Serving as a direct continuation of last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, this year’s follow-up is far from where I expected to go. Everything in the campaign feels like a shallow and boring imitation. This is not surprising, given how quickly Activision Blizzard pushed out this title to market. Instead, you get an experience mired in development shortcuts, where the lack of excitement pushes you through a campaign that rehashes the same beats repeatedly.
It’s like waking up each day and going through the same motions only to be stuck in a loop of disappointment. The same can be said for the yearly villains you face, as they seem to be one year on, then one year off, so you must time what year you want to jump back into Call of Duty so as not to miss a beat. In short, while the single-player this year is a mockery of those that came before, multiplayer fares somewhat better.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s Campaign is the weakest in years
Back to the campaign for a minute, as the story picks up where it left off last year before quickly devolving into a string of familiar greatest hits. You’ve likely seen the magic tricks before and done better elsewhere. Instead of caring for the necessary exposition and building to care for these characters, Modern Warfare III moves you from one set piece to another without giving you a reason to enjoy them. Stages are superficial and lack any semblance of pacing, and while things can look great, it means nothing when there’s no reason to be there.
Take, for example, Makarov, a memorable villain in the original Modern Warfare games. This villain set the world on fire a decade ago, leaving us with controversial missions. Instead of a villain worth remembering, you learn the basics of his history through glossed-over anecdotes.
The one significant addition I know most people will enjoy is the open combat missions, which I want more. These serve as multi-objective set pieces you must complete with a series of goals necessary to progress. The same tasks support a bit of freedom in connecting with them, so depending on what kind of player you are, it allows for offensive or defensive playstyles. However, these also lack narrative cohesion and leave much to be desired. I miss the days of Black Ops storytelling and decision-making that the series once again lacks. The other thing about these missions is they are experienced in chunks of the Warzone map, but the way the map is broken up and the rough checkpoints can lead to some frustrating moments.
A few early missions are perfect displays of being obtuse, as in some early sections, you’ll deal with something wildly emotional only to pick up as if none of the emotional beats carry over. It’s like starting a new map on multiplayer, and none of the characters actively react to the story (or lack thereof). Even the familiar formula these games are known for is lacking or missing entirely, but I feel some moments of interest are worth experiencing. You’ll have to go through a series of dull sections to get there.
My biggest disappointment is that this year’s Call of Duty doesn’t feel like Call of Duty. It feels like an imitation of what most people enjoy each year. Frankly, my most significant assumption is that the campaign was hobbled together so that the Xbox deal could close this year with future projects under the Microsoft umbrella. This is, of course, pure speculation, but it certainly feels like it could be true. Regardless of how I think about this year’s entry, this is an expansion to Modern Warfare II rather than the follow-up the series deserves after building so much goodwill in 2019. I am disappointed Activision’s selling this as a complete package when it isn’t.
Multiplayer is where most flock from the outset each year, so many likely do not experience the campaign as intended.
I had a hard time enjoying myself last year with Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer, and the battle pass threw me over the edge to the point where I tapped out by season 2. I was not a fan of the changes made to last year’s entry as I came off the high the 2019 reboot offered. Nothing comes close to the excitement Call of Duty brings in the multiplayer space.
What is most surprising, though, is that no original maps are available for the first time. Instead, we’ve got a series of greatest hits available for players to experience. The maps you’ll come across this year are all from 2009 Modern Warfare 2, each remastered for a new generation. It’s hard not to get excited about this, though, as the maps are some of the most timeless the series offers.
Returning to Favela, Highrise, and Terminal is like an immediate pull into the past. I had some incredible moments on these maps over the years and spent countless hours scouring the maps for enemies and killstreaks. Now, it feels like I’m reliving the same moments and having much fun doing it all over again.
Most maps I’ve experienced feel good, but this year’s lack of original content is felt. I’d have loved four maps at minimum to reel me in. Thankfully, the return of slide cancelling makes up for the misstep, but not totally. It’s one of those moves that elevates your experience to a new level once you discover it. Keeping momentum while sprinting is crucial to getting the most enjoyment out of the multiplayer.
Recoil has seen another adjustment this year, and you’ll immediately notice how vastly better it is. It isn’t nearly as bad as last year, and it sometimes feels nonexistent, so it improved my overall ratio across several modes.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s campaign might not be much to discuss, but the multiplayer feels excellent. For the first time, it’s hard to say that you’re getting a full-service experience, given how meek the narrative has ended up being. The trade-off of storytelling for iconic maps won’t please everyone, yet revisiting the best of the series wearing a new coat of paint is surprisingly fun. Overall, there aren’t many big draws this year, and you’re likely better off sticking with previous entries.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]