If you haven’t already read that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 allegedly began life as a DLC pack to 2022’s Modern Warfare 2, experiencing the game for yourself makes it glaringly obvious.
Calling this year’s solo mode a single-player “campaign” at all feels generous, as outside of a strong opening mission, and some interesting ideas about how these games could be structured in the future, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3’s solo offering is shallow, short, and feels like a release of obligation.
The biggest change is the open combat missions, which see players dropped into a larger-than-average map, with some objectives they can tackle in any order. These missions also have Warzone-style equipment boxes littered around the area for players to change their loadout, or use killstreaks. While this is an interesting approach to a Call of Duty linear campaign, in execution, they’re unfortunately poor.
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It feels like you’re being dropped into an area that’ll be used for the new Warzone map, and then you’re rushed by compromised AI in sequences that feel more like DMZ mode with cutscenes, and less fun. The objectives are also insultingly simple, with some open combat missions able to be completed in a matter of minutes.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 reeks of a game that had a series of environments at its disposal, that then had a storyline roughly strung together around it, to facilitate the campaign. Makarov, a returning Modern Warfare baddie, is utterly wasted on a story that functions more as a way to show off what Operators you’ll be buying in Warzone when the new map arrives.
Call of Duty campaigns in the past were never RPG-length, but you could at least rely on them for some big-budget set pieces and a daft, pulpy campaign that you could get through in a few evenings.
“Modern Warfare 3 reeks of a game that had a series of environments at its disposal, that then had a storyline roughly strung together around it, to facilitate the campaign.”
Modern Warfare 3’s campaign is not only painfully short (we timed ourselves at just over 3 hours and 20 minutes), but it doesn’t have that Call of Duty blockbuster energy. The opening mission is the only one that feels like a proper Call of Duty game, and even that still feels like a guided tour of a location you’re going to be playing through in Warzone soon enough.
The game occasionally flirts with different gameplay styles, including a baffling stealth mission that was at the same time incredibly basic, and deeply frustrating. The game doesn’t have a proper stealth system, instead when you get arbitrarily too close to someone, they’ll start to recognize you, and then all hell will break loose.
This section is instant-fail, meaning if you don’t follow a very set path, or account for the strange quirks of what counts as being detected or not, you’ll be doing it over and over.
A CoD. campaign has never felt more like a contractual obligation, or made because Activision didn’t think it could charge £70 for a game without it. It’s a cynical, disappointing low point for a series that used to set the bar for single-player shooter campaigns.
Meanwhile, this year’s multiplayer offering is essentially a map pack. Designed to slide right into the amorphous Call of Duty HQ menu system, if you’ve played a lot of MW2, you won’t feel a huge change from the off, especially since you can use your existing weaponry.
The map selection comprises 16 remastered maps from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2. These maps still hold up, and, if anything, highlight how long it’s been since the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty produced anything quite so iconic.
“If you’ve played a lot of MW2 multiplayer, you won’t feel a huge change from the off, especially since you can use your existing weaponry.”
Like the name of the game itself, the multiplayer maps are dining out on almost 15-year-old nostalgia, and while that is fun, the lack of anything original reinforces how slapdash this whole release feels.
And since the game is part of the Call of Duty HQ ecosystem, a portion of the skins purchased for Warzone will carry over, so its iconic maps are now full of players kitted out as Lionel Messi and Nicki Minaj sliding round corners with laser rifles.
Zombies mode is the best of a disappointing package when it comes to original content, and offers the most significant evolution of the game’s three pillars by opening up the traditional map-based game mode into an open-world setting.
This map, which will seemingly be the basis of the new Warzone map that drops with Season 1 in December, is a great change, as it offers a much less rigid approach to the horde-destroying fun. It’s a bit complicated to get to grips with initially, and if your team isn’t working together, you can easily be overwhelmed, but it’s a rare bright spark of originality in a deeply derivative package.
A Call of Duty game of this low quality released a decade ago would have been a scandal. Now, it’s emblematic of an approach to a franchise that’s in desperate need of a reality check.
Whether it’s the thrown-together, truly poor-quality single-player offering, the reliance on classic yet familiar multiplayer maps, or wider franchise issues like high skin prices and massive download sizes, Call of Duty feels like it’s swerving out of control.
This being the final release before Microsoft assumes full control of the franchise has put its new owner in an unenviable position. While the ship will take some severe steering to turn around, it’s difficult to see how it gets much worse than this.
A Call of Duty game of this low quality released a decade ago would have been a scandal. Now, it's emblematic of an approach to a franchise that's in desperate need of a reality check.
- Iconic multiplayer maps
- Zombies lays a foundation for the future
- Rushed, boring and painfully short campaign
- Open combat missions are a missed opportunity
- Feels like a map pack rather than a new game