STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (Xbox Series X)

Monday, November 20, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Box art It used to be that when the holiday times rolled around each year, you knew that’s when the latest and greatest Call of Duty was about to descend upon gamers as well. Even with its massive budget, Call of Duty isn’t always shielded from disappointment and criticism, as it’s certainly had some highs and lows with its yearly releases. There was a time that I would line up at my local game store to get the game at midnight, playing well into the next morning and taking the day off work, looking forward for weeks to play the latest campaign and multiplayer.

While I don’t have the excitement for yearly Call of Duty releases I once did, last year’s Modern Warfare II took me by surprise with its thrilling and exciting campaign that left me wanting more. Well it seems that the Activision have realized this, as Modern Warfare III is a direct sequel, picking up directly where the previous game left off. Even though it’s titled as a sequel and fully priced, I do question if this content was initially intended to be DLC or an expansion for Modern Warfare II for numerous reasons which I’ll delve into shortly.

Call of Duty titles generally have two main components, campaign and multiplayer, so let’s delve into the campaign first. Having quite enjoyed the previous game’s story and full on action sequences, I’ll admit, my expectations were a little higher than normal. With Modern Warfare II's ending with a bit of a shocking revelation, we now see what the follow up outcomes are in this sequel. Once again we’re with the familiar faces of Task Force 141 led by the iconic Captain Price as they take on a new, yet familiar, threat.

If you’ve been a Call of Duty fan for the last few titles, the name Vladimir Makarov should ring a bell, also noting how serious this threat truly is. Like most Call of Duty titles, the opening mission attempts to set an exciting tone full of action and plenty of gunfire. Modern Warfare III is no different, as you begin as an elite team infiltrating a maximum security prison in search of a VIP target. I don’t want to spoil much narratively, but having Makarov back as the antagonist was exciting given how cold and calculated he is from his previous discretions. "Remember, no Russian." is probably one of the most iconic lines in the franchise with its Airport level being one of the most memorable and shocking to date, really cementing how ruthless Makarov can truly be.

In most Call of Duty missions, you’re more or less simply going from point A to B, with a little wiggle room in between to give the illusion of a larger scale or freedom, albeit with a lot of gunfire and death in-between. Modern Warfare III does try something new in a handful of missions, giving you more choices. Not only for certain loadouts, but actually different paths and a bit more freeform level design. Thankfully the terrible forced stealth missions and ‘boss’ fights are omitted this time, as they weren’t much fun in last year’s release.

Introducing open combat missions, you’ll still need to get from a point A to B, but how you get to your objective is up to you. Do you go in the front door blasting or opt for a more silent approach, taking out targets one by one? These open missions are spread out across the campaign, though didn’t excite me as much as I expected them to. Sure it’s cool that you and I could play the same mission completely differently with unique loadouts and playstyles, but I found the stealth approach hard to complete, generally resulting in massive gunfire battles either way.

I’d wager that a large majority of Call of Duty players purchase the yearly entries for its addictive multiplayer component, regardless if you’re a fan of standard competitive modes, Warzone, DMZ or Zombies, there’s certainly something here you’ll enjoy. Something I didn’t expect was being able to carry forward all my Operators and Weapons into Modern Warfare III multiplayer, though a byproduct of this really starts to make it feel like an add-on more so than a fully-fledged sequel.

If you’ve played online multiplayer Call of Duty in the past, even more so if last year’s entry, then things are going to feel very familiar, as very little has changed pertaining to the ecosystem. You still have an overarching and confusing Call of Duty ‘app’ where you choose what mode to play and jump right in. There are some new additions and changes this year though, from 37 new weapons, 16 maps (remastered and modernized classics), loadout changes, aftermarket customizations, Tac-Stance and more.

If you’ve been a multiplayer Call of Duty fan for a number of years, you’ll certainly recognize the latest map additions, even if they are reworked classics, along with a handful of new ones. All 16 launch maps from the 2009 Modern Warfare 2 have been updated, including the iconic Estate and Highrise that easily stood out for me amongst the rest. While this may seem like a cheap way to pad the map offerings, because of the new weapons and mechanics, I found players didn’t play exactly the same way as they did over a decade ago on the original versions.

Having access to all my Modern Warfare II weapon unlocks from my first match was certainly a shock, as you can easily tell early on who’s been playing for some time, even at low levels. This means I can instantly start playing with my maxed out weapons and attachments since I put many hours into the previous game, leaving new players at a disadvantage. With over thirty new weapons now included in Modern Warfare III, I of course started to work on these new additions, leveling them up and wanting to check out the new Aftermarket parts.

Not explained well, Aftermarket parts allow you to drastically change some weapons to suit a specific playstyle. For example, as an LMG player using my Pulemyot LMG, the Bullpup Conversion Kit I unlocked after completing a specific challenge allowed my gun to have better maneuverability, hip fire recoil and simply improved its overall performance, not to mention looking badass with the magazine canister angled forwards. Other guns can be converted for some unique changes to how they perform, even some allowing for akimbo loadouts when certain challenges are completed.

Tac-Stance is also a new addition, acting as a middle ground between ADS and hip-fire. I can’t count how many times I’ve lost a firefight because ADS on my LMG is generally quite slow, yet trying to hip-fire with a rapid LMG doesn’t always work well unless in close quarters. Tac-Stance can improve your performance, giving you a bit more accuracy and maneuverability when compared to ADS firefights, available on most weapons, even able to be used with Modern Warfare II weapons. Easily toggled, this took some self-reminding that it was an option, but it certainly saved me on more than one occasion.

What’s old is new again, showcased by the return of some classic Call of Duty gameplay. Once again players can vote for maps, red dots will show on the minimap for non-silenced gunfire, and you once again start with your perks at the start of matches, no longer needing to kill or wait to gain access. It does seem as though player health got a bit of a boost in Core matches, as Time-to-Kill (TTK) seems longer than I’m used to, though I primarily spend most of my multiplayer time in Hardcore where this isn’t affected.

The latest, and arguably largest, addition is the latest take on the Zombies mode. While I’ve never really been a fan of the old classic Zombie mode, the latest in Modern Warfare III is really just a different take on last year’s popular DMZ mode. Modern Warfare Zombies (MWZ) is more PvE based, as you can play alongside other teams, not having to worry about the PvP element that DMZ focused on. Can you survive against seemingly never ending waves of zombies in a massive map? Uncover many secrets with story missions or simply enjoy your time with your squad blasting hordes of zombies with your buddies online as you try to extract and survive.

Instead of downloading a whole new game once I redeemed my code, Modern Warfare III seemed like a massive update for last year's Modern Warfare II. Even the achievements are listed under Modern Warfare II, implying it’s a DLC, even though it’s supposed to be its own new game. With the campaign being a direct sequel from last year’s, and even with the new ‘open’ missions, it did go by quickly. Zombies is sure to be a hit with DMZ fans, but it doesn’t do a great job at explaining all of its intricacies and mechanics for new players. While not the most memorable campaign of the series, and nowhere near the quality of Modern Warfare II’s epic setpieces, it’s a serviceable entry, but feels more like filler that should have been DLC rather than a fully-fledged entry that brings new excitement and potential fans.

**Call of Duty Modern Warfare III was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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