Call of Duty’s multiplayer once stood as the series’ crowned jewel, but in recent years has taken a backseat to Warzone. While series fatigue has dampened some people’s opinion on the game, CoD multiplayer is a comfort food that has been reliably solid for over a decade. If you are going into Modern Warfare 3 expecting it to be anything different than last year’s game, then you are in for a rude awakening. The multiplayer doubles down on giving a tired series more exposure by relying solely on nostalgia. While it is great to relive fond memories, this “premium” title doesn’t do anything new to convince you that the future of the series is bright.
What’s old is new again
There’s been a ton of back and forth about whether or not Modern Warfare 3 was originally intended as DLC. As much as we have discussed Zombies being a reskinned DMZ and Campaign being underdeveloped in those reviews, it’s the multiplayer that truly exemplifies the add-on feel of this game.
From a map standpoint, MW3’s multiplayer wholly leans on remade maps that debuted in the original Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. Besides relying on that game’s nostalgia, it is a clear indication of how truncated this games development was to not include a single new map. Outside of some new guns and one new mode (which is just a different take on Gunfight from previous games), original MW2 maps are the only “fresh” additions that wasn’t carried over from last year’s Modern Warfare 2.
Every time I loaded into a map for the first time, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I was in high school when the original MW2 was released, and I have fond memories of trying to get just one more game in before I had to go to school each morning. It was never my favorite Call of Duty, but I enjoyed these maps back in the day. Being brought back to these familiar locals made me feel like I was in high school again for that moment.
While that initial burst of nostalgia is great, you are quickly reminded that this is a similar but bloated Call of Duty experience. Loadouts have become more crowded and complicated than ever. Hundreds of gun choices overwhelm the senses that could keep me trapped in the menus for hours, to the point that I found myself picking one gun and never looking back. Additionally, spawn points in each map are just as poor as they used to be back in 2009. Instances of you spawning in front of enemies and teams taking advantage of that to farm kills off you is commonplace and frustrating.
The biggest changes are what you’ve been playing for the last decade
When you compare MW3’s iteration of maps to the MW2 originals, everything is brighter and sleek. From an aesthetic viewpoint, I find the originals to look better, but your opinion may differ if you didn’t play them. Those versions were dirty, with debris everywhere and dust flying in the air. 360 and PS3 games also had a knack for always looking brown, so the addition of color is better here, but I found these environments to be too clean. The actual layouts and designs are mostly faithful, outside of small changes to the placement of certain scenery that I didn’t even notice until I watched comparison videos. Things like a hole in the floor being filled or a turret being removed.
Instead, the biggest changes I noticed when comparing MW3 to 2009’s MW2 was the culmination of all the little additions that Call of Duty has had over the years. Things like mounting your gun to a wall to improve your accuracy and more mobility options to climb and mantle ledges really expand on the possibilities of how to attack each game. There are so many more little qualities that didn’t exist back in the day. These would be changes worth praising if MW3 was the followup to that game, but these mechanics have been present for five or more entries at this point. In that way, MW3 only stands to show how far Call of Duty has come since 2009 but simultaneously how stagnant the series has been in recent years.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer is a glorified DLC expansion to last year’s MW2. While you could compare the 2009 MW2 maps to this and say that gameplay has changed a lot, that would be expected for an entry with 14 years of iteration to build on. Playing multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 is good because these maps were always good, and CoD’s mechanics are still good, but there is nothing that makes this stand out as more than overpriced recycled assets. Remastered maps are great for an add-on, but not a foundation on which to sell a full product. Activision’s attempt at justifying this as a full premium title shouldn’t fool anyone. This is a $70 expansion to last year’s game that relies on brand recognition and nostalgia by bringing back fan-favorite maps to sell. Multiplayer is just another aspect of MW3 that is screaming that the series needs a year off.
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.
- That initial wave of nostalgia feels so good
- Current-day Call of Duty mechanics feel at home on these old maps
- Feels like overpriced DLC
- No innovations or improvements from last year’s game
- Loadouts have become overly bloated with choices