Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III review — Familiar front line

Modern Warfare III followed in its predecessors footsteps in being another marred by developmental issues, mainly in that Sledgehammer had to cobble this one together in record time: 16 months It helps when, for the first time, we’re getting a direct sequel, so assets and engines can be reused, but the challenge of releasing a Call of Duty game has arguably never been greater. As per usual, GamingTrend has been grinding through this one, with the campaign starting us off in early access.


While not everyone comes to Call of Duty for the campaign, it’s nonetheless been a staple of the franchise. These aren’t generally large, maxing out in the six to eight hour range for the most part. After rolling the credits, I have quite a few thoughts on the approach Modern Warfare III takes, and sadly the result is middling at best.

The story begins with Konni (a Russian military faction) sending a strike team to break someone out of prison. Low and behold, it’s Vladimir Makarov. Suddenly, our favorite Modern Warfare characters of Price, Soap, Ghost, and more are thrust into a conflict, having to stop whatever this guy has planned. If that sounds a bit shallow, that’s because it largely is. Makarov spends your next couple of hours constantly being ahead of you, but without much setup to make him feel like a fleshed out villain.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III Campaign livestream w/ Lead Editor David Burdette!

I don’t mind bringing Makarov into this story. After all, his presence is almost necessary with this being the next part of the current reboot. But, the amount of time the narrative lasts isn’t enough to set the stage, let alone tell a good tale. I beat the campaign in about four hours, and I don’t see a reason to go back. Everything is rushed, as if someone started a sentence and suddenly didn’t finish it before moving into the next topic of conversation.

Part of that is the structure. You have your regular, linear missions, but also along for the ride are open levels designated as “Open Combat”. Because of how these are linked together, it’s really hard to ever establish a personal connection with the events in front of you. I’ve always believed that flow is one of the more important things in any narrative, and Modern Warfare III is constantly interrupting its flow which destroys your immersion.

The set pieces are usually the best parts of what Modern Warfare III has to offer. These are the missions you will be familiar with from any normal Call of Duty campaign, the “point A to point B” with plenty of exposition in between, and a few bombastic moments along the way (like MWII’s Dark Water). Having missions like this is important for setup, but they never feel long enough to do that. The narrative behind them is disjointed, either because it’s hurrying along or it’s just not well written.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III Campaign livestream Part II w/ Lead Editor David Burdette!

Spoilers here: General Shepherd and Graves show up, and they almost feel pointless to what’s in front of you. Not to mention you never really get any reason as to why Graves is alive in the first place. Besides this, they just feel slimy and conniving, but in a way that makes them subpar as semi-villains in this story. It’s a far cry from the General Shepherd that murdered Ghost and Roach in cold blood in 2009’s MW2, a real downgrade to his character overall. Both are simply just not interesting, so adding them is subtraction to the campaign.

If I had to pick a best mission, it’d have to be Frozen Tundra. This one is a true Call of Duty mission, with an over-the-top opening, and an ensuing run to extraction. The fields of snow is a cool idea, with snipers hiding around for you to take out, but it takes another neat turn when you make it to a frozen body of water. Here, the wind kicks up, giving you the ability to use the cold as cover against the thermal scopes of your enemies. Sure, there’s no crazy ending, but there are nice touches that make it fun to play.

While the set pieces can be decent, the open combat missions are throwaway. I get the intention, adding missions where you have different choices in how to approach an objective. That said, when your regular missions direct me from point A to point B, that’s the direction I’m going to take. Each one feels like a piece of a multiplayer or Warzone map, with a mini-map and everything. Jumping in is like booting up a Spec Ops mission; there’s a little clarity in what you’re doing, but it’s devoid of having its own personality. You run around, do the things, and shoot bots. It’s pretty boring, which is not something I like to say about Call of Duty.

At least it still feels good to play and looks great visually. Some of my streaming didn’t look so hot given my choices of settings (I prefer less polygons and more framerate), but between the cutscenes and several of the locations there was a lot to like, plenty of it visually striking. Call of Duty campaigns take you globetrotting, and alongside that it was nice to revisit Verdansk again.

We’ll get more into the gunplay once the full game drops on November 10th, but all of the improvements we felt in the beta are here. Sliding around is smooth, and the gunplay is always at the tiptop of what first-person shooters offer. While there is decent weapon variety, I was surprised at how often I found Modern Warfare II weapons instead of MWIII ones. I wish Sledgehammer would have used the campaign more as a showcase for those, if not eliminating the MWII weapons from it entirely. Gun’s like the Holger 556 stole the show, so highlighting them would make more sense than every enemy having a Kastov 545.


While the campaign has its flaws, the multiplayer of Modern Warfare III feels revived in comparison. MWII had the issue of vision, mainly that it wasn’t in line with what fans wanted. I still respect Infinity Ward and what they wanted to do, but I get why it wasn’t well received. Where Infinity Ward drew a hard line, Sledgehammer has dusted it away, throwing out all stops in providing the experience the community has yearned for where they can.

We talked about it in preview, but the movement changes have been sublime. The speed feels great, and the sliding is smooth and snappy. I don’t know if jumping/hopping is what it used to be, but even that feels like it’s gotten an upgrade. Moving around just feels right, and with Sledgehammer even reverting the sprint delay from a slide. It’s back to Call of Duty at its arcade best, which is exactly what the doctor ordered.

As mentioned earlier, the gunplay is still my favorite out there. Shooting anything, whether a submachine gun or RPG, just feels good. Call of Duty does it right already, so no need to fix what isn’t broken. There are some issues with hit registration that need to be ironed out (which were present in beta); once those are corrected Modern Warfare III will be in great shape.

Time to kill also got a big adjustment in this game, and one I’m very happy with. In MWII, dying was as simple as being exposed for a half second; it wouldn’t take more than three bullets sometimes to take you down. In Modern Warfare III, you can survive a lot longer, allowing for shoulder peaking or engaging a player in a power position with the new movement mechanics. This leads to everything feeling much more fair, and according to XclusiveAce (a fantastic Call of Duty content creator), MWIII’s TTK is quite close to Black Ops Cold War, one of the better feeling TTKs in recent COD history.

The gun selection is a bit odd though. Let me be clear, I really like the new additions, but there just aren’t a lot of them. Besides that, the assault rifles are clearly the best options, with many of the SMGs being underpowered. I’ll always agree that my SMG shouldn’t be able to beam a guy long range, but most of the assault rifles still have the upper hand close up. Weapons like the Bas-B, a battle rifle, is so by category only, a 45 round mag upgrade away from dominating the map. There’s a balance that is still needed, and it makes the Striker SMG nerf a bit more confusing as it’s nigh unusable.

Modern Warfare II’s Carry Forward feature also feels a little more like a necessity than bonus, given the few additions to the MWIII arsenal. There are good ones; the MCW is a laser and the Holger 556 is a fantastic flex, but some are offshoots of what we already had in Modern Warfare II. For example, the Bas-B is another in that family of guns that originated in Modern Warfare II. I like that we have some new receivers, but it’s a bit few and far in between. It feels too often like we’re using the same weapon, just in a different form.

One thing is for sure, the arcade feel of shooting is back. Recoil is at an all-time low, almost to the point where I’m overcompensating for the lack of it. You can shoot when you slide again, and you don’t have fifty attachments dropping your ADS speeds. Run and gun is no longer just a descriptor, it’s what MWIII is. I’m also happy to see red dots return to the mini-map, allowing you to chase after people who get too frisky with their trigger fingers. It makes suppressors actually make sense to equip as well, adding more to the strategy of gunplay.

Sniping is awesomely fun again, but it also may be a bit overpowered. It’s back to feeling more snappy and less heavy, along with great scopes that give you clear pictures. Besides that, it’s possible to run around without feeling like you’re lugging a hunk of metal around. That said, the aim assist is really strong, which leads to them being too powerful overall. Funny enough, you still need the right attachments to get the best out of them; the Longbow and KV Inhibitor can get really annoying in their base states.

Unlocking attachments and gear for your loadouts is both easy and hard, which is similar to what we dealt with last year. You again level to 55, with plenty of unlocks in a straight line, but getting other items can be obtuse. Many attachments can be earned by simply leveling a specific gun, but some require armory challenges.

This means if I want a certain gun stock, sometimes I can do it by leveling my gun, but other times it’s locked behind completing a certain number of daily challenges. This even extends to equipment, gear, perks, killstreaks, and others, although weapons can be gained through blueprints or extracting them with Zombies. There’s just too much complication here; armory challenges should be optional as a means to gain an attachment early, not as the only way. Also, there are just way too many attachments, it’s exhausting looking through the list.

When it comes to maps, there isn’t anything new technically on the field. That’s because all sixteen maps are remasters from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer. I’ll be honest, people are going to love or hate this aspect of the game. On one hand, there isn’t a new map at all. On the other, we love a lot of these maps. It’s going to be a toss up on which camp you fall into, although Sledgehammer has twelve brand new maps coming through the seasonal content, alongside more remasters and some MWII Carry Forward maps.

I personally fall into the latter category. I didn’t play a whole lot of Modern Warfare 2 back in the day, so getting to go back to these fan favorites has been a blast. There’s a lot to re-learn, but everything seems to be perfectly re-imagined, along with scale to make sure the difference in movement from the games is accounted for. Maps like High Rise, Rundown, and Rust bring back that great nostalgia, a reminder of just how awesome some of these are. Not every map works great, but even back in the day maps like Derail and Estate were skipped because they were just too big.

As far as problems go, most of them involve players sitting at power positions throughout the map with no great way to combat them, which is an issue when remaking any maps. While the scaling helps with speed, it doesn’t fix core gameplay problems like being able to sit behind a box, your head barely visible with a one shot sniper, with no good flanking route to counter you. Add in a few rough spawns in the respawn modes, which is somewhat Call of Duty tradition, and some positions are nigh impenetrable.

For instance, Terminal on Search and Destroy can be unbearable. Imagine this, a player is behind the planters at the escalators with a sniper, one is watching the long hall in front of the bookstore, and another is at the tunnel/walkway to the plane. You just can’t work your way up easily if they are decently skilled. These lock you in place, and it becomes a frustrating problem with few solutions.

Arguably the biggest issue I’ve run into so far has been the skill based match-making. SBMM is a curse word to the COD community, and it seems to be amped up at the moment. I’ve been in plenty of sweaty lobbies, but the ones I’ve been in since launch have been nothing short of a drag. I talked about Terminal above, and that specific situation was caused by that particular lobby. In another match that night, we had most of an opposing team quit, and blew a 2-0 lead to the tune of 2-6 because they were replaced with god-like players. It’s like the game is actively trying to make me rage-quit at times, which sucks considering how much fun Modern Warfare III multiplayer is to play. With the presence of SBMM in gaming not going anywhere, the level at which the matchmaking system currently sits is scaled far too high.

Modern Warfare III’s Multiplayer (and honestly the rest of the game) does suffer a bit from perception, and that’s because of the reuse of assets. None of us can ignore that this does feel more like an expansion compared to a full new release. This is compounded by the Carry Forward feature, which, while fantastic for anyone who has invested a few COD points into bundles, can be interpreted as filling in the gaps. Also in tow, this is our first direct sequel since Call of Duty 3. For many, Modern Warfare III will feel recycled and repurposed, whether it is or isn’t.


Some are going to look at Zombies as a reskin of DMZ, and it’s a fair assessment. We’ve even seen some fragments from the MWII mode in a loading screen that still bore the logo, beyond the obvious similarities between both modes. Don’t take it at face value though; Zombies is a ton of fun to play, even if built upon the bones of what came before.

The easiest way to describe Zombies in Modern Warfare III is that it’s DMZ mixed with Outbreak, the open-level concept for Zombies introduced in Black Ops Cold War. Your gameplay loop follows DMZ, with picking a loadout, spawning into a random location on the map, and then taking forty-five minutes to do missions and figure out where the story is going beyond them before exfilling, assuming you don’t die. Where things have changed on the map is two-fold: Three difficulty based zones and a lack of PVP.

Starting with the zones, the further you press into the map, the harder things become. Zombies scale to each zone, which makes them a lot harder to kill, and there are more of them along with tougher variants. The same occurs with the mercenaries that litter the map, with elite and armored ones that make your life hell. Between the two you have a tough fight to take on, with the varied encounters working well within the confines of the mode. Unfortunately, the DMZ stylings mean you’ll lose everything for your selected operator if you die, but at least that’s less likely because of the second change.

As for PVP, it’s completely absent from Zombies. Similar to the remastered maps, you’re either going to love or hate this decision. If you are a big fan of the original Zombies mode, however, this makes sense given the previous co-op stylings. In this world, helping your co-hort get up could mean life or death versus the horde. I personally didn’t care for the way DMZ devolved into players rushing at other players directly from spawn to crush their hopes and dreams, sullying the experience for many. This feels like a great use of the mode which sticks to its core philosophies in delivering a PVE arena.

Urzikstan looks and plays like other Warzone maps before it but with some undead additions. Iconic zombie features like the Mystery Box, Pack-a-punch, and Cola Perks return as they’re scattered generously throughout the map. The map itself is very large, so you’ll spend a good amount of time running around as vehicles are sparse. I understand that the Zombies idea makes for less working cars, but it’d be nice for treks to be a little easier.

Objectives come in a few different sizes. There are smaller things on the map like Zombie-infested houses or mercenary camps you can quickly take on. Returning from DMZ are contracts, but these objective-based tasks are Zombie-themed, like Bounty which has you destroying a mini-boss Zombie, or Aether Extractors, in which you have to destroy three extractors defended by mercenaries before a timer finishes. They aren’t over the top, and most will be an alternate form of a DMZ contract, but they’re fun and offer plenty of good rewards, like weapon mods or Perk-A-Colas.

Speaking of mods and colas, I really like this mechanic. Not only do the Perk-A-Colas do the thing they’ve always done (give you a boost), but you can also drop them in your backpack. This in turn lets you save them in a small stash for later runs, which gives you the opportunity to plan out the bigger missions. The same works with the ammo mods that give elemental benefits to your bullets. All of these are available in a crafting system, which you’ll earn through the oh so wonderful RNG you hope blesses you each time. Thankfully, given the short nature of most missions, you’ll be rewarded often.

The main missions resemble the faction missions from DMZ, but are more focused. You only have a single set to follow, and most are simple, like “get fifty cryo ammo kills”. Like the other missions, nothing has come across as too complex, leading to Zombies overall feeling like a nice cool down from the more competitive multiplayer.

Overall, every time I would exfil I was ready to dive back in. The gameplay loop is addictive, with lots of small payoffs that will lead to bigger ones down the line (just go on YouTube and look up “Big Worm Boss MW3”). Matched with Call of Duty’s signature gunplay and engaging Warzone map, it’s a recipe for fun. There’s a strategy to it, and it’s made even better with friends.

That said, I’d always try to play with friends. Zombies is not very friendly to solo players, especially given the horde that seems to overwhelm you. It’s not impossible, but it ain’t easy either.

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.



Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III

Review Guidelines

Although a lackluster campaign and reused content holds it back, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III has a few great tricks up its sleeve. The multiplayer engages in a way its predecessor missed the mark, and open-world Zombies is exactly as entertaining as it sounds. There's more to be desired as a whole, but as rushed as it was, MWIII has solid elements that can be enjoyed.

David Burdette

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