It’s been a bit of a busy year for Activision to say the least, but this hasn’t stopped the industry publishing juggernaut from dishing up yet another chapter in the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is the third entry in the rebooted Modern Warfare sub-series and the twentieth instalment in the overall Call of Duty series. It also serves as a reminder that all good things really don’t last forever, as over the past 20 years of highs and a few lows this is the instalment that really shows cracks in the formula. Like the past few years of CoD this new title sticks to the campaign, multiplayer and zombies tried and test formula which should work all over again, so where has it all gone wrong?
Well for a start the campaign is a mess from start to finish being too short, weak in tale and overall pointless. Overlooking the cries that this started as DLC for last year’s game, it seems like a tick box affair of CoD elements. AC-130 mission? Tick. Sniper mission? Tick. Shocking moment mirroring real word events? Tick. It has got all the right notes to make the CoD song work, but God knows Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s not playing a single one in the right order. From start to finish you’ll clear this weak tea globetrotting adventure in about 4 to 5 hours. The biggest change is to the linear style levels which are new, more open, “do it how you live” levels – where you have objectives and how you complete them is up to you. Great… the only issue is these “new” levels take place in sections of the Battle Royale’s gone but not forgotten Verdansk map, which makes them feel like cheap re-heats. The whole thing lacks any stakes as it moves at such a pace you can’t get invested in things, plus it takes the liberty of expecting you have played the raids from the last game to fill in some of what’s happening, and even why some characters are still breathing air.
Moving onto the multiplayer side – which is an odd one as being old enough to have been there for the original Modern Warfare series when they launched, where CoD was a real event every year, I have a nostalgia for the old maps let’s say. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III weaponizes this nostalgia big time, as all the maps in the game are rebuilds of all sixteen maps from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)… we are talking Terminal, Underpass, Wasteland and Rust to name a few. It’s great to revisit some of the series best built maps, but also it would have been nice to have seen a few reimagined for 2023… instead of being just carbon copies with a modern lick of paint. Ultimately though it’s CoD multiplayer, so it’s fine as it’s built on a foundation cast over decades with a couple of tweaks, but nothing truly game changing. This is familiar, like how you have to complete daily challenges to unlock some guns, attachments and perks – meaning you can get access to some really powerful kit very quickly instead of having to level grind. Movement also sees tactical and sliding playing a bigger part, favouring a slower paced at times brand of warfare, but in the same breath some of the spawns are truly terrible and need real work. It’s a serviceable instalment in the multiplayer book that leans way too heavily on past glories, all with playing it way to safe on new features and innovations.
The last major part of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is Zombies, which is a more beefed-up spin on last year’s surprise hit mode – DMZ. Seeing you jumping into the map with a basic load out, collect and loot some swag, complete a mission or two and make it to the chopper to get out of there in one piece, all while blasting hordes and hordes of the undead. Do this enough and you’ll head in seriously kitted out and be able to push forward into the heart of the map, to face ever more challenging enemies and bag better loot. Again it’s… fine. Though oddly this time around there is no PvP on the map, just PvE. So, you’ll see other teams running around, to the point you can even lend a hand if you think they are in a pinch. This decision does blunt the knife a bit, as the threats of the world are never as high as they were in DMZ, where meeting other teams would often end in epic gunfights. For those fans of Zombies there is also a story of sorts here to be found, but I have no clue what it is as orders are barked at you by 6 or 7 people over coms and I had no idea who any of them were except Soap from the campaign; the rest were just a squawking sound in my ears when I was fighting to save my mates.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been DLC instead of a full priced £70 title. Never has a game embodied the classic saying of the good, the bad and the ugly; with its garbage campaign and the fun, if a bit repetitive Zombies, that sandwich the serviceable multiplayer. It has true moments of the CoD greatness, but they are surrounded by a lot of mediocrity. If you’re an ardent fan you’ll get your CoD hit, but everyone else will likely be left feeling cheated. It does also give the new owners of Activision one hell of a stage to make their mark on what comes next, as anything will be an improvement on this smouldering pile of reheated hot trash.
An Xbox review copy of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III was provided by Activision’s PR team, and the game is out now for an extortionate price on all platforms (or just wait for it to land on a subscription service in the future).