Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Review

Modern Warfare III is not your typical Call of Duty game. First of all, if you purchase the game, you won’t be installing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. The download will simply appear as “Call of Duty”. What you’re actually downloading is Call of Duty HQ, a new portal for hosting Call of Duty games and their modes. Call of Duty HQ is also the new home to Warzone, as well as Modern Warfare II. That’s as far back as it goes, though. Even if you own Modern Warfare or Black Ops Cold War and they’re sitting on your PS5’s drive, they won’t appear in the HQ portal.

There’s a reason that Call of Duty HQ doesn’t go back beyond Modern Warfare II – Modern Warfare III is in reality Modern Warfare 2.5. I wouldn’t be surprised if Call of Duty is moving to a service model in which you can add new content piecemeal, a new campaign here, a Zombies mode there. In fact, the season model is already blurred – items earned in Modern Warfare II are available in III and III launched with access to II’s current season’s rewards track. Jumping into the multiplayer game after several months away from Modern Warfare II, I was hard-pressed to really notice anything that felt significantly different or improved. The campaign and Zombies mode are both less structured now, but it’s hard not to feel that these changes are less about giving you more tactical freedom and more about requiring less development effort than required for a full cinematic experience. In short, it feels like Call of Duty gamers have been shorted.

The game’s campaign features series stalwart Captain Price and Task Force 141 who must once again face off against the rogue Russian ultra-nationalist Vladimir Makarov. The story feels rushed and disjoint, and requires a number of leaps of faith, so I’m not going to bother to attempt to provide a synopsis. Suffice it to say that it won’t live on as a memorable entry in the Call of Duty canon.


The campaign features fifteen missions, which may sound like a lot until you sit down and find that you can play your way through it within a long evening or two. The missions aren’t only short, they’re not that satisfying – this campaign is devoid of those “Call of Duty moments” that are a hallmark of campaigns past. Making matters worse, the campaign is filled with open sandbox levels dubbed “Open Combat Missions” that supposedly are there to give you the freedom to pursue the objectives in whatever order you’d like, but in reality are like mini-Warzone maps in which you play against bots. There are equipment stashes littered around the map at which you can find new weapons, gear, and armor, and you can parachute your way around the maps with vertical structures. It doesn’t really matter in which order you decide to pursue the objectives, because there aren’t any dynamic events tied to them. Just do them in whatever order requires the least map traversal and be done with it - there’s no real need to go back and do things again in a different order because things will be pretty much the same. The campaign is less modern warfare, and more modern battle royale, and unless you want to add the trophies to your profile and unlock a few items for multiplayer, you won’t miss much by skipping it. And this is coming from someone who always jumps into the campaigns first and plays them to completion before even thinking of entering the multiplayer mode.

The campaign isn’t the only thing that’s been given the Warzone treatment. The Zombies mode in Modern Warfare III is not about solving intricate puzzles while being mobbed by zombies in claustrophobic and dark spaces. No, it’s now a Warzone mod in which your squad spends most of its time traveling between encounters with clusters of zombies or other squads. This mode is not devoid of any story elements or objectives, but they’re not as intense or tightly connected as you’ve come to expect from Zombies. The mode now feels like a grind – drop in, find better gear, extract, repeat. I couldn’t help but feel slightly bored with the mode, and after spending a little time with Zombies I can’t say that I’ve felt any desire to return to it.

The multiplayer mode feels like an extension of/expansion for Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer mode. Most of the content is carried forward from that game, and adding to the déjà vu experience is that the maps are remasters of the original Modern Warfare II maps. While the remastered maps were ostensibly provided as service to longtime fans of the series, in reality it was probably a lot easier to remaster a set of maps that create a whole set of new ones. In addition, maps designed fourteen years ago were designed for the way the game played fourteen years ago, and don’t necessarily lend themselves well to some of the modes that didn’t exist back then.

As for the modes, the playlist remains the same with one addition, Cutthroat. It’s essentially a Team Deathmatch variant played with three teams of three players. War Mode returns, modeled on the large-scale objective-based battles of Call of Duty: World War II’s mode of the same name.

The game engine is still best-in-class, managing consistent silky smooth high frame-rates while delivering tight, responsive controls. The progression towards ever twitchier gameplay over the past couple of Call of Duty titles continues in Modern Warfare III. It’s kind of odd to me that a game that puts so much work into modeling the capabilities, handling, and sounds of modern weapons puts them in the hands of soldiers that power-slide and bunny-hop around the battlefield. The hopping in particular is getting out of control – I haven’t seen so much of it in a multiplayer shooter since the Halo games of a decade plus ago. It’s disappointing to see the tactical aspects of multiplayer matches disappearing in favor of running/hopping/sliding and gunning.


It's not only that the game engine is now thoroughly geared toward twitch gameplay, the entire ecosystem is pushing players to adopt that style. Objective-based maps don’t really reward players for playing the objectives. I’ve always enjoyed modes like Hardpoint and Domination, but racking up the captures and hold times will put you at the bottom of your team’s scoreboard. Scoring is disproportionally slanted towards kills, so the players who focus on kills are the ones who walk away from matches with the most points. And since the game is now so grind-focused with the season progression unlocks, there’s no motivation to do anything remotely helpful for your team other than killing a lot of enemy players so you can rack up as much XP as possible to reach the next tiers. I’ve reached the “why bother?” point with the objective-based modes – you may as well focus on modes like Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed that are kill-count focused. At least War Mode’s maps are large enough to naturally pull players towards the objectives that it doesn’t quite feel like as much of a free-for-all as the other modes have become. Plus, it’s the mode that lets you man vehicles, which is always fun.

In addition to bringing back the old maps, Modern Warfare III brings back the spawning system that was in place when those maps originally debuted. This means that all of the issues that shooters have worked to overcome in the intervening decade and a half are back, spawn-camping, spawn-sniping, and all the spawn-frustrations that you thought were a thing of the past. It’s very noticeable, it’s a big problem, and it deeply cuts into your enjoyment of multiplayer matches. Adding to the frustration is the game’s increased time-to-kill which makes players in Modern Warfare III bullet sponges in comparison to older games. It’s quite obvious to anyone who’s been playing the franchise for an appreciable amount of time. Getting the drop on a player and placing a few rounds into their body should be enough to score a kill, but far too often that’s not the case here. Instead, it becomes a race to empty your clip before the other player, now fully aware that you’re there, can empty their clip.

After playing the multiplayer game enough to review it, I can’t say that I feel all that compelled to jump back into it. That’s a first for me, and I’ve been playing the game since before it even had a multiplayer mode. Modern Warfare III is the most disappointing entry in the series for me in a while – I haven’t been this disappointed probably since Ghosts. The franchise would have better served its fans by taking this year off and putting the time into creating a better-balanced, more complete entry in the franchise. You can certainly skip this entry in the series, or at least wait until it is heavily discounted, because it’s just not worth it.

Final Rating: 58% - A mediocre expansion for Modern Warfare II masquerading as a full game release.


Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.