Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Review – Call of Duty at its Worst

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Review

Shocking absolutely no one, Call of Duty is back for yet another yearly installment. As a huge Call of Duty fan since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, I always feel that twinge of excitement when a new one rolls around. More often than not, the latest Call of Duty entry brings me hours upon hours of enjoyment. Sure, along the way, there have been some disappointing entries… but I still put the time in to finish the campaign, grind away at the multiplayer, and at least attempt to enjoy the zombies’ modes. Where does Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (MWIII) stack up compared to previous entries? Well… It’s complicated.

If the rumours are true – and it sure seems like they are – Modern Warfare III was initially going to be an expansion to last year’s Modern Warfare II. With a considerably shorter campaign, a multiplayer package consisting of only remastered levels, and gameplay that remains mostly unchanged – it definitely feels like it’s an extension of last year’s Call of Duty. Is there enough in this package to warrant it being released as a full-fledged game? Let’s find out.

Modern Warfare III Review

Task Force 141 Reporting for Duty

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III campaign is not the worst Call of Duty campaign ever made. That honour still belongs to the horrendous Call of Duty: Black Ops III. With that said, Modern Warfare III will likely be nothing more than a footnote in Call of Duty history. The campaign’s story is a direct follow-up to last year’s decent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and essentially a retelling of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009). The same cast of characters, good and bad, make a return – with a story centering around the villainous Makarov.

Unfortunately, MWIII does a poor job of conveying Makarov as a big baddie. I want to avoid spoilers, for those who still want to experience the story first hand. But I will say that about one-third of the way through the campaign, there is a playable mission where you experience his terrorism first-hand – but it was so poorly executed and confusing, it’s almost laughable. It comes nowhere close to the iconic No Russian level from Modern Warfare 2 (2009). In fact, there are a few moments throughout the game – including the final mission – where the goal was to elicit a strong emotional reaction from the player, but the execution continually misses the mark.

Mixed Missions

If we remove the story from the game and focus solely on the gameplay, yet again, Modern Warfare III is largely a disappointment. The game is approximately 5 hours in length, spread over 14 different missions. However, some of those missions are only a handful of minutes long. The levels are mostly comprised of the classic Call of Duty-style levels and the new Open Combat Missions. The classic Call of Duty style levels are designed to just funnel players along from one point to another, with a goal of trying to kill all the surrounding enemies to proceed. It’s not the most exciting style of gameplay, but usually there is enough decent gunplay, big set pieces, and flashy moments to keep things enjoyable. Obviously, the developers knew these classic Call of Duty style levels were growing stale, so they injected new-to-franchise Open Combat Missions, six in total, to help spice things up.

Open Combat Missions

In these Open Combat Missions, you’ll be presented with a relatively large sandbox featuring multiple objectives to complete – ie: diffuse a certain number of bombs. Throughout the levels, you’ll find plenty of different weapons and equipment to assist with the mission. While these missions were a welcome change of pace, they weren’t without their issues.

In each of these missions, you’ll begin undetected and be able to proceed in stealth-like fashion. If an enemy thinks they’ve spotted you, they’ll appear yellow on your HUD’s map. If they actually see you and start engaging, they’ll appear red, and often alarms will sound and you’ll be swarmed by enemies. This is where the primary issues lie. For one, you won’t just have to deal with enemies that were previously located around the map. New enemies will often spawn out of thin air to join the ranks pursuing you. Sometimes, you’ll clear an entire area, only for enemies to spawn behind you. It’s extremely annoying. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if the stealth system actually worked. Ideally, if you’re in cover, such as crouched in tall grass, you can’t be seen. Unfortunately, the detection system is heavily flawed and you will be seen at some point.

Immortal Lightbulbs 

Further to the issues of stealth is the inability to damage the environment. If there is an area lit by a single, dangling lightbulb – one would think “I’ll just shoot the lightbulb” to increase stealth coverage, but that is not the case – none of the environment is destructible.¬† Same goes for wooden doors. You’ll come across doors that allow you to attempt opening, but they’ll be “stuck”. Does using a block of C4 blow the door away? Of course not. Those doors are invincible, you’ll need to find another way around and clear whatever is causing it to be stuck – like a wooden chair leaning up against it.

There is just one more moment, essentially a mini-game, from the campaign that I need to share – because it just sums up the campaign perfectly. You are viewing an object. The object has a serial number on it. Your teammate asks you to tell them what the third number is. A prompt appears on screen with four numerical options to choose from, but the prompt is actually blocking the object you’re viewing. If you didn’t have the foresight to memorize the full serial number, you were essentially stuck with guessing, as you could hardly see the required number. Even worse, this moment precedes such a critical plot point. I couldn’t help but just shake my head in disbelief. Did they even playtest this?

I’m sure by now you’re getting the idea that the MWIII campaign was, for the most part, lazily thrown together. There are moments I enjoyed, but for the most part, I was largely disappointed. MWIII will not go down in history as having a Call of Duty worthy campaign. Fortunately, the campaign is only a part of the package.

Squad Up

Modern Warfare III is shockingly similar to last year’s Modern Warfare II. It’s essentially a copy & paste job. Now, I know most Call of Duty games share a similar DNA that makes them feel very similar. But this time around, there is no denying that a very minimal effort went into making the multiplayer mode. That’s not to say there haven’t been any changes. There have been a handful of subtle changes that actually improve the overall multiplayer experience. For example, the Perks Loadout system has been revamped. And while many of the perks are the same as previous years, the way they’re equipped is quite clever. Each loadout includes things like gloves – and the different gloves have different attributes, such as Fast Hands – which allows you to swap weapons faster. There are also different boots to wear, each with different Perk attributes.

Another welcome change this time around is the ability to choose between Killstreaks and Scorestreaks. Killstreaks reward players who can get numerous kills, whereas Scorestreaks reward players who are more inclined to help in a supporting role, such as shooting down enemy UAVs. It should give more players the ability to utilize the various Killstreak rewards. Unfortunately, MWIII only adds 3 new Killstreaks to the Killstreak menu this year, and – if I’m being honest – they all suck.

Modern Warfare 2 Revisted

MWIII launched with 16 maps, all of which are remakes of the 16 original Modern Warfare 2 (2009) maps. Now, some of these maps are iconic; Terminal, Highrise, Rust, and my personal favourite, Subpen. But most of them, such as Quarry and Afghan, should have been left in 2009. Fortunately, all these maps have been updated to accommodate the improved movement systems. There are more nooks and crannies for players to navigate through, but the basic layouts of the levels all remain the same. What is shocking though is how the 2009 counterparts, in most cases, feature a superior art direction over these modern 2023 remakes. Where in 2009, looked like true war zones, in 2023, everything looks so… bland.

Modern Warfare III Review

Forced Crossplay Returns

Ready for more disappointment? Xbox players STILL do not have the ability to turn crossplay off. This was first introduced in Modern Warfare II, much to the disdain of Xbox players. And for whatever obnoxious reason, the crossplay toggle has not returned. So, prepare for another year of even more unbalanced gameplay against PC players with improved frame rates, keyboard & mouse, hacks and mods. What are they thinking?

The issues don’t stop there. Just like in Modern Warfare II, split-screen multiplayer continues to be a broken mess. Players are unable to change loadouts after a match begins. Access to hardcore modes is not permitted. And this time around, the visuals have taken a substantial hit with some bizarre film-grain issue plaguing split-screen. Sure, these issues will only affect a handful of players – and I’m grateful split-screen is at least an option – but still, none of these issues need to be present and should be fixed.

The devs have made the bizarre decision to increase the health of players in Core modes to 150 health. So, while snipers and close-range shotguns will still kill players instantly – other weapons like LMGs, SMGs, and Assault rifles are now useless. Honestly, it feels like I’m back to playing Halo – requiring a near full clip of ammo to down an enemy. Yet another example of the extremely poor design choices.

Oh, and that stupid “no headphones” icon in the top-left hand corner of your HUD if you opt to not use headphones while playing makes a return from last year as well. Some of us do not want to be subjected to the ridicule of racist, homophobic chatter on a regular basis – so please, just let us enjoy the game with muted chat, without the silly reminder icon.

Zombies Rise Again

Normally, I’m not a big fan of the Zombies’ modes in Call of Duty games. I found them just too challenging, which is disappointing, because often the aesthetic, story and delivery was always so cool – but my skills just weren’t there to last more than a dozen or so rounds. Fortunately, Zombies has been revamped with a brand-new, open-world concept. Think Warzone, but with zombies. And I’m here to tell you, it’s the best part of the Modern Warfare III package. There are no longer rounds to contend with, but instead, the closer to the centre of the map you travel, the more difficult zombies become. This makes it easier for players to pick and choose the zombie experience they want. Very well done and I can’t wait to see what future seasons bring this mode.

Fans Deserve Better

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is largely a disappointing, lazy effort borne out of desire to sell copies as opposed to pleasing a Call of Duty fanbase. This is the year that we should be celebrating 20 years of Call of Duty, but our loyalty is rewarded with a half-baked expansion pack sold at a premium price. Not a single new multiplayer map, all remakes that – in many cases – pale in comparison to their original versions. A shortened campaign that was poorly executed. Xbox players are yet again punished with forced crossplay against PC players. Poor multiplayer design choices such as increased player health. Broken split-screen modes. The list goes on and on.

In past years, I would have happily grinded seasonal Battle Passes. Last year, my patience was tested as many of these issues in MWIII started showing up in MWII – but I held out hope that the devs would fix the issues and deliver a return-to-form Call of Duty. I was mistaken. Sure, credit where credit is due, MWIII’s gameplay is solid with industry best gunplay and the Zombies mode is one of the franchises best ever. But it’s the half dozen or so poor design choices that continue to drag these games down. Call of Duty has risen to a level where they’re just too big to listen to fan feedback, and MWIII is a testament to this. Call of Duty fans deserve better.

***Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III code for Xbox Series X was provided by the publisher.***

The Good

  • Best in industry gunplay
  • Some subtle improvements in multiplayer
  • Zombies mode is awesome

The Bad

  • Forced crossplay on Xbox platforms
  • Poorly executed stealth sections in campaign
  • Campaign seems thrown together
  • No new multiplayer maps, only MW2 remakes
  • Poor design decisions in multiplayer like increased health