The Call of Duty series hardly needs an introduction at this point. For nearly two decades, the first-person shooter franchise has set records and delivered blockbuster experiences across consoles and PCs. This year, Activision and Sledgehammer Games bring players back into the boots of Task Force 141 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III.
This latest entry arrives November 10, 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. It marks the third chapter in the rebooted Modern Warfare storyline which began with the 2019 smash hit. Fans eagerly anticipate if this sequel can recapture the magic of the original Modern Warfare trilogy which defined cinematic action in the late 2000s.
In this review, we’ll dive deep into the solo campaign, multiplayer offerings and overall execution. Does Modern Warfare III advance the franchise forward in exciting ways? Or does it feel derivative of past glories? Read on to find out.
A Disjointed Plot Undermines the Action
Modern Warfare III brings back Task Force 141 including Captain Price, Soap, Ghost and other familiar faces. They once again battle the forces of Russian extremist Vladimir Makarov, seeking to foil his plans to ignite global war. The premise offers a straightforward continuation of the overarching Modern Warfare plotline.
Unfortunately, while Makarov makes for an intimidating antagonist, the pacing and cohesion of the campaign narrative leaves much to be desired. The opening prison infiltration mission provides an exciting start and quickly re-establishes Makarov as a formidable threat. But the story rapidly loses momentum once the new “open combat” missions are introduced.
These open-ended levels feature multiple objectives that can be tackled in any order. While seemingly meant to provide greater player freedom, they fail to deliver memorable set-pieces or cinematic urgency. The relaxed nature of gearing up and exploring feels mismatched with the stakes involved. The plot loses all sense of momentum as these missions continuously interrupt the flow.
By the climax, the lack of narrative escalation makes Makarov’s downfall lack impact. The resolution feels abrupt, leaving plot threads unexplored. For a franchise known for bombastic, propulsive storytelling, Modern Warfare III’s campaign comes across as oddly listless despite its high production values.
The controversial No Russian mission also returns in spirit, putting players in the midst of a civilian massacre. While it attempts to convey the human toll of Makarov’s evil, its shock value feels dated and exploitative, adding little to the themes involved.
In the end, while the campaign brings back familiar faces, it fails to do much with them. The open combat experiments show promising ideas but tank the storytelling that should bind everything together. For long-time fans, it’s a disappointing use of a once-riveting Modern Warfare plotline.
Familiar Combat Anchors the Experience
While the campaign narrative falters, the moment-to-moment gameplay still delivers the polished combat Call of Duty is revered for. The controls remain smooth and responsive, with each weapon packing a lethal punch. Firing guns feels impactful, with excellent sound design and feedback. This refined gameplay loop keeps the action engaging.
The game shines most in linear stages that feature classic Call of Duty set-pieces. Missions like infiltrating an airplane crash site or ascending a tower offer welcome variety and intensity. These focused moments better capture the cinematic thrills the series is known for.
However, the new open combat missions fail to impress. While offering player freedom sounds good on paper, the execution leaves much to be desired. The sprawling levels lack strong sightlines, cover placement or intentional combat encounters. With so much empty space, firefights feel random rather than tightly choreographed. The result is bland stages that rely on repetitive mindless shooting over thoughtful gameplay.
The ability to equip different loadouts does allow for adjustments in strategy. You can prepare for stealthy infiltration or all-out assault based on your style. However, the rudimentary enemy AI dampens the benefits of this flexibility. Foes behave erratically, often leaving cover to bumble into your line of fire. Rather than provide tense cat-and-mouse engagements, these open missions simply become shooting galleries against dumb AI.
The challenge also proves inconsistent. Normal difficulty poses little threat thanks to the hapless enemies. However, increasing the difficulty introduces frustrating inconsistencies. Foes become absurd bullet sponges able to soak up endless damage. This fake challenge quickly becomes more tedious than rewarding.
In the end, the core gameplay still delivers on expectations but the new open combat missions fail to provide memorable new moments. The polished controls and gunplay remain satisfying, but the uninspired level design results in a campaign that leans far too much on repetitive combat scenarios. Fans expect more creativity than what is on display here.
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Stunning Visuals Undermined by Technical Issues
Modern Warfare III continues the franchise’s tradition of showcasing cutting-edge graphical fidelity. The textures, lighting, effects and animations remain top-notch, conjuring an immersive sense of place. Characters exhibit impressive realism while environments overflow with destructible details. These visuals truly shine in scripted cinematics, conveying emotion through uncanny facial expressions and camerawork.
This graphical showcase comes at a cost, however. On PC, the game demands expensive modern hardware to maintain 60 FPS at high resolutions. Anything less results in inconsistent performance, with frequent dips below 30 FPS. The console versions fare better thanks to optimization, but suffer from lower resolutions compared to other recent titles.
Stability also proves inconsistent across platforms. All versions can suffer from audio glitches, crashes and buggy mechanics. One mission in particular seems prone to interrupting cutscenes to hard crash back to the desktop. It serves as an example of lackluster quality control before release.
The art direction remains top-notch, conveying gritty realism across war-torn locations. Iconic series locales like Verdansk feel richly detailed and lived-in. The atmospheric environments truly shine when given focus, such as the Gulag infiltration or snowy wilderness survival missions. But technical shortcomings routinely distract and diminish the impact of the superb artistry.
In the end, Call of Duty’s reputation for visual leadership takes some hits this year. The technology clearly pushes boundaries in many respects. But unoptimized performance, stability issues and lack of scalability mar the experience. There is little doubt the game *looks* amazing, but getting it running smoothly proves frustrating. This puts a damper on appreciating all the aesthetic accomplishments.
Audio Design Delivers Expected Excellence
The Call of Duty series has always set the bar high for audio quality and Modern Warfare III continues this trend. The booming gunfire and thunderous explosions remain second-to-none. Every rifle crack, grenade blast and building collapse carries the immense weight you expect. Directional awareness also proves superb, with distinct ambient audio cues quickly conveying enemy locations and actions.
The voice work proves equally proficient. Series veterans Steve Blum and Barry Sloane return as Captain Price and Gaz, effortlessly settling back into their characters. The writing rarely impresses but the performances carry emotional weight where needed. The orchestral score hits all the right triumphant notes when amping up the action.
There are some occasional audio glitches that disrupt the experience. Certain cutscenes suffer from out-of-sync lip movements or distorted dialogue. It seems related to the stability issues that crop up throughout the campaign. Thankfully these remain rare occurrences rather than frequent immersion breakers.
Overall, Modern Warfare III’s audio lives up to the sky-high expectations fans have. The booming, layered soundscape remains one of the finest in gaming. Some stability issues introduce minor flaws, but the sound design largely enhances the blockbuster action tremendously. Fans couldn’t ask for much more from this critical aspect of the presentation.
Multiplayer Focuses on Refinement Over Innovation
Beyond the campaign, Modern Warfare III brings back the signature multiplayer modes Call of Duty is equally known for. The basics remain familiar, with staples like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Search & Destroy allowing for competitive and cooperative play. Progression unlocks new weapons, perks and cosmetics through a familiar and addicting loop.
The core gameplay successfully builds upon the recent engine refinements of Modern Warfare II. Movement and gunplay feel smooth as ever with new weapon recoil patterns keeping veterans on their toes. The excellent map design also deserves praise, offering smart layouts that support all playstyles.
However, the map selection leans heavily on remakes rather than new designs. The return to classic maps like Rust, Terminal, and Highrise bank on nostalgic appeal over introducing new memorable playgrounds. It feels creatively stagnant compared to past entries’ eagerness to constantly raise the bar.
The multiplayeralso integrates with Warzone in an awkward manner. Many maps like the Gulag and Stadium will feel overly familiar to battle royale veterans. The implementation of DMZ-inspired open combat missions in the campaign also results in a fragmented sense of identity. Rather than complementing strengths, the various modes end up hollowly imitating each other.
The focus on refinement over innovation makes the multiplayer feel like a remix rather than a sequel. The fantastic gameplay provides addictive fun as always, but the heavy reuse of classic maps and locs makes it feel creatively stagnant. Fans know this series sets the industry standard and expect more daring vision than what Modern Warfare III provides.
A Familiar But Flawed Return to Form
When looking at the campaign overall, Modern Warfare III takes admirable risks with its open combat missions but fails to execute them properly. The influx of player freedom comes at the cost of crafted gameplay scenarios and cinematic storytelling. It shows a willingness to innovate within the formula but these half-steps undermine what makes Call of Duty campaigns memorable.
The strengths remain the polished combat, stellar presentation values and general technical competency. The shooting continues to excel and amazing visuals regularly impress despite some optimization issues. It delivers the essentials fans expect even if it rarely exceeds expectations.
However, the poorly paced story, repetitive open missions and lack of memorable set-pieces weigh the experience down. Previous Modern Warfare games set a high bar for single-player engagement that this entry fails to match. The risks taken ultimately harm the finely tuned formula rather than improving it.
Certain choices also risk alienating players, such as the controversial massacre scenes. While Call of Duty campaigns aren’t known for nuance, the series works best when using spectacle to thoughtfully immerse players rather than thoughtlessly shock them.
Ultimately Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s campaign feels more like a nostalgic remix than a true sequel. The classic gameplay and presentation return in top form as expected, but the new ideas falter leaving an experience lacking in fresh thrills or a compelling narrative purpose. It will satisfy fans looking for more slickly produced more-of-the-same, but does little to push the genre or franchise forward into the future.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Campaign
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III delivers the exemplary gunplay and polished presentation the series is revered for. However, the campaign experiments with open missions flop, undermining the cinematic storytelling that should bind everything together. Combined with a disjointed plot and lack of memorable moments, it makes this entry feel like a remixed greatest hits collection rather than a compelling sequel. Hardcore fans will enjoy the slick combat but won't find much narrative innovation or unforgettable set-pieces.
- Smooth Gunplay: Responsive controls and impactful combat.
- High-Quality Graphics: Detailed and immersive visual fidelity.
- Strong Audio: Excellent sound design and voice acting.
- Iconic Characters: Return of familiar faces like Captain Price.
- Engaging Missions: Some missions offer intense gameplay.
- Solid Multiplayer: Refined gameplay with good map design.
- Weak Storyline: Disjointed plot with poor pacing.
- Unsuccessful Open Missions: Lack memorable set-pieces; disrupt flow.
- Technical Issues: Performance problems, especially on PC.
- Repetitive Levels: Open combat missions lack innovation.
- Unsatisfying Climax: Abrupt and lackluster story resolution.
- Controversial Elements: Some content seen as exploitative.
- Creative Stagnation: Over-reliance on nostalgic maps in multiplayer.