By Joseph Luster

Folks, we’re officially back to the third Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game, and no, this isn’t a review of 2011’s Modern Warfare 3. Confusingly enough—at least to those who don’t follow this series as fervently as others—the latest entry in Activision’s global smash war shooter saga is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (note the roman numerals), the third part in the rebooted Modern Warfare sub-series that started in 2019. It’s also the 20th overall Call of Duty game, and yet another glaring signal that it might be time to take a step back and figure out what works and how best to pace out this utter juggernaut of a franchise. 

Let’s start with what works here. Multiplayer is, for the most part, where you’ll want to spend your time in Modern Warfare III. There are some standout maps to choose from—including the likes of Invasion, Skidrow, and Terminal—with a few working better in some modes than others. Some of the returning maps suffer, though, mostly due to the fact that they don’t mesh well with the thrilling new movement system. Call of Duty plays faster and more versatile than ever before, thanks in no small part to new additions like Tactical Stance, or “Tac Stance.” This is a way to aim your weapons that serves as an essential maneuver in both standard multiplayer and Warzone showdowns. It’s somewhat of an advanced move, but it’s another indicator of the smart ways in which developer Sledgehammer clearly endeavored to improve and expand upon the online aspects of the series. 

Another feature that continues to keep these games afloat is the one most separated from reality. There is still a lot of fun to be had with Zombies mode, and this year’s iteration ups the enemy threat and gives players even more to do in Operation Deadbolt. This follows the act of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War in that it’s set in the Dark Aether Saga, taking place within Zaravan, Urzikstan and challenging players to complete contracts and traverse a large map to complete a series of objectives. It’s an impressive piece of the package and yet another question mark asking why they’re even bothering with a campaign at this point.

Speaking of which, you’ll be done with the single-player aspect of Modern Warfare III before you know it. This entry may boast around 15 or so missions in total, but it should take your average player three to five hours to see it all. That’s either indicative of a rushed development cycle, lack of focus and prioritization, or both. One can’t help but feel that the entire thing was tacked on just so they could say they did it. 

The campaign may not have much to it, but there are at least a few decent ideas at play. One of the most interesting concepts is the addition of open combat missions, which drop players into areas to secure loot and take on the mission in their own unique way. The freedom offers up something you don’t normally get from the typically rigid missions found in Call of Duty games. Heck, the series—or at least the campaigns therein—have long been known for their scripted, cinematic nature. Big, bombastic set pieces are part and parcel for Activision’s cash cow, but veering into a more open scenario doesn’t mean you have to do away with all that big budget flair. 

Ideally, in future installments we’ll see more of this, or at least something iterative of it on top of the expected multiplayer. If that comes to pass and the devs are able to take more time to release a less issue-prone online affair, the Call of Duty series may eventually spring back to a level of pedigree above just noting its sales numbers. As it stands, moving away from the annual nature of these games would be the wisest decision. That might not happen, however, until the day wisdom becomes a currency that can help fund multi-billion dollar acquisitions and mergers.

Genre: Shooter • Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox • Publisher: Activision • Available: Now

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