Since we began hearing about the rumblings of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, rumors spread that this was originally set to be an expansion to last year’s entry rather than a full-fledged release. For the first time in decades, it appeared that Call of Duty was going to step off the gas pedal. However, it appears that Activision started getting nervous about making a few million dollars less and had the development teams crunch out a game that, while not the worst experience you could have this year, doesn’t come close to realizing the heights of the original MW3.
If there are any Call of Duty fans who still play the series solely for the single-player campaign, avoid paying full price for Modern Warfare 3 at all costs. The stories in these games haven’t been noteworthy for more than 10 years, but you can tell the development team was not given enough time to produce what usually passes for a “full” Call of Duty campaign. It’s an adventure that feels like a half-entry, with no payoff or resolution in its short run-time and the same tired gameplay we have seen for two decades.
What was the point of this story?
MW3’s story, in general, feels disjointed. While original MW3 bad guy Vladimir Makarov finally makes an appearance in the reboot series, he fails to make any meaningful impact on the player or the narrative. All that ever happens here is him being one step ahead of Task Force 141 the entire time. There is never any payoff to anything that happens. Makarov will threaten to bomb or harm a large group of civilians and always gets away at the end of the day, and our heroes are left to pick up and react to his next move. You never feel like you have any agency in taking him down outside one point in the game you are told you blew up a helicopter with him inside, but you never see the body so you know he’s alive.
Characters outside of Makarov don’t really grow at all throughout the entire ordeal. Farah, who has been a big part of the rest of the MW reboot series, starts this game swearing she will make Makarov pay for killing a close friend, only to spend her screen time just clearing the name of her group of fighters that Makarov is framing. She plays almost no role in the story at large other than to tell Captain Price that Philip Graves, who tried killing him in the last game, is trustworthy. Colonel Shepherd, who ordered Graves to kill Price and the rest of TF141 in MW2, just appears out of nowhere, and his story is not put to an end in a satisfying way whatsoever. Captain Price and Soap both feel one-dimensional in that all they care about is taking down Makarov, which makes sense, but it always feels like one of them is about to blow up and kill someone until a teammate comes in and talks them down. There isn’t much where you see the collected minds that these characters are often portrayed to have.
Every sacrifice that either came before or within the Modern Warfare 3 campaign means absolutely nothing at the end of the day. Even when the story tries to hit you with a gut punch that is supposed to feel emotional and make you hate the villain more, the credits begin rolling, and we are left wondering where the other half of the story is. There is no resolution. No finality to a trilogy. It doesn’t even set up well for what is ahead. It’s a waste of time disguised as a full AAA experience.
Are we still in 2011?
While there are 14 missions to play through, very few stand out in any unique way. Assets from Warzone are reused to create new open mission types, but instead of giving you more opportunities to explore and find interesting ways to get the drop on your enemies, they are incredibly shallow sandboxes that seem to copy and paste enemies and cover all over the place. You might find a device to let you rappel up and down buildings, but besides that, you’re just grabbing whatever weapon you like to mow down any enemies in your way. These “open combat missions” often consist of following an objective marker to interact with. Sure, you could say that just about any first-person shooter campaign, but all that ever changes here is how spongey the enemies that stand in your way are.
You can easily finish the story in about 3-5 hours, depending on your difficulty. Short games on their own are not bad, but become a problem when nothing you do during that playtime is either memorable or all that enjoyable.
While the campaign missions never leave you with a lasting impression, they do switch themes up at every turn. One moment, you will be sniping through a thermal scope in a snowstorm, and the next, you will be slowly walking through London petting a dog so the person you are tailing doesn’t see you. Not much here is brand new, though. If you have played any Call of Duty since 2007, you will likely recognize all the beats this game hits. The only time I ever felt that a particular mission did something cool was moving through a subway tunnel with runaway trains that you need to avoid and can use to eliminate enemies if you position yourself right.
I did like that the story has you play as the entire cast of characters. Early missions are very Captain Price-heavy, but you will have moments in the boots of Soap, Ghost, Gaz, Farah, and even Laswell at one point. It doesn’t make you feel more attached to any of them in particular, but I enjoyed that this was more focused on the team rather than one or two members. Most of those names only get the starring role for one mission, and gameplay doesn’t ever change, it’s just a different voice behind the gun, but I was happy to jump around more than Call of Duty usually does.
When the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 campaign plays by traditional rules, at best it feels like the dull parts ripped out of any prior entry. When it tries something new, it is underdeveloped and fails to evolve the gameplay in a meaningful or exciting way. Call of Duty as a series feels like it is in desperate need of a year off to think of more interesting ideas. With Treyarch’s next game getting a little more time to cook, hopefully, we can see more fully realized gameplay experiences and fewer underdeveloped experiences like MW3’s campaign.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was reviewed on Xbox Series X with a code provided by Activision. The game is also available on PlayStation and PC.
- Characters and level themes never feel stagnant
- No payoff to the story makes this feel like a half-entry
- The same old tired Call of Duty gameplay, nothing is special here