Also On: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
To say I was excited for Modern Warfare III would be an understatement. The Modern Warfare campaigns have been a high point for me in epic action-movie-style storytelling in video games since Call of Duty 4 was released when I was 14 years old. While I wouldn’t claim action-heavy stories to be anywhere near the apex of quality writing in general, there’s just something special about the crazy over-the-top nature of the best action movies and games. Call of Duty, especially the Modern Warfare series has been the champion of this fact for 15+ years. So… what went wrong here?
Leading up to the release of Modern Warfare III, I decided I would replay the campaigns for both of the previous entries in the current series. I knew I loved them, but replaying them, I really forgot just how cool they made you feel. How epic some of the moments were. I replayed the campaign from the 2019 Modern Warfare and was amazed. Almost surprised at how I felt like the graphics were better than what I’d been seeing playing Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer recently. Modern Warfare II’s campaign was no stranger to epic moments and cool stunts either, though. I replayed it immediately following and was again wowed by so many of the moments and scenes that passed by. Truly, it was another exceptional action story. I was ready for Modern Warfare III’s campaign, and excited to play it.
Then I was prompted with a review code for Modern Warfare III. I was excited to spend a few days playing it, and getting to write up my enjoyment of the newest title. I launched it up and… I beat it in less than 24 hours. I didn’t even allot a large chunk of time to playing the first day, it just… ended so quickly. I finished the campaign in three hours. Three hours! The two previous entries were each at least twice that length! Okay, you might ask, the length is short, but that may be fine if the content is still good, right? Maybe, but that’s not the case! I’m going to dig in a bit below here, and be spoiler-free on the story until I mention otherwise.
The opening mission set a good precedent for the game. It felt interesting and engaging. I’m curious if it was the only one to get truly fleshed out and the rest ended up being rushed because they decided to do two MW entries in a row. But after finishing that mission, the second mission set up what was, in my opinion, the first sign that things were going wrong. It dropped you into an area and gave you a map, an objective, and the information that you can find crates with custom weapons inside as well as armor plates, self-revives, kill streaks, and more. They took Warzone and dropped it directly onto the campaign. This… is not at all what I expect or want from a Call of Duty campaign, and I’d be surprised to learn anyone thought this was a good addition.
The writing and pacing certainly weren’t doing any favors to the other questionable choices throughout. Story beats kept dropping at a hundred miles per hour, and things were accelerating at Mach 5. There wasn’t even really a point I could choose mentally to call the “climax”. It built up so quickly that the depth was missing, and then suddenly it was over. The story didn’t even feel like it was meant to end where it did. It was as if it hit the deadline for release and they just stopped where they were in the story and slapped the credits on. I hardly know how to make commentary on it because of how quickly things came and went.
Most of all though, to me, what was missing was all of the interesting set pieces and unique gameplay functions. MW 2019 and MWII both had several points of interest where the game wasn’t just walk and shoot. Take control of cameras and guide someone sneaking through an area covered in enemies; fall out of a helicopter hanging upside down shooting your pistol and then cut yourself free, directly into another scene where you take over driving vehicles, hopping from one to the next at will to survive. There are so many examples of A+ set pieces and moments in the last two games, so again, what happened? How did this entry become a walk-and-shoot exclusive, semi-open-world, DMZ crate-riddled campaign?
HERE IS WHERE I’M GOING TO START WRITING SPOILERS. STARTING WITH HOW THE GAME ENDS.
I need to complain, and I need you to read it. I cannot believe they handled Soap’s death the way they did. It was awful. I knew he was going to die, of course, because they’re just redoing the story from the original trilogy, but really? Come on, guys. You can do better than what you did. It really felt like you did Soap a disservice after bringing him in for Modern Warfare II. His death might be the most sudden, anticlimactic, and glossed-over death I’ve ever seen in a story. Let me set the scene for you. You’re disarming a bomb with soap and suddenly, Makarov appears behind him, starts wrestling both of you, then just shoots him and walks away.
Walks away?! How is that what happens? Ghost, Price, Gaz?! You guys have been hunting for this man the entire campaign, he walks up and shoots your companion in the head 5 feet in front of you and you just let him walk away? Nobody chases him, nobody shoots at him until like 15 seconds have passed, nothing. The game cuts to mourning soap and the credits roll. How is this an ending? Seriously, I can’t stop asking this question; I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but what happened? It’s really likely to be my tagline for the review.
END STORY SPOILERS
I’m having trouble finding content to add additional comments on because the story did not stick with me very well at all. What did stick were the most offensive things, which I mentioned above. I can’t believe this was the follow-up to the last two games and I find myself incredibly disappointed. I can’t really say I recommend playing the story, but it’s only 3 hours long, so you’re not wasting much time if you want to experience the disappointment firsthand. Here’s hoping the multiplayer is at least enjoyable still.
Note: Activision provided us with a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III PC code for review purposes.