‘Modern Warfare III’ is a Low Point For the ‘Call of Duty’ Franchise
Modern Warfare III might be the first Call of Duty game to leave me completely baffled, and that’s saying something for a guy who gave up on the franchise in 2014.
It has all been building up to this critical moment. People are always going on and on about how video games are in decline and the future of the industry is in jeopardy due to the increasingly callous market development strategies and lifeless cash-grab attempts, but never before have we been so soundly proven right about our half-hearted cynicisms.
Sure, we can make memes on Reddit to dunk on Call of Duty enthusiasts all day long. Some of them might even roll with the punches, admitting that while Activision has grown progressively greedier over the past decade, and the games more creatively bankrupt, they can still unironically enjoy a match or two of Domination or Team Deathmatch with their friends.
The truth is, even if Activision and its numerous game studios were to develop and release a great Call of Duty game, we probably wouldn’t even be able to tell it apart from all these other numerous, annual installments that offer fans the same interactive cuisine over and over again. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case with Modern Warfare III. This isn’t a book you don’t judge by its cover. This isn’t a gem hidden behind an exterior of bland mediocrity. If anything, it is precisely a practice in bringing the worst of Call of Duty together in a last-ditch effort to keep the franchise relevant, leaving you wanting more and maybe even questioning if you really spent $70 on a three-hour campaign that was oh-so-plainly produced to serve as a DLC for Modern Warfare II.
Don’t get me wrong; with the current industry obsession to maximize content over quality and give us titles that run for at least twice as long as their previous-gen counterparts, I’d actually welcome a game like Call of Duty, which has traditionally entertained 6-7 hour campaigns. Modern Warfare III oversteps this mark and betrays our confidence, promising in name to give us a proper continuation of the MW reboot series, only to leave us hanging with a narrative that ends as soon as you’re starting to settle in for the spectacle.
Worse still is the fact that, unlike the original Modern Warfare trilogy which ended with the third installment, Activision is clearly planning to expand this subseries beyond that threshold, and we wouldn’t be surprised at a Modern Warfare IV or even a fifth entry somewhere down the line, especially given the abrupt, cliffhanger-y way the 2023 game ends.
Modern Warfare III is something of an aberration even in the fatigued Call of Duty franchise. By convention, we should’ve gotten the next Black Ops game by Treyarch, followed by another installment from Sledgehammer Games. But 2023 caught Activision off-guard, with the company fumbling to keep its stock value high amid Microsoft’s acquisition battle.
Lo and behold, they find the perfect solution in the form of the next Modern Warfare. This particular offshoot has done nothing but break records for Activision since its conception in early 2005, with 2022’s Modern Warfare II pushing past the franchise’s all-time high record by generating $800 million in three days — so why wouldn’t they be tempted to rush the sequel’s release in such a chaotic moment?
Except for the fact that Modern Warfare III by Sledgehammer was not the sequel. The story was originally intended to serve as a DLC for Modern Warfare II, entailing the introduction of Makarov as the story’s main villain, but Activision shifted direction mid-swing, instead asking the studio to somehow turn this into a fully-fledged Call of Duty experience.
Developers often get creative and experimental with DLCs; it’s a fun playground where nothing is off-limits, and the project’s small scale helps cultivate that creativity. Modern Warfare III is unfortunately an outlier in this regard, despite Sledgehammer’s best efforts to take the gameplay down a new path.
The cinematic thrill of contemporary warfare was always the selling point of MW, but you get none of that here. The missions are broken down into sandbox levels wherein you control a certain member of Task Force 141 and go through a checklist of objectives. The open environment and the tools of CoD royale give players a certain degree of freedom in how they approach these missions, but it all reminds us more of those “Strike Force” side missions than anything from your classic Call of Duty single-player campaign experience. This story and setup might have worked under the guise of an expansion pack, even if barely, but for an official continuation of the story started with the 2019 reboot, it only comes off as subpar.
It’s incredibly bizarre to consider that under the technical limitations of the time, the 2007 Modern Warfare and its subsequent follow-ups in 2009 and 2011 were by far more immersive, more fleshed out (narrative-wise), and even more exciting to play through. Now, more than a decade later, we get a game that barely meets the standard of the time, let alone the acclaim of its predecessors. Even Modern Warfare III’s allusions to the past — including a mission that takes place in a snowy landscape — can’t quite imitate their success, despite being vastly superior in terms of visual fidelity.
I don’t know about you, but when I was much younger and playing those older games, this is not how I imagined Call of Duty would be in a decade. And yes, it’s strange that I bring up a critique of the entire franchise when I should only be talking about a single entry, but like I said at the beginning of this review, Modern Warfare III appears to embody everything that’s going wrong with this series, whether it be mediocre level design, a barely coherent plot, or Activision’s general insistence to milk the franchise to oblivion.
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game, and all screenshots captured by We Got This Covered are from time spent playing the game. A review copy was provided by Activision.
Incomplete, unsatisfying, and utterly nonsensical. This shallow excuse of a sequel might just be the worst ‘Call of Duty’ entry to come out in a decade.
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