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Nov 17, 2023

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Review

Lights Off
2 Mediocre
Retails for: $69.99
We Recommend: $27.99
  • Developer: Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Beenox, Raven Software, High Moon Studios, Demonware
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: Nov 09, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed: Windows

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III serves as the 20th game in the series as it also celebrates its 20th anniversary, but this is an anniversary marred by a short development cycle and bad decisions. Designed to be a expansion for Modern Warfare II , and it sure feels like it. Sledgehammer Games is at the helm this time, previously seen with Call of Duty: Vanguard in 2021, a game that was merely okay all-around. Infinity Ward’s lack of presence is notably felt here, because this game features the most befuddling choices and features I’ve seen in these games. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is not only disappointing, it is deflating and insulting for fans of this storied franchise.

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I always advocate to play the campaign for a Call of Duty game, and while there’s glimmers of greatness, I just can’t recommend this year’s. It really has nothing to do with who developed it, or the expedient runtime of just four hours. Of course that’s short, even for a Call of Duty campaign — however, that’s the least of its problems.

The campaign features a mix of linear levels that the series is known for, and does so well. Yet, the greater majority of missions are called “open combat”, featuring a massive play area to accomplish your objectives in any order, any way you like. On paper, this seems like a great idea. Make something that gives players a choice in how they complete missions. In reality, it’s not really much different from a linear mission, and far worse off. The problem is that I often would complete one of these “open combat missions” in under ten minutes because I could just run or drive between objectives, ignoring combat to accomplish these tasks. It completely disintegrates any tension or cinematic flair to them.

It’s in these missions where not only do you have free reign of these maps, but there are places to replenish ammo and armor plates, not unlike DMZ or Warzone. There are a set number of orange crates to open, each contains a specific weapon blueprint that will be unlocked for use in that level, as well as for multiplayer. There’s even a loadout crate you come across, to completely re-outfit your player. It is limited to the campaign, and any loadouts created for multiplayer won’t show up here. It’s a weird collect-a-thon that feels very odd and un-Call of Duty-like in every way.

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Campaign (cont’d)

The campaign moves at a brisk pace, which is nice from a storytelling perspective, but you don’t get to spend enough time in any one location. It’s then that these four hours go by really quick. Except that the campaign, like the previous, is a reboot and so it operates on an altered timeline. This game contains the events of the original Modern Warfare 2 (2009), but they’ve been reworked in a way that there are actually no shades of what made that campaign so memorable. Obviously you can’t just remake “No Russian”, so the alternate version of this is somewhat close, but pales in comparison. There’s some cool missions of disarming bombs and even an obligatory AC-130 mission that’s really great to play, but it isn’t enough. I really haven’t been this level of disappointed since Call of Duty: Ghosts, and the campaign is an all-time low here.

Characters is where this series shined. The core four: Price, Gaz, Soap, and Ghost are fantastic both as characters but in their portrayal. They’re gruff, but human, completely with personal and moral struggles. Farah got snubbed in Modern Warfare II , and she’s easily the series’ best character, thankfully we got to see a bit more of her this time – but she still was relegated to more cutscenes than gameplay. Glenn Morshower as General Shepherd is also great, and seeing play it up to the “camera” is just so entertaining. While the story is a bit messy and feeling rushed, the cinematics on another level and so fun to watch. There’s a lot of good moments, that would have been better served as gameplay. There’s just glimpses of what this campaign could have been, but wasn’t.

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My longtime wish of Spec Ops has been granted with the recent Modern Warfare games, so I can’t help but be spoiled with that. However, this year the Zombies mode returns to nothing more than a wet fart. It’s an open-world approach, where you are dropped into what I can only presume is the upcoming Warzone map, and you complete missions like you would DMZ for. The Zombies mode is even code named MWZ, so it’s basically a reskinned DMZ in just about every way. It’s just so utterly lifeless and devoid of any creativity. It also doesn’t help that Zombies, compared to all other online modes was extremely laggy and unresponsive.

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In ways, the multiplayer mode feels like a return to form. Straying from the tactical shooter that the previous Modern Warfare games (which I enjoyed) opted for. There’s now a higher time-to-kill (TTK) where all players now have 150 health points instead of 100, which feels a bit more balanced and elongates gunfights just a bit more. Shooting a weapon with a suppressor on it, will now keep you off the mini-map (as it should). Even if you’ve been playing the games since 2019’s Modern Warfare, there is now a full level reset. Everyone begins at level 1 now, working up the ranks to level 55. New to this game and the series is the tactical stance. Despite them moving away from realism, there’s an alternate stance that’s between hipfire and aim down sights that’s not groundbreaking but offers another way to play the game.

All 16 of 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer maps are here: Afghan, Derail, Estate, Favela, Karachi, Highrise, Invasion, Quarry, Rundown, Rust, Scrapyard, Skidrow, Sub Base, Terminal, Underpass, and Wasteland. They are all classics in their own right, and are wonderful multiplayer maps. For new players who might’ve missed the original Modern Warfare trilogy, this will be a great way to experience them. Those looking to fuel their nostalgia might get bored of them sooner than later.

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Multiplayer (cont’d)

Aside from your traditional modes like Free-For-All, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Search & Destroy, is some new and returning modes that flesh out the multiplayer suite. First introduced in Call of Duty: WWII, War mode returns and is a great way to play the game, especially if you don’t enjoy killstreaks. It’s also a lengthy mode with respawns that are helpful in leveling up. This mode is about engagements whereby you complete objectives in order to ultimately launch an ICBM. Then there is Ground War, returning once more to be a _Battlefield_esque experience where you capture points on a big map with air and land vehicles. Lastly there’s Cutthroat, which is an evolution of Gunfight, putting players in round-based arenas with three teams of three. It’s high intensity, and really satisfying to clutch wins.

After level 25 you are given access to the Armory Unlock. It’s a massive change to the unlock system of virtually every game in the series. Now, instead of just being granted weapons or killstreaks through levels. Now there are extraneous weapons, attachments, perks, and killstreaks that have you activating up to three items you want at a time. It’s here then you have to complete a requisite number of daily challenges to unlock. Sometimes its three, five, or eight daily challenges to unlock it. And of course, if there’s an item you want that isn’t selected, then it doesn’t get unlocked, even if you completed those number of daily challenges. It’s a really grind, unnecessary system of unlocking things that is more of a deterrent than anything else.

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There’s no RTX to be found here, for a second time. However, the game is so gorgeous that it doesn’t need it. While playing the game since launch, there’s been none of the issues that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II had with crashes to desktop and corrupt files. That all seems to be fixed. Performance wise, the game runs great. The game utilizes NVIDIA’s DLSS and Reflex technologies for higher framerates and lowest latency to great effect. Without it, I was able to get the game to run over 144fps in most cases. With it on, I was soaring well above 200fps. For all its other faults, it is technically sound.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Call of Duty HQ needlessly complexes the game loading process, as switching between games and modes requires relaunching a different executable. The campaign is hurried along in an unenjoyable way with open mission design that takes away from what makes the series great. Zombies mode is completely forgettable and a rehash of DMZ, which is not included or playable in Modern Warfare III . Multiplayer does the heavy lifting, and really only stays strong through nostalgia of the original Modern Warfare 2. While the maps hold a timeless appeal, it doesn’t feel fresh or new as an experience. This is a game that barely stands on its own. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is unlike other games, it’s not broken, just bad and lacking any redeeming values.

A Steam code for the Vault Edition was provided by the publisher for review purposes