Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III & Warzone Season 1 impressions — Calling in the streak

No matter what kind of game you’re making, you’ve got to start somewhere. Even with Modern Warfare III building on the bones of Modern Warfare II, there had to be a vision on what Sledgehammer wanted to accomplish with the sequel. Sure, in our review we questioned some aspects of the game and praised others. But, you’re aiming at something; in MWIII’s case, a strong start for the live service element of Call of Duty, and Season 1’s blowout can be some RPG and occasional sniper.

Let me start this one off by addressing something that we mentioned in the review: Skill-based matchmaking. This is still very prevalent in the game, even to the point I’ve almost wanted to stop playing. It can be turn every game into a sweat fest, with even something like a team deathmatch becoming a grind. Word has come out of the dev team that they’re “looking into it”, so hopefully something gets done. I’m just a little concerned it might be PR speak rather than actual change.

Season 1 Launch Trailer | Call of Duty: Warzone & Modern Warfare III

That in the rearview, let’s talk maps. The new ones to the rotation are Meat and Greece, both 6v6 maps, and Training Facility for Gunfight. Starting with Meat, this is unfortunately one of my most hated maps. It’s way too small, you spawn in front of enemies constantly, and there are enough corners to make it a trashy experience. Being somewhere in between Shipment and Rust, it just doesn’t work right. It’s aesthetically pleasing, but that’s about all that it has going for it.

Greece on the other hand is awesome. It reminds me of Seaside mixed with Overwatch’s Ilios, with water running alongside the east and west. I was worried the alleyways would get too bunched up similar to Casablanca from Vanguard, but there aren’t too many spots that feel impenetrable. The water routes are also not as bad as Hydro from Modern Warfare II. Hopefully the pros will test this one out, as despite the limited size it may offer better gameplay than Terminal.

I haven’t been able to play any Gunfight yet, but I rarely worry about that mode. It’s fantastic, and I trust the team to bring their A game. This, along with Carry Forward doing the heavy lifting (four returning maps from MWII), allows the mode some breathing room to add things occasionally. Training Facility does look great though, with a neat concrete bunker design and some intriguing verticality balanced with tight lanes. It honestly looks bigger than Meat… which is a bit of an annoyance as a 6v6 player.

As for the guns, it’s similar to the maps; one I don’t like with the other gaining my favor. The RAM-7 is a bullpup assault rifle hailing from the original MW2 known as the TAR-21. What kills this one for me is a low damage rate along with a low ammo magazine. If I can only get two kills out of a mag, I can’t make it work as well as others. It also sports a high horizontal recoil to go with some standard vertical. You can add some attachments to help, but overall there’s too much to compensate for in order for the RAM-7 to be a preferred pick.

The XRK Stalker sniper rifle is a different story however. At first I struggled with it before realizing the BlackCell version isn’t that great, causing plenty of hitmarkers. While this sniper doesn’t have the longest of ranges – a.k.a. I wouldn’t trust it as much on a huge map like Wasteland – it’s still a great one hit sniper for the most part. In fact, it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite snipers from Modern Warfare II: the SP-X 80. It falls right in between a heavy sniper and fast one, making it great for players that like to move around without giving up power. There’s also an EMP launcher known as the Stormender available, but as it’s not much of a benefit for normal gameplay, I don’t see the need to cover it here.

Of course, the reason many have been waiting on this season is the overhaul of Warzone. While the trappings of what once was still exists, this version of the game works much better than its predecessor. Movement and 150 health is a huge deal, even as simple as it seems. I survived much easier in this iteration than in previous, and my squad managed to pick up a few wins right out the gate compared to a handful in last year’s game. Modern Warfare III’s gameplay is so smooth, and with it built on the back of the best gunplay in shooters, it makes for an engaging loop.

Wins abound in more than just gameplay reconstruction. Right away, we have both Resurgence maps returning in Ashika Island and Vondel. These play beautifully via the new gameplay mechanics, and as Resurgence is a fan favorite mode, it’s nice to see it at the start. Urzikstan even gets in on the fun, with several chosen circles in rotation around the POIs rather than a random jump. It’s well thought out and appreciated from Raven Software.

Speaking of Urzikstan, I know we constantly seem to anoint the newest map a banger, but this one really is. I’ve had a lot of time getting to know it in its Zombie form, and viewing it in Warzone is a different experience. It feels more alive (no pun intended), with a density we usually only feel on Resurgence maps. Part of it is Urzikstan being twenty percent smaller than Al Mazrah, but I think the space is also better used. The visuals are great, and the verticality between tall buildings, rocky ridges, grassy valleys, and river channels allow for a varied experience every time you drop in.

While some may complain about it, I think the reduction in players to assist struggling lobbies was the smart one. The smaller playing field of Urzikstan allows for the game not to slow down, and I haven’t been in many matches where they felt too long in the tooth. Another interesting decision is perks. Not only do you have new and existing perks, but five have been enabled as permanent additions to your arsenal, like Commando Gloves and Overkill. Forcing the pace of Urzikstan upwards and allowing players to have options with their weaponry is great, and adds more choice.

There’s a lot to do so far this year as well, with multiple events going on since launch. Sure, most are simple with either challenges or XP grinding, but it’s extra stuff to work towards. Loading in almost every week to find new camos or a calling card has been great, and they’re bolstered by some great designs. This is all before CODMAS arrives, which is sure to be a fantastic time with lots of awesome bundles and two events to chase, from what I’m seeing on the dashboard. Not to mention, Season 1 Reloaded looks to be stacked with Ranked Play, new maps, and new weapons. Sledgehammer is embracing live service the best we’ve seen from any Call of Duty dev team so far, and it’s working to their benefit.

Not to be missed, Zombies has been a standout pillar in Modern Warfare III. It’s not a gimmick or a reskin, and is arguably the most fun mode in MWIII. There’s an update here as well, with some nice toys for players. With the Dark Aether Rifts coming into play – similar to how Building 21 worked in DMZ – runs will be even more chaotic and challenging, especially if you’ve been grinding for a while and feel like you’ve hit a wall. My Zombies partner editor Noah Rigsby loves a good challenge, and this looks like it will scratch that itch.

The new Schematics are great callbacks to Zombies modes past, and I look forward to how Treyarch continues to support the mode each season. Things like the V-R11 Wonder Weapon bring you back, and the Aether Blade schematic reminds you of Hell’s Retriever from Mob of the Dead. The good news is even if you haven’t finished the current three story acts, all of this content is available for you to jump straight into, even Act IV’s objectives.

To finish up, we’ve got to talk battle pass. There are a lot of cool items in here, and the BlackCell skins are especially well done. It doesn’t reach the level of last season’s ridiculous Halloween theme, but the combination of earnables are good and the focus on Modern Warfare III is present. I’m actually not mad about the Zombies items being added here. DMZ got a lot of earned flack for pay-to-win type of items that you could pay for, but Zombies PVE setup allows for it to be a nice boost rather than an unfair starting advantage.

Before we go, I do want to commend the teams behind Modern Warfare III. Communication has been rough over the last few years, and we’re seeing invested developers who are passionate about this game listening to the community. Not all feedback makes sense to address, but when things have been broken, where improvements could be made, and even when random snakeshot pistols were an unfair meta, they’ve quickly fixed or removed things to balance this game. Thank you Sledgehammer, Raven, and Treyarch for all of the work you’re putting in, and we hope you have an amazing holiday season.

Overall, while certain elements and choices may be questionable, this season is a win for Call of Duty players. Not only is there a lot here, which means everyone has something to do, but there’s a lot more coming. Combine that with a fantastic live service plan right at the start and stellar communication from the teams on current issues, and Season 1 is looking great. Especially considering Reloaded brings another full mag to the table in a month.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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