I love a good Call of Duty campaign, and always look forward to the yearly release to play through a blockbuster, action-heavy story that makes you feel invincible. Unfortunately, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s campaign misses the mark on almost every level. From an uninteresting story that completely downplays Makarov as the series’ big bad to the truly boring Open Combat missions that ruin any sense of momentum, Modern Warfare III’s campaign doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.
Taking place after the events of Modern Warfare II, Modern Warfare III focuses on the Makarov-led Konni Ultranationalist terrorist group and their aim to cause cataclysmic damage to cities and countries around the world. Due to the nature of the threat, alongside briefly explored past tensions, Task Force 141 are brought into the fold to take down Makarov.
The four-to-five hour story throws you right into the thick of things but very rarely makes Makarov and the litany of Konni troops feel particularly threatening. It feels like it’s missing several cinematic missions to pad out what’s supposedly a global emergency and Task Force 141’s toughest challenge (and adversary) yet. The writing is fairly lacklustre, alongside middling performances from some of the main cast. Consequently, I just never found myself particularly captivated by anything.
Similarly, Makarov doesn’t get enough screen time to establish himself as the big bad everyone seems to refer to him as. The game relies too heavily on veteran players remembering the events of Modern Warfare II from 2009, rather than showing off what Makarov’s capable of in this story. It’s all a bit mediocre.
The lack of any weight behind the story is further exacerbated by Modern Warfare III’s Open Combat missions, which are entirely unnecessary. Put together by parts of Warzone and multiplayer modes, Open Combat missions have you running across small maps to accomplish a couple of monotonous objectives before moving on to the next set. You’re free to do your own thing to accomplish the objective, picking up weaponry and gadgets as you explore, but it feels like an entire juxtaposition to what makes Call of Duty campaigns great.
My favourite CoD campaigns have been linear, filled with blockbuster moments that are engaging and entertaining – these are the exact opposite of that. I’m all for experimentation and changing things up where possible, but I’m absolutely bewildered how we ended up with what we did.
The biggest failure of these missions come through the way they halt the story’s momentum, which is made worse by the ridiculous checkpoint system that can be extremely punishing on harder difficulty modes. Ultimately, I can’t help but feel these could have been condensed into a couple of linear missions to make the campaign feel more engaging and fun.
Speaking of linear missions, there are a handful of really decent ones in the campaign. Sledgehammer Games has managed to conjure up a couple of great moments and set pieces, but they’re far too sporadic to save a campaign that will go down as one of my least favourite in series memory.
It’s clear that Modern Warfare III’s campaign needed a lot more time to cook. It feels underbaked in so many areas, and I’d struggle to ever recommend it to anyone – whether you’re a series veteran or a relative newcomer. Comprised of uninteresting missions, an open zone structure that completely derails any narrative flow and a generally boring story, Modern Warfare III’s campaign is as drab as they come.
While unrevolutionary by all means, Modern Warfare III’s multiplayer offerings fare a heck of a lot better.
I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of some of my favourite Call of Duty maps of all time making their return in Modern Warfare III. As someone who spent a ridiculous amount of time ranking up and experiencing the joys of 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, it’s been an absolute delight to go back through and re-experience fan favourites like Terminal and Favela in the new engine. The slight tweaks Sledgehammer’s made are also great, giving most maps a chance to maintain a balance of old meeting new.
These small tweaks go hand in hand with the game’s frenetic movement, which Sledgehammer’s nailed in Modern Warfare III. Much like last year’s entry, the game feels extremely fast paced and takes some getting used to, especially if you haven’t played in some time. That said, this pace works for most of the maps and ensures combat encounters occur frequently and you’re never out of the action too long.
With that said, serious work needs to be done on the game’s spawn system. Some maps have been rightfully pulled from some playlist rotations due to being completely broken. And even after that, I’ve still fallen victim to a few bad spawn camping situations. This should be at the top of the priority list for Sledgehammer, as it completely ruins any fun.
If you’re going into the game expecting a swathe of additions and enhancements to the gameplay, you’ll be disappointed. Tac-Stance, one of the big new additions to the game, does very little to change the way Modern Warfare III actually plays. While it’s designed to be the perfect middle ground between aiming down the sights and hip firing your weapon, I found it quite difficult to get used to.
I also found the way armoury unlocks work to be unnecessarily grindy. Rather than unlocking all of your equipment, weapons, gear and killstreaks via levelling up in-game, you now have to select an item you’d like to unlock in the armoury and complete daily challenges to unlock them. Each item requires two daily challenges at thevery least to be completed, whereas some require triple that. While I can understand the team wanting to try something different and have players unlock gear in a different way, it feels inherently grindy and an unnecessary way to force players into something they may not want to do.
Daily challenges often require you to use a particular type of equipment or gear you mightn’t have unlocked yet, either. I’m aware you could use the default loadouts, which should have these items available for when you need them, but it takes away any of the fun in working on your custom loadouts and levelling up your preferred weaponry. Ultimately, it limits the way you play.
Modern Warfare III’s suite of multiplayer modes don’t offer up anything revolutionary, but they do nail the fundamentals of a good multiplayer experience. I’ve loved going back through some of my favourite maps from the original Modern Warfare 2, and the promise of new maps to come alongside more returning classics is an exciting proposition. The time-to-kill ratio feels better than it’s been in a long time, and the pace of gameplay is as good as it’s been in years.
The most notable change in Modern Warfare III comes via Modern Warfare Zombies. It’s the first Zombies experience that completely does away with the round-based system and small map. Instead, it favours an open-world map with gameplay challenges littered throughout, for better and for worse.
I adore the tried-and-true Zombies experience – taking on hordes of zombies in a cramped map filled with looping corridors and new secrets to find brings with it a sense of real urgency. MWZ alters that pacing drastically, never really making you feel that claustrophobia and worry that you would in the smaller, more intricate maps.
The positive to this is the sheer freedom on offer. MWZ’s story is divided into three acts, and to get through each you need to complete an array of tasks. Each task is different, like completing a certain amount of contracts or getting a particular amount of kills with a special weapon. These offer up a new challenge each time you dive into the sprawling map, which is populated by other players, as well as countless zombies and living enemies. Like Zombies modes from years gone by, MWZ encourages co-operative play more than jumping in solo (though you can do that if you so wish), as the going gets tough fairly quickly.
The mode’s map is spread out into three separate zones – low threat, medium threat and high threat. All types of enemies roam these zones, with each being a significant step up in difficulty. Levelling up your weapons with pack-a-punch bonuses, getting self-revive kits and armouring up will be your go-to when taking on the harder zones.
Weapons are defined by rarity in MWZ, as well. Levelling up weapons will give them bonus damage, which becomes integral in the more difficult areas. This is where locating pack-a-punch bonuses and opening up mystery boxes come in handy. That said, exfiling with these weapons will reset them to the ‘common’ rarity, but you’ll keep all of the attachments equipped on the weapon.
You’re free to explore any of the zones in MWZ as you please, and contracts can be completed whereever you see fit. There’s a lot to do and explore across the map, so it never really felt all that boring or onerous to jump straight back in after being wiped out by the undead masses.
Here’s the kicker, though – if you do meet your demise, weapons you’ve equipped that aren’t part of your set of acquisition items will be lost. The only way you can unlock and keep items you’ve found in the world is to successfully exfil with them. Like last year’s DMZ mode, you’ve got to make a strategic call when the time is right to exfil, and I enjoyed the frantic nature of holding out for a certain amount of time as your rescue chopper comes in to collect you and your squad. The pace can really pick up, and it quickly becomes every person for themselves when the waves of undead start swarming in.
While it lacks the pace and urgency of Zombies modes from years gone by, I’ve enjoyed jumping into Modern Warfare Zombies regularly. Whether you’re a zombies fan or not, there’s a lot to explore and lots of lore to enjoy – especially if you’d like to complete the story and see what wild direction that might take you.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare III is a mixed bag. The game’s campaign is one of the worst Call of Duty campaigns I’ve ever played, if not the worst. It’s insultingly boring and does nothing to further a plot that had so much potential. However, the game’s multiplayer is genuinely excellent, aside from a few questionable decisions around how the armoury unlock system works and general map balance for spawns.
Meanwhile, Modern Warfare Zombies offers up an entirely new experience for newcomers and veterans alike, and is a fairly solid swing at something different for the long-running mode, even if it loses a bit of its identity. It’s a package that lacks some quality where it matters most, but will satisfy players looking for a good multiplayer experience.
This year's Call of Duty is a mixed bag. Series veterans looking for a great multiplayer experience will find a lot to love thanks to the game's faithful recreation of some of the franchise’s best maps and excellent gunplay. However, Modern Warfare III's campaign is one of the worst in the series’ history.
Solid multiplayer suite
Remade maps are fantastic
Modern Warfare Zombies offers up something unique
Woefully underbaked campaign
Armoury unlock system is grindy
Spawn system and general map balance needs some work
Zombies feels less urgent and intense when compared to past entries