I like first person shooter games. For the most part, they're simple, uncomplicated affairs that prioritize tactical prowess over the ability to reason out arcane puzzles or hunt for trinkets. The emergence of PUBG and Fortnite notwithstanding, and with the rather public struggles of the Star Wars Battlefront series, not to mention Bungie's ongoing fight to not piss off Destiny players, the two biggest shooter franchises over the last several years have been Call of Duty and Battlefield.
It's not necessarily fair to compare the two. Both aim to be completely different experiences, with their own separate pros and cons, and both have enormous, rabid fanbases that will heartily flay the competition both in forums and in the rare, real life discussions.
However, I'm going to compare the two anyway, because I can. Note that for the purpose of this piece, I'm focusing solely on multiplayer, as I've never really cared much for the campaigns of either series, not since the original Modern Warfare.
Before we begin, it's important to note where both series stand in terms of general strengths and weaknesses.
Battlefield games have always been about scale. While they have the usual FPS staples like Team Deathmatch and Free For All, the real draw is in the massive Conquest games. Dozens of players vie for control of important points on the maps, using a variety of weapons and vehicles to do so. Teamwork and coordination are important, and the squad mechanic makes it easy and intuitive to both issue and follow orders. Additionally, the game is built from the ground up with mechanics like spotting or suppressing fire, which makes it easy for a team with good coordination to steamroll over a bunch of lone wolf types.
Call of Duty, meanwhile, has always been about the close up gunfights. The maps are minuscule compared to Battlefield, and the teams are much smaller as well. Aside from a handful of perks and killstreak bonuses that benefit either the whole team or nearby players, you can have as much success running and gunning as your personal skills allow. The maps are geared to funnel players into close quarters shootouts, and generally speaking, it succeeds in making them tense and exciting.
It's when things get up close and personal that Battlefield tends to break down. Vehicles are either ridiculously overpowered, as is the case with tanks and armored cars, or in the case of airplanes, completely useless unless you're one of those mad geniuses that masturbates to screenshots from Microsoft Flight Simulator. Most of the weapons are similarly broken, falling into the categories of massively overpowered or worthless junk outside of highly specialized uses. With enough practice you can git gud, but overall, gunfights are as much an exercise in frustration as anything.
On the other hand, Call of Duty rarely has anything resembling scale. For someone who prioritizes strategy over reflexively pulling the trigger when you run around a corner, fights can feel maddeningly hollow. Even the largest maps are tiny compared to Battlefield, and you'll never face off with more than 8 players, at least on console.
To put it another way, Battlefield is an inexpertly cooked steak that's filling but tastes kinda funny, and CoD is a bowl of perfectly seasoned popcorn, a decent snack but hardly a meal.
The trend continues with BF1 and CoD: WWII. BF1 has massive battles that cross land, air, and sea, while WWII...does not. WWII makes shootouts thrilling, while BF1...does not.
More of the same, right?
Not quite.
Both games are set in historical settings, WWI and WWII. Both games are fraught with anachronisms regarding weapons, as neither war saw an overabundance of automatic fire on the level of general infantry, despite the prevalence of machine guns and submachine guns in gameplay. BF1 is the more egregious offender, however, as the vast majority of its automatic weapons were either used in fixed positions, never saw widespread service, or were historically pieces of crap (I'm looking at you, Chauchat).
There is, however, a great deal of overlap with WWI and WWII in regards to weaponry, however, as many guns developed for the Great War saw service in the sequel. And, because WWI's trench warfare saw a great deal of up close, in your face fighting, many of BF1's battles devolve into CoD-style shootouts.
And when you get right down to it, BF1 gets its arse kicked up between its ears when it delves into that territory.
I've already addressed the numerous failings of BF1's weaponry.
In terms of weapons feel and effects on target, CoD: WWII is superior in every way.
No longer is the Lee Enfield a popgun that can't hit the broad side of a barn and wouldn't do much more than tickle it if it could. It's a beast, a monster of a rifle that's just as reliable in close quarters as it is at range, even if you're like me and don't know how to quickscope. I've cleared out rooms with the 1911, though I'll admit that surviving the feat was as much luck as anything.
The weapons feel powerful, precise, predictable. You don't have to worry about dumping a magazine into someone only for them to clean your clock while you're reloading, unless you really suck.
What's more, almost every weapon feels like a viable choice, depending on your play style. Each one has a unique balance, and while some can feel kinda samey, none are really overpowered. The shotguns are brutal up close, but even the tight trenches of Pointe du Hoc leave enough room for other weapons to shine. Sniper rifles can be used at any range, but they require skill to be effective. Even the 1903, which is good for a one shot kill just about anywhere above the shins, doesn't feel overpowered because it's a stone queen to use.
Hell, even the semiauto rifles are viable options. The medic's autoloader on BF1 feels anemic, but the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine are monsters on WWII. You've got to know how to use them to make them work, but once you get dialed in, you can reliably drop bodies at any range.
If there's one thing that BF1 does really well that I wish CoD would pick up on, however, it's the destructible environments. The maps and buildings on WWII are more or less invincible, despite the chaos raging around and through them. If you throw a grenade in BF1, you can count on an appropriate level of mayhem as a result. That adds a level of visceral joy to the mix that WWII just can't match.
I really wanted BF1 to come out on top of this engagement. I've been frustrated by the increasingly "lit" nature of CoD games for years, and a more somber, mature take on the FPS genre was a breath of fresh air.
What's more, there are loads of games set in WWII, but until BF1 came out, the Great War was largely virgin territory. It's one of my favorite historical periods, both for the unique political setting and the paradigm shift in warfare it represented. Plus, the stories! I was nearly named after Alvin Yorke, and with good reason. The man's a certifiable badass.
But, try as I might to get into the spirit for BF1, I just couldn't. I love the scope and the scale and the destruction and the sheer ambition, but it's let down by the subpar gunplay. Cod: WWII might not be groundbreaking, and it's not without its share of flaws (to hell with loot crates), but at the end of the day, I have a lot more fun with it.