With a four hour campaign, sixteen remastered maps from Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2009) and a new open-world zombie mode, Call of Duty Modern Warfare III would have been excellent DLC to last year’s Call of Duty. Except, it is not DLC; this is a $70 game rushed into release for the holiday season. For someone like me who hasn’t played a Call of Duty game since Kit Harington was fomenting rebellion in 2016’s Infinite Warfare, this was not the best way to return to the series.
Personally, I don’t consider a four hour campaign to necessarily be a strike against a game on its own, especially when the game in question is most known for its multiplayer. A solid, well written four-hour campaign can be immensely satisfying, and whet your appetite for the meatier multiplayer portions of the game. This is not that. Despite its length, this campaign is filled with artificial time sinks designed to extend the game as much as possible. The story follows Task Force 141 as they try to track down the recently escaped Makarov and the missiles he armed with chemical weapons, and is an acceptable action romp for the most part. However, even at its best it doesn’t excel and is largely forgettable.
The missions are divided into two types: the linear, blockbuster levels that Call of Duty is most known for; and the newer, open-world levels that are repurposed maps from the Warzone spin-off title. The latter of these features objectives strewn across the map that you can approach however you want, as well as weapon and item caches randomly thrown about. The kicker is that any items you unlock from these caches can be equipped from your loadout screen even if you die and have to restart — which you will, a lot. Of course, they only unlock for the level you find them on, and the whole system makes less sense the more you think about it, but it does add a certain amount of replayability by making you hunt down all the unlocks on each of these levels. The enjoyment of finding unlocks aside, these missions are at best bland, and at worst fairly dire. The cinematic action of Call of Duty gives way to endless hordes of enemies piling on you with minimal cover options available. The linear levels, by contrast, are fine examples of what Call of Duty can be in the right hands, although none of them truly stand out as pinnacles of the series.
Of course, the single player in Call of Duty is not the draw for most of the people who will be picking this game up this holiday season. Instead, the game’s robust multiplayer is what will keep people coming back. It remains as tight as ever, and the action remains fast and explosive with things constantly happening. However, the only real new addition this year is a 3v3v3 match type. It actually is a good, fun mode, and the nature of it really forces you to adopt new tactics, but it’s not enough to carry the whole package. There are other modes returning from previous entries, and while they have been refined by the years it is true there’s not much new here. There aren’t even any real new maps this year, with literally every map released at launch being a remaster of a Modern Warfare 2 (2009) map. Sure there are some great maps in there, but having no new maps at all is sure to be a disappointment. You can also expect even more Modern Warfare 2 maps added in the post-launch content, although some actual new maps should be appearing, too.
Functionally, this leaves just the new open-world zombies mode as the only sizeable addition to the franchise. And even that is not new, although this time around multiple player squads will explore the same map, possibly encountering each other as they all try to survive the zombie onslaught. Frankly, this is my favorite mode by far, and it is the one I am most likely to return to as time goes on. The multiple squads roaming around adds a nice twist to things, and the zombie gameplay is as satisfying as ever. You will also encounter non-zombie NPC opponents, which offers a nice challenge. My only complaint is that the mode takes quite some time to complete, and I’d love a quicker variant on the mode for when I just want to get in a quick match before work. What was once a side project back in the earlier days of Call of Duty has turned into a selling point all on its own.
One area that Modern Warfare III excels is in presentation. The graphics, lighting and effects all continue to impress, and it runs silky smooth most of the time. I did encounter frame rate issues during cutscenes, but never during actual gameplay that I noticed. There were a few open world style glitches and abnormalities, such as some floating grass and boxes in a zombie match, but nothing game breaking. Sure some of the character styles are a bit jarring in multiplayer, but that’s more the nature of their weird licensing partnerships than an issue with the engine. Getting stomped in multiplayer by a squad consisting of Skeletor, a giant cat and Captain Price was certainly a unique experience. On the sound front, weapons sound weighty and unique, voice acting is top notch and the music fits the action. All told, I cannot complain about how this game looks or sounds, but that really shouldn’t be a surprise.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare III (2023) Review Final Thoughts:
It is impossible to deny that Modern Warfare III is a disappointment in many aspects. Its campaign needed more time in the oven, the lack of new multiplayer maps, and overall feeling of being rushed all drag the game down. But, at the end of the day it is still Call of Duty and it offers a solid multiplayer experience either for PvP or co-op. At a lower price point this would be a perfectly acceptable stop-gap entry into the series. Historically Call of Duty games don’t reduce in price often, so I don’t know how long it will take for this to get to a price I feel is acceptable for whats on offer. On the other hand, it did accomplish one thing, which is a desire to play through some of the older Call of Duty campaigns, so I hope Microsoft will bring them to game pass at some point. I can only hope that when the inevitable next title comes around it learns from the mistakes of this launch.