Forget console wars, it’s time for the Modern FPS wars: Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The first hands have been dealt and at E3 in two weeks, when these two gargantuan franchises lay more of their cards are on the table for the world to see, players will pick their sides (if they haven’t already).

Call of Duty has the bigger fanbase and mainstream appeal. Battlefield 3 has the superior game engine and graphics. It will be a game of marketing between Activision and Electronic Arts to see who will take a larger grasp of the market share this fall, positioning themselves for the future.

From the trailers thus far, Battlefield 3 is delivering the better, almost next-gen experience from a visual perspective. Their early start to the marketing has successfully gained the attention of media and gamers, thanks in no small part to the Fault Line series of single-player trailers which showcased the Frostbite 2 engine and the amazing things it is accomplishing with graphics, physics and lighting.

Modern Warfare 3 however, uses the same engine as Modern Warfare 2, with tweaks to allow for new gameplay features including destructible environments.

For an easy comparison of what each game will offer in terms of physics and graphics, let’s take a look at one key moment in each of the trailers for Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty 8 to see obvious winner in this department – In 2011, a shooter isn’t a shooter without a building falling down on you:

The Battlefield 3 collapsible building wins.

Graphics are a nice selling point, especially now when as we live in the final leg of the current console generation. DICE and EA took steps to ensure they’re prepped with their next game for next-gen consoles, but Activision is sticking with the model that has proven successful for them for all these years.

Electronic Arts, famous for overhyping their games and making unrealistic claims of late (see: Medal of Honor), says Battlefield 3 is better than Call of Duty in every way and that it’s designed to take over CoD. Activision on the other hand, took heat for their lack of a new game engine (and explanation why) and they claim that Modern Warfare 3 “will push the genre forward,” offering “the most advanced multiplayer ever.”

While Call of Duty will undoubtedly remain the top seller this year, Battlefield 3 should take a much more significant market share. What’s more interesting is how these two games will position the respective franchises for the future. If Modern Warfare 3 takes criticisms for again doing “more of the same” and remaining too similar to the first two Modern Warfares and Black Ops, they are going to lose gamers to the Battlefield franchise and that word of mouth can be powerful. If they take a dive in critical rating scores vs. Battlefield then they’re in even more trouble.

It’s going to be the gameplay, the story and the multiplayer features that matter in the end. Battlefield 3 supports larger maps, with more players and vehicles in multiplayer. It also features a large single player campaign, a first for the main BF series. It also allows co-op play. With only the world premiere trailer and leaked story details for Modern Warfare 3 to go on, we’ll have to wait until we see  the game first-hand at E3 to see what it is doing new for its new gameplay features in comparison.

We look forward to the competition!

Battlefield 3 releases this fall and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is officially scheduled for a November 8 release, both available on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.