years to upgrade, it upgrades slightly every year and the only reason it updated slightly is because you cant have 60 fps and better graphics on 6 year old hardware no matter what “new” engine you use, it wont take advantage of old hardware.

              “Skyrim does have a new engine, just because they render a lot of their
              dungeons to look similar doesn’t mean it isn’t a new engine.”

              “dungeons” The entire game is similar to gamebryo, the texture compression, the geometry, the  shaders, infact, just wait till it comes out and the usual “stuttering” issues will appear, just wait.

              “Frostbite 2, whilst sharing the Frostbite name with Frostbite 1, is a new engine. It hasn’t been used before. It is new”

              Commercially yes, but in development terms its the same engine with upgrades and not “completly made from scratch”

              “bf3 hardly looks that much better than bc2 how would it?” That is an opinion. ”

              NOPE not even my opinion the opinion of people who played the game on consoles expecting pc graphics in mp and got dissapointed when they found out its pretty close to bc2 and moh.

              “CoD is only capable of doing this because it isn’t in true High Definition.”

              You REALLY dont know SHIT about game development do you?

              Red dead redemption runs on 480p yed the framerate drops to 20 even 15 under heavy load.

              Please don’t tell me to take an English lesson when you have a poor hold
              on the basic mechanics of it, those being spelling and punctuation.
              Anyways, this conversation is nigh upon pointless as you are stuck in a
              deep rut of Call of Duty fanboyism. ”

              AHAHAHAH how abou YOU not being a grammar nazi and YOU not telling me about gamedevelopment when you dont even know the basics and all you know is the hype crap you read in preview and yet you try to sound indelectual like you know shit when you dont?

              “call of duty fanboyism” HAHAHAHAH cod fanboys dont even know how to defend anything, i know how games work and i call BS when i see it, latelly dice and ID have been feeling us with BS not bethesda does it too with the whole 6gb crap but if you wanna be the average console gamer that doesnt know shit  and thinks he does from the hype crap he reads on previews.. by all means be like that, in the meantime illl stick to modding, which is something you dont even have the grasp of how its done and how do “simplitons” like me know how to open a freaking cfg and improve graphics on the game by accessing the variables.

        • Roger Larsson

          suppressive fire – effect when targeted, points even without kill
          scope glint – to balance sniper
          laser – visible when targeted, gives you a chance to take cover
          tactical flashlight – enhance your vision, blinding opponents
          vehicle customization
          remote controlled vehicles

          • i am pretty sure i can say the same things about mw3 or black ops, but they dont count as new to cod haters, sooo….yeah.

    • Thanks for the reply!

      Personally, the CoD engine has always been my favorite. Frostbite does a great job, but I’ve never quite found such a perfect balance of really good performance, a really sharp and modern feel, and versatility as IW4.

      • it is pretty good, although i dont like how dice does weapons in bc2/moh bf3, especially the sights aiming, feels kinda static in comparison with others and the hit delay in dice netcode doesnt help.

        iw’s engine is pretty good, its designed to do nice setpieces rather having physics and advanced stuff, like sledgehammer said its a great engine because you can put many things without having to re do the previous and it also looks great shader and lighting wise without needing alot of hardware.

        But the real shine of the engine is made by very talented mappers and modelers that the series have.

        frostbite 2 is ofcourse superior but has kinda meh shaders on consoles and it kinda lack good artstics.

        Both engines are far from their true potential, pc wise both of them could do amazing things, console wise iw engine is stable. I dunno about frostbite 2 though, could be a flop on consoles like cryengine 3 or turn out pretty good we will see. Id rather not judge from the beta.

        It is interesting to note iw is being upraded with each release but held back by dated consoles, if they made a cod game on next gen consoles with the same engine it would look great, let alone upgrading it with each release.

    • Look at the last 3 assasin creed games or the uncharted series, hell even mass effect 3, more devs are doing this, this aint only cod.

  • Great comparison, i would like to brin a couple of things up relaed to graphics.

    Cod doesnt use idtech 3, all the code has been completly re written, its a new engine of its on now, mw3 has better textures, streaming, lighting and geometry than mw2, the diffirence is small because you cant maintain 60 fps on dated consoles and have graphics at the same time, even if you get a new engine it wont take advantage of old consoles.

    Also mw3 on pc has SSAO.

    Finally while bf games look great, they are mostly shinny and bland, they really lack in art and detail, eg compare any gun in bf3, its detailed but not as much as mw2 and they are all grey and bland. Go into a room in bc2, the room is empty with pretty bad lighting, look around, the colors used are pretty much the same and there is not much of detail in small objects.

    Cod however has alot of art, i look at the gps on my character’s wrist in mw2 and i can read what it says on it, i can see alot of detail on the guns and read stuff on them, and cod has by far the best holographic sights.
    I go into a random room in mw2 and i see items lying around in that room related to that level, not to mention the very detailed character’s faces and the varied gear on their uniforms, or see how colorfull favela and arcadia are, while bf3 is kinda grey and blueish.

    Cod graphics but not be the best, but they are art, the designers put their lives in each map and object, kinda like rage does.

    • Thanks for the passionate replies!

      I agree with you. I think the IW engine gets a lot of unfair criticisms, and far to often, they’re just plain lies (like the misconception you pointed out: that MW3 uses an incrementally updated Id Tech 3 engine). I think a lot of it has to do with presentation. In Battlefield the camera sways, and your gun jostles around, and I think that misleads a lot of people into thinking that it’s the engine that makes BF feel more realistic.

      I like Frostbite a lot too, but for now, IW4 is my all-time fav. You’re right, Arcadia was freaking beautiful! 🙂

      • Trully i look at mw2 and that game on my pc was both colorfull and detailed, buidlings having diffirent colors, then a generic grunt looks at me and has detailed face expersion and eyes moving when he looks, his gear appears on the unifrom, i go inside a buidling and i see picturers on the wall  and items next to the shelves, i can read “IW” on the scar H and look around with the red dot sights and see a sense of depth and sway that bc2 red dots lack.

        The game is very detailed.

        Infact i am playing rage right now and i gotta saw mw2 has better textures, lighting and geometry.

        Yet people say “mw2 has crappy and consolish dated graphics from 2005”


  • This is an excellent series of articles. I wish more gamers could understand what actually goes into game and what some of the reasons are for why things are done a certain way. Unfortunately there are some that still won’t see what sense this article makes and cling to the belief that whatever game they don’t like automatically sucks. 

    • Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      It’s good to know there’s plenty of people out there with a live and let live philosophy. I was expecting hate from BF fans AND CoD fans!

  • Roger Larsson

    Not a really solid article, you have missed mentioning Frostbite 1.5, and that Bad Company 2 was released on PC.

    DICE also made another game that been influential when creating Frostbite 2, Mirrors Edge
    using Unreal Engine 3 with PhysX on PC

    And using Battlefield Heroes (2009) and Battlefield Play4Free (2011) as indications that DICE does the same thing – small engine changes – misses the point. Both are play for free and really an experiment in other ways to charge for games…

    • Thanks for the feedback.

      You’re right, looking back I should have made it more clear that after Battlefield 1943, Frostbite was finally brought to PC’s. However, pretty much the core idea of part 1 and 2 of this article was that pretty much every decision game devs make is a trade-off of some kind. I wanted to talk about the Frostbite-y goodness, and then cover the drawbacks. I tried to do that with pretty much everything, from custom classes, to player movement, to graphics.

      As for Heroes and Play4Free, I was not trying to use them “as indications that DICE does the same thing.” My goal was to point out that re-using an engine is a very poor indication of “doing the same thing.” Just compare the two. Heroes is 3rd person, P4F is first person. They look and feel very different. They have radically different tones. Same engine though, and that’s fine.

  • Joachim Holmstoel

    Brilliant stuff ! Keep it up. Can’t wait to read more articles from you !

    • Thanks a lot!

      I remember re-writing this along side your awesome article “Why you shouldn’t care about Modern Warfare 3 Vs Battlefield 3.” As a joke, I thought about calling this one “Why you SHOULD care about Modern Warfare Vs Battlefield” but I think it all worked out for the best 🙂

      • Joachim Holmstoel

        No way! Really ? That is some awesome stuff there buddy ! I believe that this 2 part series is way better than anything that I could ever come up with ! Keep it up dude !

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