Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 campaign review: Better luck next time
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Featured Image Credit: Activision
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III is a disappointing finale to the rebooted Modern Warfare trilogy that started in 2019 and is a low point for one of the biggest video game franchises of all time.
Following on from the events of Modern Warfare II (2022), special operations unit Task Force 141 led by Captain Price with Johnny ‘Soap’ MacTavish, Simon ‘Ghost’ Riley and Gaz by his side with the assistance of Farah Karim are tasked with foiling the plans of the tyrant Vladimir Makarov from unleashing World War III and framing a whole nation in the process.
Check out the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III campaign trailer below!
For better or worse, I look forward to the release of every Call of Duty. I’ve been with the series since Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360 in 2005. Sure, the series hasn't always been perfect and we’ve had a few misses, but for the most part, I’ve often appreciated its over-the-top, no-nonsense single-player campaign as well as its multiplayer modes.
My appreciation for the series hit its peak with the first two original Modern Warfare games of 2007, and 2009 respectively. What’s more, I even enjoyed just about everything that the two Modern Warfare reimaginings had to offer, so it stands to reason that I’d look forward to Modern Warfare III right? Well I was, that was until I spent several hours ploughing through its stitched together campaign.
You may have noticed reports that some players are taking just a few hours to finish the campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. That very well may be true, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of those playthroughs were spent on the Recruit difficulty setting with the purpose of finishing the campaign as fast as humanly possible to spread the word across social media. That being said, it took me five to six hours to finish on Regular difficulty. I wasn't speeding through the story. In fact, depending on the level I experimented to see which approach best suited the mission at hand, whether it was gung-ho or if stealth was the best approach.
Prior to its launch, Activision made a big deal about its ‘Open Combat Missions’, offering players the freedom of choice of how they choose to approach the mission. In theory, this sounds like a decent idea, but in execution, it made my time with Modern Warfare III far more frustrating and tedious than it needed to be.
So what’s the issue with the Open Combat Missions? Firstly, they feel like mini Warzone asset flip maps that have been created as filler for the story campaign. The maps felt empty, soulless even. I’d even say they were more like larger Spec Ops missions that we had seen in previous games. Prior to each Open Combat Mission, we’d be treated to a brief cutscene attempting to lure you into the story. Yet, they felt a little off and lacked the tension that I’ve experienced in previous Modern Warfare games. It felt like these Open Combat Missions were purely created as DLC for Modern Warfare II (2022) and when someone decided to release Modern Warfare III (2023) as a full game, they stitched the Open Combat Missions onto the linear missions with some cut scenes to pad out the campaign. This perhaps explains the lack of flow and pacing issues with the story that Modern Warfare III is trying to tell. For the second, the cut scenes that were played between the linear, more traditional missions felt more natural.
The purpose of Open Combat Missions is to give players the choice of action or stealth, and this is where a major problem persists with this campaign. Modern Warfare III is a first-person shooter action game, at times trying to be a stealth game. It doesn't work. Let me put it this way, for a game that encourages stealth, you can’t even shoot out lights to hide in the shadows.
Its stealth feels unnatural and when you do attempt to play stealth, you’re probably going to be spotted by a generic NPC grunt several hundred yards away with uncanny pinpoint accuracy that calls upon swarms of NPC buddies to attack you from all angles. When this happens, and it most likely will, you’ll probably just think: “screw it, I'll shoot anything that moves.” To be fair, shooting everything that moves (other than civilian NPCs) is a lot of what this series has always been about.
Sure, there have been some missions in the series that use stealth and we’ve had some bangers, such as the legendary ‘All Ghillied Up’. The only difference between those classic stealth missions and what we get with Modern Warfare III is that Infinity Ward executed that aspect with brilliance, unlike the recent attempts of Sledgehammer Games. What makes me feel sad, is that for a select few missions in Modern Warfare III is that we get the linear, cinematic Call of Duty that we know and love. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.
To offer a degree of optimism, the original Modern Warfare 2 of 2009 featured the infamous mission ‘No More Russian’ and with this 2023 version featuring Makarov as the big-bad villain, we’re treated to new interpretations. One of the better missions from Modern Warfare III is ‘Passenger’ and ‘Flashpoint’. Both of these are traditional linear missions and are the closest replications of the infamous mission ‘No More Russian’ from the original Modern Warfare 2. Perhaps I’ve just become numb to the Call of Duty shock factor, and while these missions are memorable and standout moments, they don’t quite replicate the tension felt in ‘No More Russian’, despite its best efforts. Furthermore, Modern Warfare III looks great visually, and sounds sublime, especially with a headset and the actors do a splendid job.
If there’s anything to take away from this year's disappointing release is that now Microsoft owns Activision, I’d like to think that Microsoft wants better for this series and I can only hope that this is the catalyst for ending Call of Duty annual releases, at least for the foreseeable future. Call of Duty deserved much better than this churned-out disappointment. If you’re desperate for a bit of CoD this year, then you’ve probably already picked this game up. Otherwise, give this game a miss or at least hold out for patches to fix some issues. In a year that has brought us so much joy with some amazing video game releases, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III somehow manages to lower the tone.
Pros: Good FPS gameplay, looks great, sounds sublime
Cons: Campaign has no flow, Open Combat Missions feel stitched, poorly executed stealth mechanics
Fans of: Call of Duty
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III releases on 10 November 2023 for PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Review code was provided by Activision. Read a guide to our review scores here.