Oftentimes, you have to ask, “What just happened?” It could be when looking at a game’s launch state and how it could possibly be released under such circumstances. Other times, it’s examining the backlash and explaining why so many people are upset (or at least why something is generating such a strong response). With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, it’s not enough to ask “What the hell happened,” but also “What?” Just plain “What?” interspersed with varying degrees of foul language, but I digress.
Early access went live on November 2nd for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s campaign. It’s the direct follow-up to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, last year’s sequel to the 2019 reboot, which ended with the tease of Makarov as the next antagonist. There was already concern about churning out a new game in just a year.
Rumors circulated about this year’s premium release being an expansion, but no, it’s a sequel. Maybe good ol’ Activision decided to expand it into a full game. Maybe it didn’t just take whatever content was meant to ship, slap a $70 price and call it a day?
It’s unknown how that whole decision-making process went down, but a handful of hours later, there’s justifiable rage. Some have reported finishing the campaign in about 3 to 4 hours, while others wagered it was about 2.5 hours. Some completed it and managed to refund the game on Steam.
But say you believe HowLongToBeat, which specifies about five hours or so to finish the campaign (with the cutscenes constituting about 37 minutes of the total runtime). Maybe you play on the highest difficulty and die continuously. That would extend the playtime slightly. Not the worst, though every other Call of Duty title has had a longer playtime. On top of that, most didn’t ask for $70. However, this is an expansion sold for the price of a game without the campaign to justify its asking price.
Now, some won’t mind a traditional set piece-heavy campaign which is a few hours long, even if the story is nonsense and insignificant, or that you need to download Call of Duty HQ, which is Modern Warfare 2 with a different name and launch it from there. However, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t offer that.
It offers one decent mission (the opening) and then bombards you with some of the laziest-designed missions since all of Redfall. Those epic missions with crazy set pieces have been reduced – instead, you’ll spend a good chunk, say, about half the game, in Open Combat missions.
They’re not the worst idea on the surface. You enter a large environment that looks suspiciously like Verdansk from Warzone and can take different approaches to complete objectives. There are weapons and equipment to discover, and it’s possible to stack armor and go guns blazing on enemies, sneak around stealthily and much more.
There are even vehicles to control, and you can change loadouts mid-mission since the enemies will adapt to your tactics. It’s like the Revenge System from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain! Kojima – er, Activision has done it again!
In practice, Open Combat missions are just an excuse to throw you into a large environment with insultingly easy objectives to complete. You can ignore everything to finish them and leave. Even if you want to go around shooting enemies, their AI is horrendous – snipe one enemy without a silencer and not only will nearby allies not care, but they may not even register the noise. Forget a Hitman-style sandbox with numerous creative ways to kill your targets – these Open Combat missions are nothing more than a single-player version of Modern Warfare 2’s DMZ. And DMZ isn’t really all that popular or fun to begin with.
So the traditional campaign missions range from “meh” to boring, with some of the worst storytelling in the franchise yet (which is saying something). The Open Combat missions are a snooze fest, at best and lazily designed at worst. To top it all off, you have to pay $70.
There will be plenty who say that you’re also paying for Multiplayer and Zombies. What about those who don’t want to play Multiplayer, whether because of matchmaking or simply because it’s not for them? Forget the fact that all of the Core 6v6 maps from Multiplayer are also reused from Modern Warfare 2 (2009). Those who care about single-player can’t even jump into Zombies, which has been round-based and soloable in previous titles.
No, they need to play the new and improved Zombies, which is…a PvE extraction shooter, once again set on a Warzone-style map where they must gather resources and extract. It could be acceptable, if not great, but that leaves the campaign, and those who put down their money, expecting something resembling triple-A quality, are out of luck. But at least you can go back and replay any mission in the campaign and try different loadouts. Maybe that will increase the fun factor.
After asking “What” and “How”, one has to wonder: “Why?” Why is this an acceptable standard for campaigns? Yes, it’s Call of Duty, and yes, the same annoying tropes apply across games. But aside from Ghosts and that one Black Ops game that will go nameless, you could at least be assured of a solid campaign. Not only does Modern Warfare 3 fall short of that, but it’s way below the worst entries.
Remember 2011’s Modern Warfare 3 and the missions it delivered? Remember Spec Ops? Remember the finale and the deaths of beloved characters that meant something, where playing Captain Price felt special? That era is long gone, and it’s a shame.
While it’s tempting to direct your ire towards the developers, remember: This was supposed to be an expansion for Modern Warfare 2. The fact that it requires Modern Warfare 2 to run more or less confirms that. Even with so many studios involved in development – Sledgehammer, Infinity Ward, Beenox, High Moon Studios, Treyarch and so on – it would have been a miracle to get a full-fledged release with no reused content out this year, that too at a high level of quality.
Of course, Activision doesn’t care about that or you. Its only objective is to release a new Call of Duty and reap that sweet $70 (with microtransactions, and no, it doesn’t matter if they’re cosmetic only). Granted, it’s one of the highest-selling franchises in the world, year in and year out, so assuming that people would buy it, regardless of quality, isn’t the worst financial plan.
Then again, this is the best year for video game releases since, oh, maybe 2007. It’s not like you have games like Baldur’s Gate 3, Alan Wake 2, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Final Fantasy 16, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Resident Evil 4, Street Fighter 6, Dead Space, Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon – the list goes on – that people could spend their money on instead.
But hey, if things do go wrong, and fewer people are willing to put down their money than before, Activision is now owned by Microsoft. They can pick up the pieces and figure out what to do. Maybe layoffs for developers who had nothing to do with the decisions that led to this mess.
Long story short, if you buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for whatever reason, don’t play the campaign. There’s no “so good, it’s bad” appeal or innovative features that stand out amongst the never-ending boredom. The story exists for no reason but to set up the inevitable Modern Warfare 4. Maybe the backlash will become big enough to lead to changes. Perhaps things will improve slightly next year, and we’ll all forget about it. Time, as always, will tell.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.