‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III’ Review: Navigating The Echoes Of Familiarity

Activision has had an interesting year, as the long custody battle for Call of Duty finally came to an end when Microsoft was approved to purchase the publisher in October, weeks before the release of the annual entry in this 20-year-old franchise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. Maybe it was that year-plus of uncertainty, but the franchise was not immune to the drama, as it was reportedly rushed by lead developer Sledgehammer Games, and the results show it. It doesn’t mean Modern Warfare III is a bad game, or even a broken game. But it certainly feels incredibly familiar — and that shows what path the franchise should take going forward.

Right off the bat, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III feels more like DLC for last year’s Modern Warfare II. So much so that it doesn’t even have its own trophy/achievement progression, instead this chapter’s achievements are tacked onto last year’s game. There were rumors last year that MWII was set to be more of a live service-type of game, with constant seasonal updates and goodies, but apparently, Activision reversed course to make this season’s content its own full release — at full price. The problem is, it is not much more than an extension of the game that came before, and is DLC in all but name.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Price on the Prowl

This is not to say there isn’t some good times to be had here. The campaign picks up the story from the mid-credits scene in Modern Warfare II and gets rolling very quickly. The various chapters in the campaign are set in more open world maps with objectives to hit to move the story of Vladimir Makarov’s revenge plan forward, but the chapters also contain hidden loadouts that players can seek out, which gives length to each segment. To say the campaign is shorter than previous years is simply incorrect. In any COD game, players can rush through and finish the campaign in under six hours. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III took me about eight hours to complete, and I didn’t even find all the hidden loadouts. As the old saying goes, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

The campaign sees all the usual summer movie, Michael Bay-esque action and military jargon, and even allows you to play a varied stable of core characters in Task Force 141, instead of just one or two. The action is intense and the story shoots (pun intended) for some emotional story beats, for good or bad, and in all, I was left satisfied. I look forward to the story continuing, as the Modern Warfare narrative — and these characters — resonate with me.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III campaign.

Multiplayer returns with some enhancements to the perks system. Instead of selecting a starting class with all the class-specific perks baked in, players can pick and choose through the use of gear, like boots/footware, tac vests, gloves, and headgear. This allows you to mix and match the perks that work best for your playstyle. MWIII also includes a massive amount of new guns and gear to unlock. The progression system for various unlocks borrows from last year’s game and elevates it slightly to keep players engaged and playing longer through upcoming seasons.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III includes 16 maps or so at launch (a small handful were pulled shortly after release due to some spawning issues), all remastered from the previous Modern Warfare games from the early aughts. Sledgehammer says new maps are coming later, which again points to the fact that this game was rushed and was originally conceived to be DLC. The maps are fun, though continuing spawn issues and camper nests plague the experience, and I expect the maps will all be tweaked as time goes on. Skill based matchmaking is also still an issue, but if it wasn’t this wouldn’t be Call of Duty.

The general progression system has been revamped, and while the COD community has been very vocal of these changes, I applaud them. It certainly keeps me playing, striving to unlock new gear and weapons, instead of just getting them with standard level progression.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III zombies return.

Zombies mode returns after a year off, this time integrated into the Warzone/DMZ game mode, which also both return in their own rights. Developed by Treyarch, Zombies sets players on a massive Urzikstan map and tasks them with finding missions to complete, as well as gear to find and then exfil, all the while fighting off hordes of the undead and monsters — as well as rival fireteams also trying to complete missions and exfil. It’s pure chaos and there really isn’t a safe place, as the undead just spawn and respawn constantly.

One of the biggest selling points of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is the fact that everything you purchased/unlocked in MWII carries over. This, again, points to the DLC conspiracy, but also shows Activision — and now Microsoft — that maybe Call of Duty should, in fact, be an annual live service game, ala Bungie’s Destiny franchise. It’s nice that my stable of operators carried over, and all the guns and upgrades I fought so hard to unlock are there, and it hasn’t stopped me from leveling up the new guns and gear from this year’s game. I very much want to feel like I’m coming back home each year when I play a Call of Duty game, not just reconnecting with old friends on the battlefield, but doing it with my favorite characters and loadouts.

Much has been written about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III since the campaign opened in early release from those who preordered, and just like every year, much of what’s been written has been unflattering. It seems Call of Duty players love to hate Call of Duty, and yet they keep coming back each year and play for hundreds of hours, and the game makes millions of dollars. In fact, hating on Call of Duty seems to be the favorite pastime for gamers, and while they can go on social media, or various websites to complain, they are still playing, as there is just something fun and familiar with this franchise that brings us all back year after year. I just hope that this year, I stay with the game longer than just for the first few months, as I truly enjoy playing — even though so much feels familiar.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is available now on PlayStation and Xbox game systems, and PC. This review is based on the PS5 version and a code provided by Activision.

out of 5

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