Call of Duty Modern Warfare III Review: Task Force 141’s Latest Mission Falls Short of Victory
In the latest iteration of the “Call of Duty” saga, “Modern Warfare III” tosses the playbook out of the nearest cargo plane, aiming to shake things up with its Open Combat missions. These sprawling battlegrounds promise the thrill of choice and the allure of strategy, a far cry from the series’ well-worn paths of bullet-riddled corridors and tightly scripted skirmishes. It’s a bold move, akin to giving a soldier a map and a compass instead of a set of orders, but it leaves us longing for the familiar crackle of a sergeant’s command.
The campaign of MW3 is a direct sequel, picking up the tangled threads of its predecessor’s narrative. The familiar cast returns, with Captain Price and Task Force 141 again at the helm, facing off against the notorious Vladimir Makarov. The game opens with a bang, quite literally, as players are thrust into the action with a mission that is both visually stunning and reminiscent of the series’ roots. The night vision goggles, the descent into the gulag, and the clear-cut objectives are all there, promising a return to the form fans have been clamoring for.
However, as the campaign unfolds, it becomes evident that MW3 is a game of two halves. The introduction of Open Combat missions is where the game attempts to break the mold. These missions offer a sandbox approach, allowing players to choose their path to the objective. It’s a bold move, one that could have redefined the linear progression the series is known for. Yet, this freedom comes at a cost. The very essence of what made Call of Duty campaigns so gripping—the tight, narrative-driven action—is diluted in these open-ended engagements. The tension that should be mounting with each mission is instead replaced by a sense of aimlessness as if the game is unsure whether it wants to be an open-world explorer or a story-driven shooter.
The Open Combat missions in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III” represent a significant departure from the franchise’s traditional gameplay structure. These missions are designed to give players a greater sense of autonomy by expanding the playable area and offering multiple avenues to achieve objectives. The intent behind this design choice is clear: to break away from the linear pathways that have long been a staple of the series and to provide a fresh, more dynamic combat experience.
In practice, the Open Combat missions allow players to approach their objectives from various angles, theoretically enabling a more strategic and personalized approach to warfare. The levels are designed with multiple entry points, and the environment is peppered with supply crates that offer an arsenal of weapons, killstreaks, and equipment. This setup is meant to cater to different playstyles, whether one prefers a stealthy approach or a more direct, guns-blazing strategy.
However, implementing these missions has inadvertently led to a dilution of the series’ signature cinematic intensity. The expansive areas often result in losing the tightly scripted events that drive the adrenaline-fueled narrative forward. Instead of being guided through a carefully crafted story where each action feels impactful, players are left to meander through larger, less structured spaces.
The Open Combat missions also impact the pacing of the game. Where previous titles would meticulously ramp up tension and deliver payoff through well-timed set pieces, MW3’s open-ended approach can lead to a disjointed experience. The freedom to choose how to tackle an objective means that the emotional beats of the story get lost amidst the sandbox-style gameplay. This is particularly noticeable following narrative-heavy scenes, where the transition to an Open Combat mission can feel jarring as the pacing shifts from a story-driven crescendo to a more subdued and exploratory gameplay loop.
Moreover, the Open Combat design philosophy seems to conflict with the narrative stakes. For instance, after a particularly harrowing cutscene, players might find themselves in an Open Combat mission that lacks the narrative cohesion to carry the emotional weight of the preceding events. The result is a campaign that can feel fragmented, as the tension and drama that the series is known for are occasionally undercut by the newfound freedom.
The game’s narrative does have its moments of brilliance. The emotionally charged scenes, the callbacks to the series history, and the high stakes of global terrorism are all there. But these moments are islands in a sea of disjointed gameplay. Worse, MW3 finds itself in the shadow of its legacy. Where “Modern Warfare 2” balanced player choice with narrative urgency, MW3 seems to lose its footing. It’s a game caught between the desire to innovate and the comfort of tradition.
Graphically, MW3 is a powerhouse. The cutscenes are movie-quality, and the attention to detail in the environments is commendable. The gunplay remains as satisfying as ever, with the weight and recoil of each weapon adding to the realism that the series is known for. Yet, these technical achievements are overshadowed by the game’s inability to deliver a consistent gameplay experience.
The multiplayer mode, a cornerstone of the “Call of Duty” series, has always been about fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping action. In “Modern Warfare III,” this tradition continues but not without its hiccups. The game recycles many elements from its predecessor, “Modern Warfare II,” which, while familiar and comforting to veterans, also feels like a missed opportunity for innovation. The maps, predominantly remastered versions of previous classics, offer a nostalgic trip but also underscore a lack of fresh content. This reliance on the old rather than the introduction of the new leaves the multiplayer experience feeling somewhat stale.
However, it’s not all a rehash of the past. The game introduces some new weapons and mechanics that add a layer of depth to the gameplay. These additions, while subtle, are a nod to the evolving demands of the franchise’s fan base. The gunplay remains as crisp and satisfying as ever, a testament to the developers’ understanding of what makes “Call of Duty” tick at its core.
The zombies mode, a beloved feature in many previous “Call of Duty” titles, returns with a twist. MWZ is an open-world, multiplayer extraction mode, a significant departure from the linear corridors and predictable waves of enemies that characterized previous Zombies modes. This expansive environment invites exploration and strategy, offering a playground where the undead are just one part of a larger, more dynamic world. The shift to an open-world format is a bold move, one that breathes new life into the familiar adrenaline-fueled chaos of surviving against hordes of the undead.
Weaponry in MWZ is a highlight, boasting a vast arsenal of primary and secondary weapons. The attention to detail in the aftermarket parts and the ability to inspect weapons adds a layer of depth and personalization to the gameplay. This feature is not just cosmetic; it influences the tactical decisions players make, tailoring their loadouts to suit their playstyle and the challenges they face in the zombie-infested landscape.
The introduction of in-mission contracts and faction quests adds a new dimension to the gameplay. These objectives provide a sense of purpose and direction, guiding players through the open world with goals that go beyond mere survival. This structure is a welcome addition, offering a narrative thread that keeps the gameplay engaging and varied.
For those new to the mode or seeking to refine their skills, the availability of detailed guides and pro tips is invaluable. These resources are a testament to the mode’s complexity and the need for strategic thinking and skill. The challenge is real and palpable, making each session a learning experience and a test of one’s zombie-slaying prowess.
The integration of MWZ with the game’s multiplayer aspect is perhaps its most intriguing feature. This integration allows players to engage with others, adding a social and competitive element to the mode. The thrill of surviving against zombies is amplified when done alongside friends or against other players, making each match unpredictable and unique.
However, this ambitious expansion is not without its drawbacks. The open-world format, while refreshing, can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially for players accustomed to the more straightforward approach of previous Zombies modes. The vastness of the environment can lead to moments of aimlessness, where the objective becomes less about survival and more about wandering.
This mode has always been about teamwork and survival against waves of the undead, and “Modern Warfare III” tries to up the ante with new challenges and environments. However, the execution falls short of its ambition. The maps, while visually impressive, lack the intricate design and strategic depth that made previous iterations so engaging. The mode feels like an afterthought, a missed opportunity to truly innovate and captivate players with something novel.
As the final echoes of gunfire fade and the credits roll on “Modern Warfare III’s” single-player campaign, one can’t shake the feeling of a narrative and gameplay experience that feels more like an extensive DLC pack than a fully-fledged title. The Open Combat missions, while ambitious, leave the campaign feeling disjointed, a patchwork quilt that’s fraying at the edges. The game’s attempt at innovation, rather than weaving a richer tapestry, unravels the tightly-knit action that fans have come to expect. It’s a campaign that, despite its moments of graphical splendor and fleeting adrenaline, ultimately feels half-baked—a shadow of what could have been a robust addition to the “Call of Duty” anthology.
RATING. 2.5 out of 5.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare III will be available for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X on November 10th, 2023.