Bold strikes don’t come bolder than this. Battlefield 3 is out to topple Call of Duty off its perch. Yes, that Call of Duty. Brave or foolish – but it’s certainly tempting to think it will only end in defeat.

A conviction that might be reinforced by Battlefield 3’s single-player mode. It looks wonderful, it sounds fantastic and has some brisk and satisfying combat too. But it’s all a bit staged. Its large levels suggest freedom but the reality is you’re there to act while the game directs.

Not so far from Call of Duty then, but at least Activision makes up for it with spectacularly over-the-top missions that put Battlefield’s more run-of-the-mill efforts to shame.

Battlefield 3, however, isn’t about single player at all – a point underlined by how the single player is relegated to the second disc on the Xbox 360 version.

Instead this is about multiplayer warfare and once you dive into Battlefield 3’s online waters the Call of Duty-beater dreams suddenly seem anything but pie-in-the-sky. The choice is familiar with death matches, objective-based Rush mode and its capture-the-flag variant Conquest, but the execution is something else.

The maps are vast, sprawling theatres of war packed with destructible scenery that offer plenty of room for trying out alternative tactics. These environments also make sure you get an equal look in regardless of whether you pick one of the game’s four solider types or opt to control vehicles that range from tanks to helicopters and jet fighters. All of which adds up to some fierce, dramatic and varied multiplayer fun.

So good in fact that the game’s online co-op missions feel flat by comparison. It might drop the ball at times, but in multiplayer Battlefield 3 is a winner. Call of Duty’s dominance suddenly looks a lot weaker.

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Battlefield 3 review

The single player mode is a bit pedestrian – but in multiplayer Battlefield 3 is a winner