Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III from developer Sledgehammer Games attempts to walk the delicate balance between honoring a beloved past great while also infusing some new staples of the video game industry into the experience in spots.
A direct sequel to Modern Warfare II from 2022, MWIII otherwise hits every box on the checklist: There’s a campaign, the tried-and-true multiplayer and a Zombies mode.
On one hand, a franchise that has seemingly done everything possible on an annual release schedule will garner praise for trying some new things.
On the other, if those attempts don’t land or are—even worse—boring, the series will have serious problems avoiding the stagnant and as expected classifiers.
There are two areas where Call of Duty remains king, or at least has a grip on the crown—graphics and gunplay.
When it comes to the visuals, this is yet another stunner for the series, especially over in the brief campaign mode. The cutscenes blurs the lines between game and real life to an almost uncanny degree and generally speaking, the facial animations, movement through environments and lighting and shading work is top notch.
Special kudos again goes to the sound design part of the presentation too, with weapons packing serious, varied punches. The voice-acting, despite some drab hoo-rah material most times, is top shelf, as expected.
There are some must-note give-and-takes, though. The multiplayer side of the game comes up short by comparison, mostly because the game employs a repackaging of classic maps from years ago. And a limited campaign mode that visits far less interesting places less frequently than previous story modes means the impressive engine working in the background, including some fantastic physics, doesn’t get as much time so shine as it usually does.
Overarching decisions to this particular game’s design create a persistent, similar give-and-take throughout the experience.
Take some of the gameplay romps in the campaign, which includes the typical bomb-from-above mission and one memorable setpiece in which players must advance up a building, inside and out. Beyond that, it’s very standard-fare Call of Duty from that gameplay standpoint.
And that’s true of most gameplay moments in MWIII. Multiplayer gameplay is again fluid, with perhaps no other company getting the buttery-smooth, arcadeish gunplay even close to this. It’s quick and fun with just enough gadgets and weapon modifications to be varied.
The game’s “time-to-kill” (TTK) on the multiplayer side feels a little longer than before, and yet it still very much remains a battle of who sees who first.
Alongside the TTK uptick, it feels like general movement has done the same. Slide canceling makes the cut and will create interesting skill gaps, while things like mantling and climbing appear to have seen an increase in speed, too.
Visually, the red-dot minimap thankfully returns, meaning those comfortably familiar red dots on the map every time someone fires a gun, barring the presence of a suppressor on the end of the weapon.
Unfortunately and notably, the user interface/menu system remains a disaster, with the multiplayer side of things re-arranging nodes based on what was last clicked. Tack on many reminders of battlepasses throughout and the general fact that the execution of all Call of Duty games being tucked into a single launcher is much worse than the idea of it.
Story, Multiplayer and More
The MWIII campaign is, in a word, disappointing. It’s a faceplant for a series that usually majors in epic setpieces, locales, mission variety and iconic moments that transcend the video game space, such as “No Russian,” “All Ghillied Up” and others.
That sounds harsh, but the reality is that the campaign drops players into frequent “Open Combat Missions” under the guise of player agency by letting them tackle objectives how they see fit.
And while that’s technically true, it’s impossible to escape the feeling this was rushed—players are blatantly dropped into cut-ups from Warzone and DMZ-inspired open-world areas and even use similar UI to cobble together resources while going to a specific area to take down bad guys.
This time, there’s legwork like that in front of what seems to be the return of unlimited-spawning enemies, albeit often without friendlies to help the player out, other than radio chatter. Further harming immersion is the enemy A.I., which given the way it recklessly runs out of cover at random, feels like it hasn’t even been tuned for these new open-world encounters. And while the game says stealth is an option, don’t. Just don’t.
It’s all a strange detour away from what made the Modern Warfare brand so good, for so long. Gone are the blockbuster moments and all that remains are a few linear missions that mostly miss the mark and far too many open-world missions that feel too uncomfortably close to the multiplayer experiences.
Even worse, this misstep leaves a way-too-short story again featuring Task Force 141 with Price, Soap and the gang feeling hollow, especially given how quickly the curtains come down without a satisfying end. Given the install size of the game, it might even take some players longer to download it than actually complete the campaign.
The multiplayer suite will feel familiar to fans considering it presents 16 remastered maps from past Modern Warfare games, as well as some really fun game modes like Kill Confirmed and Hardpoint. Beyond that, there’s the dud that is the huge player count mode that attempts to lure in Battlefield’s audience and the standard team deathmatch.
By far the star of the show is the ‘Cutthroat’ three-on-three mode, which is a competitive arena of sorts similar to things like Gungame in past games. It’s a tension-filled blast to play and will undoubtedly be popular.
Beyond other background items like the extensive gun and character customization (and things like Nicki Minaj operator skins, for those who really want to Fortnite-ify the experience) map voting thankfully makes the cut here.
Unfortunately, that map voting was going to churn out some wicked results from the community pretty quickly because these re-debuted maps from a long time ago didn’t seem to get a ton of love and care in the modernization department. Some of the spawns were so horrific out of the gates that Sledgehammer had to remove some of them from playlists already.
Zombies, like campaign, is where strange decisions harm what used to be a reliable staple of each COD release.
This year’s Zombies effort attempts to blend a few different genres, either tried-and-true formulas or the experimental extraction shooters and suffers for it. Players pop into a map not unlike those open-world missions from the campaign and must complete contracts to unlock upgrades, some of which can carry over to new rounds. Along the way, they fight NPCs and can encounter other teams of players, too.
Advancing through zones to the middle is more of a slog and doesn’t capture the tension of superior battle royale modes of the past, in part because it’s harmed through comparisons to past Zombie modes and the fact this just feels far too much like Warzone.
Which is pretty impressive in a bad way, considering a mode with zombies shouldn’t have problems with tension. But while higher-difficulty zones do ramp up the number of enemies and there is a shocking monster to find here and there, the map is still just far too big for any tension to build.
Players who do invest their time in the multiplayer will find plenty of checklist items to tackle and things to collect, though the more traditional Zombie fan might leave this one disappointed alongside campaign-only enjoyers who probably shouldn’t even bother.
This probably would have been the smart time for Call of Duty to take a year off, throwing this out as a DLC and calling it a day, which most fans would’ve likely been fine with, really.
The campaign is yet another good lesson in the video game space that open-world content doesn’t always trump well-crafted linear experiences. And in this case, especially when engaging writing and camaraderie amongst characters exits the stage for some reason, too.
Fans who want more excellent multiplayer certainly get it here, though its reliance on the past could leave longtime players fatigued earlier than usual in the game’s lifecycle.
At least at launch, MWIII isn’t doing anything to shake the stagnant classifier because the campaign and Zombies hiccups create surprising low points in a package where their presence is usually a form of steadiness.
Hopefully, while the multiplayer side remains a blast, the rest of MWIII isn’t a sign of things to come in terms of how the series treats campaigns and further blends a few different offerings into other modes.
(The following story may or may not have been edited by NEUSCORP.COM and was generated automatically from a Syndicated Feed. NEUSCORP.COM also bears no responsibility or liability for the content.)