Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review – Remastered, Revamped, and Reused

Modern Warfare 3 is out, let's take a deep dive.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare III Cover
Activision

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on PC

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Call of Duty is a household franchise that has spanned the course of two decades and has often breached into the mainstream like no other video game. Its highest highs are matched with some lowest of lows but with the brand new release of Modern Warfare 3, we want to see if it can match juggernauts like Black Ops 1 or flounder with Vanguard.

So first let’s talk about the Campaign. At the risk of sounding dramatic or hyperbolic, the Modern Warfare 3 Campaign may just be the one of, if not the worst Campaigns in the history of the series.

You start the game with Makarov escaping prison and being a nuisance across the globe, only to end the game with Makarov still at large after one of the most tone-deaf scenes in Call of Duty history. We chase him across continents like a game of whack-a-mole, bonking any of his plans and then moving on to the next thing to whack. While you’re doing this, there is no time to breathe, no moments where a character develops, nor does the narrative set any stakes throughout the campaign. To top it all off there is no climax whatsoever here and it will leave you wondering why you spent the last three hours playing the campaign.

That wasn’t a typo. The entire length of the story can be completed at a jolly pace in three to four hours. This is supposed to be a blockbuster action movie with a real dose of realism to rein in the Michael Bay craziness. But somehow the campaign isn’t as realistic as MW2 or MW 2019 and fails to be a bombastic action romp across the world either.

But let’s take a moment to look at some things that Modern Warfare 3 did well or attempted to do. We all know the gaming industry is all about innovation and trying something new. Modern Warfare 3 attempts to break the mold of a single-track FPS by introducing Open Combat missions. The gist here is that there are objectives you need to complete in an open map and it’s up to you to decide how you want to approach them.

Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

This new mission design was unfortunately executed terribly. First and foremost, Open Combat missions stick you in a tiny sandbox with one to two objectives. There are no bonus tasks, no hidden secrets, and absolutely no reward for approaching a mission differently. The only ways you can tackle a mission are twofold; stealth or guns blazing.

The stealth isn’t too bad, considering this is a Call of Duty game and not Splinter Cell. However, there is no reward for stealth other than the more challenging gameplay. It is almost entirely correct to run in with your gun out and blast the objectives instantly. And if you were to run through the mission quickly, you’d realize they are some of the shortest in the history of CoD.

No cinematics or role-playing is going on in these missions, so the run time isn’t padded by anything other than shooting mindless AI. At the quickest, these missions can be completed in a few minutes.

Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

There’s a real lack of mission variety in the campaign, when you’re not participating in the spectacularly bad Open Combat missions, then you’re on the usual CoD mission track. We visit some of the most forgettable places in the series while taking away no impressive or impactful moments with us. Even the revamped No Russian 2.0 mission doesn’t hit the right notes, lacking the tension that was present in the original. There’s of course the obligatory AC-130 gunship mission that is quite honestly the most frustrating level I can remember.

Still, Activision knows how to make a decent game by this point, and MW3’s campaign benefits from the amazing gunplay in this installment. The sound design is an immaculate step up from MW2 and that same revitalized realism is here even if it’s in a muted sense.

Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

After the credits, we can spend the rest of our time knee-deep in Zombie guts or among other players in multiplayer. First, let’s talk about the latter. Call of Duty has always been known as a solid game for a PvP multiplayer experience where you level up, prestige, gloat about your K/D, and customize your loadout. Nothing has changed in this department, so fans expecting the same treatment will be happy to know that the core gameplay loop is the same.

However, things being the same is MW3’s ultimate downfall. The multiplayer features 20 maps and 16 of them are replicas from 2009. While past installments have often taken liberties and recreated fan-favorite maps no other Call of Duty has simply taken the entire list of MW2 maps and ported them to their title. It’s here that I have to ask myself; what am I paying for? These maps worked way back when due to their systems, the player’s expectations, and a generally slower pace than today’s CoD climate. In today’s Call of Duty, they feel soulless.

So if there are no new maps, then what is new? There’s a handful of brand-new weapons to get your hands on, but unfortunately, a majority of these guns are just reimagined versions from over a decade ago. The only brand-spanking new addition to the multiplayer is the perk system; in which perks take on the form of body armor.

The gunplay, thankfully, is simply superior in this new title. Every weapon you get your hands on feels right and their barrier to entry is significantly lower due to each gun’s vastly reduced recoil and kick. New players can laser opponents like pros and veterans aren’t forced to fight their gun’s recoil to be accurate. It reminds me of the old 2009 MW2 where every gun was a laser pointer and more emphasis was placed on positioning and rotation rather than how well you could control recoil. This is a nice pivot and I do hope that Activision keeps this trend while moving forward with their franchise.

We have two categories of weapons, ones carried forward from Modern Warfare 2 or the handful of brand-new guns introduced in this installment. Carrying forward weapons from the previous title is an ingenuous idea that helps players maintain their progress on their favorite weapons and helps to dissuade that feeling of loss entirely. However, the weapons from MW2 are almost entirely outclassed by their new counterparts, every MW3 gun is just better than anything brought over. This causes the entire ordeal to feel pointless, why use the M4 when the MCW and SVA 545 are just definitively better weapons? For this to truly feel complete, Activision needed to take a look at every weapon from Modern Warfare 2 and give them an overhaul that brings their power in line with Modern Warfare 3.

Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

The multiplayer is undoubtedly an improvement with some simplifications of MW2 systems. The gunsmith removed the ability to tune your weapons, so the barrier to entry once again is lowered for new players. Aftermarket Parts are introduced to transform a weapon into a completely different gun. We received all the attachments from MW2 and a host of new ones in MW3. Sadly, the same system of unlocking attachments through leveling up individual guns remains, with one single difference; the Armory. The Armory is designed for you to unlock any attachment for any weapon by completing several daily challenges. While this does help and is a positive change to the formula, many fans would love to return to the original system. One mistake here is that certain guns can only be unlocked through the Armory, which goes counterintuitive to what the Armory was meant to stand for; a simplification of unlocking attachments.

Multiplayer game modes are as you’d expect, the usual TDM, S&D, FFA, and all the good staples are present. Cutthroat is the only brand-new mode that pits three teams of three against each other with one life each. It plays fairly well despite the really small maps for this type of game mode. It’s a nice break from the norm where you’re able to play the game out slightly differently from game to game. Deciding to wipe out the enemy or wait and watch them destroy each other before swooping in for the win was truly enjoyable.

All in all, the Multiplayer is undoubtedly a step up from Modern Warfare 2 (2022). And yet I cannot escape the thought that everything in this title is rehashed, remastered, or revitalized content in some form. Whether it’s the maps, guns, or the modes, you’ll find the multiplayer a fast-paced environment with an old coat of paint.

Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

Next up is the Zombies mode and there’s a lot to unpack here. DMZ is out and MWZ is in. Fans of the former will be disappointed to know that DMZ will not receive any updates whatsoever and will be left in the dust. Rising from its ashes is the Modern Warfare Zombies mode that promises to fill that void. Fans of Zombies will want to know that there are no wave-based battles and are instead replaced by an open-world zombie environment where you explore and complete missions similar to DMZ while combatting an endless zombie horde.

Modern Warfare Zombies is set in the new Urzikstan map but with a different coat of paint than the one set to release for Warzone. As expected it’s a little more destroyed and zombie-infested. The map is split into 3 different zones, the first is where you drop in and the zombie resistance is minimal. Enemies in this area are very easy to kill but set the tone of the environment moving forward. The tier two section of the map surrounds the center and contains zombies with much more speed, significantly more health, and damage. These monsters can be extremely deadly and you will need to prepare accordingly to be able to tackle this section of the map.

Finally, we have tier 3 at the very center of Urzikstan. Monsters, bosses, zombies, and everything in between are here to kill you very swiftly. Without severe planning and some pack-a-punched weapons, you’ll find yourself outmatched, outgunned, and outnumbered.

Regardless of how far you go into the difficulty zones, the gameplay loop remains the same: do contracts, pack-a-punch your weapon, kill zombies, complete challenges, and then exfil once you’re all done. This is pretty fun for the first few hours but quickly dissolves into completing a checklist with quite a small amount of variance. MWZ features 24 players on the map but specifically has no PVP elements. I believe it is this lack of human threat that causes a repetitive gameplay loop that just doesn’t hold too many surprises compared to MW2’s DMZ. The tense atmosphere is only present during the first few times you experience a certain mission, contract, or fight a boss, while in the past DMZ offered that unpredictable human element to spice up the gameplay.

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment; I understand that Zombies has never been a PvP experience and has always been billed as a PvE mode. But no longer having that unpredictability of a human player has removed some of the magic. It feels less like a completely reimagined Zombies mode and more like a DMZ reskin which is why I focus on this point and begs the question; would it just be better to do a traditional style wave-based game mode?

I want to commend Activision and by extension Treyarch for trying something new when the traditional style would always hit the mark. On the flip side, it is far too similar to DMZ to give over 100% credit. The core gameplay loop is fine for a while but can just be a repetitive slog the further and further you want to progress into this new mode.

CoD MW3 How to Get Collateral Kills
Image Source: Activision via Call of Duty Blog

Just like the Campaign and the Multiplayer, Zombies fall into the same pitfall of repeating content from the franchise’s past. While the Multiplayer is competent to a degree the campaign is a half-baked mess. In the case of Zombies, there can be a real opportunity to branch out into a standalone experience similar to Warzone if they just take the leap away from DMZ.

Having played through the Campaign, Multiplayer, and the MWZ I have to say I have rarely enjoyed myself. At times I felt the multiplayer was inconsistent, the campaign was a laughable waste of time, and the zombies were missing their usual magic. It was always a question whether Activision could get MW3 to the gold standard in just one short year, unfortunately, the verdict is in and it’s a resounding no.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
It was always a question whether Activision could get MW3 to the gold standard in just one short year, unfortunately, the verdict is in and it's a resounding no.
Pros
  • The gunplay is a significant step up from previous isntalments.
  • The sound design is immaculate.
Cons
  • The Campaign is a short uninspired waste of time.
  • Open Combat Missions are a mishandled mess with wasted potential.
  • The Multiplayer is a 'best hits' playlist that fail to capture the original magic of the systems/maps.
  • Zombies is just a DMZ reskin with none of the same tension.
Reviewed on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5.
Author
Tyler Towers
Tyler is a skilled Freelance Writer for Twinfinite, specializing in the most popular FPS games like Call of Duty, Apex Legends, and Valorant. He is also keenly interested in MOBAs and JRPGs, no matter how obscure they may be. With his Game Design degree from Sheffield Hallam University, Tyler has the expertise and knowledge to provide in-depth gaming industry coverage. When he is not knee-deep in ELO hell, he devotes his time to taking care of his beloved ragdoll cat, Ace.