Few things are as confusing as the current Call of Duty naming conventions.
Last year we saw Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II which was a sequel to 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. These are not to be confused with the trilogy with the same names which came out in 2007, 2009, and 2011 respectively. Each of those titles were received very well and are responsible for bringing Call of Duty into the homes of millions across the world. Personally, I have extremely fond memories of those games – Modern Warfare II and III, as well as World at War in particular. I would spend hours upon hours with my friends after school playing over Xbox Live and screaming at each other. I was never really good at the games as a kid, but I don’t think many of my friends were that good either, so it was a really fun time to just mess around and not really care about playing to win. We would also spend a ton of time playing the Nazi Zombies mode in World at War. The multiplayer was pretty good, but the Zombies mode was where we would spend the most of our time. The Modern Warfare games never had Zombies, so even a few years later, we’d still find ourselves playing World at War.
Fast forward a couple years, and I begin to lose interest in the series. There was a good chunk of time where I didn’t play a ton of CoD. I distinctly remember playing a lot of Black Ops 2, but the first and third Black Ops games didn’t really grab me. I completely missed out on games like Ghosts, Black Ops 4, Infinite Warfare and Advanced Warfare. I didn’t get back into the series until my brother gave me his copy of Cold War that came with his PS4 because he “didn’t care to play it.” I had a really great time with that game, personally. Safe to say, I have a lot of nostalgia surrounding the early iterations of the Call of Duty franchise.
I remember hearing about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III being announced, but I didn’t really understand what everyone was complaining about. I remember the developers talking about bringing back some old fan favourite maps. That sounded pretty awesome to me. Like I said, a lot of my favourite maps are from older Call of Duty games, and I would be pretty happy to revisit a few of those older maps today. What I didn’t realize was that they were ONLY bringing back these old maps. Not a single new typical 6v6 playlist rotation in this game features a new map. The only way these maps would be new to you is if you somehow missed out on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II back in 2009. For whatever reason, they decided that the newest Call of Duty game should completely recycle the entirety of a 12 year old game’s maps. It is such a strange decision to me, because the other two Modern Warfare games of the last few years had completely brand new maps. That means that if you really loved the MWII (2009) maps, then you are going to be happy. If you really hated them, then you are going to be very sad. If you, like me, had a few of those as your favourites, and a few of them as your least favourites, then you’re going to feel a little conflicted. I always find myself skipping maps like Wasteland, Rust (I don’t really care for Rust, fight me), Derail, and Favela. Those are the maps that I personally didn’t like back then, and I still don’t like them now. Maps like Wasteland and Derail are so big that you often find yourself looking for people way more than actually shooting them. Favela is big, but has too many narrow paths that make it difficult to properly hold down any position. Rust is so small and so wide open at the same time that you’re often only alive for a few seconds at a time.
That also means that the maps I loved from my youth are also back. Maps like Terminal, Afghan, Invasion and Highrise are all back gloriously remastered and still very fun to play. It’s refreshing for a bit to revisit these maps and remember what you loved so much about Call of Duty. Getting to play these maps with updated weapons, movement and overall game mechanics is pretty cool. The problem is that I am already so familiar with these maps, as are most other players. Look back at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered from 2016. That game obviously was a retouched and rereleased version of the first game from 2007. It had ‘REMASTERED’ in the title to show that it wasn’t a brand new game, but it was a way to play your old favourite on a current generation console while getting to enjoy current generation graphics.
The biggest issue I have with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (2023) is that it feels like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2009): II. It’s so familiar that it doesn’t really strike me as a new video game, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Most people take umbrage with the fact that this wasn’t released as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Remastered. There is a completely brand new single player campaign, albeit, a short and uninteresting one. There are also a ton of new weapons and gameplay changes, so it isn’t completely a remaster, just the maps. It’s hard not to side with the people who feel this way, because when you’re buying a new game you expect a lot of high-quality new content. In my opinion, they should have released this game with 10-12 new maps and then added the older maps a few months later. At the moment it feels like going back to a playground you spent a lot of time at as a kid. You’re a lot taller, heavier and have a completely different life. It feels nice and nostalgic to be there, but you can’t go down the slide anymore. You’re not able to have the fun you once had there. Other than a new paint-job, it’s the same playground.
One of the major highlights here is the undeniably satisfying gunplay. While I am very against having/shooting/playing with guns in real life, I am super duper into how the guns feel in this game. Call of Duty has been the face of the arcade-FPS for so long, and it has never felt more arcade-y than it does in its current form. There is an insane amount of weapons here – 115 guns, to be exact. There are a total of 37 new weapons added, and 78 carrying over from Modern Warfare II. There are also a ton of new add-ons for each gun, and if you’ve unlocked them in the previous game, you still have them here. It’s nice that grinding out a new weapon doesn’t feel totally alien, as you can equip attachments you’ve already got access to. However, the new guns are heads and shoulders better than any of the older guns. Weapons you may have really liked from the last game are almost obsolete now. There are better shotguns, rifles, SMGs, LMGs, pistols, snipers, etc. It’s not really worth using the older weapons when you have a way better chance at doing well with one of the new ones, but they’re all still there if you want to use a favourite.
This difference in quality between the new and old guns is heightened by the fact that the time to kill is WAY longer than it should be. Arguably my biggest issue with how the game plays is that I often find myself needing to reload mid-gunfight. Sometimes I’ll put 12-14 rounds in someone and they don’t die. It’s nonsensical. The fact that the time to kill is as high as it is and the maps are as large as they are, I often find myself winning or losing a game by timeout rather than reaching the final kill count or the end score in one of the other modes. I feel like this is very anti-arcade-shooter gameplay design and it’s a detriment to the overall experience. This issue is eventually solved once you unlock extended magazines for the weapons; however, most of the guns don’t unlock the extended mags until super late into the weapon’s progression tree. Often times you need to use a gun for a few hours before you get these magazines available. Given how much you’re running around looking for someone to kill in most of these huge maps, it can feel very frustrating to run into someone and you realize that you are both struggling to kill each other. Some later unlocks require you to kill 3 players without reloading. That is extremely hard without extended magazines and feels nearly impossible for most weapons. If they could iron out the time to kill, or if they added some smaller maps, I feel the overall multiplayer experience would benefit immensely.
Even though the gunplay and movement has always been fast and unrealistic, the story and characters have always felt way more serious than the gameplay. For the longest time you would play as nameless soldiers in military gear touting historically accurate weaponry. Nowadays you can play as Nicki Minaj and blast someone with purple bullets as they explode into dust instead of falling over dead. The presentation now matches the gameplay a lot more, in my opinion. For instance, I have recently been running around as Violator, the evil clown from Spawn. It’s pretty funny getting sniped from across the map by Ash Williams from Evil Dead or Homelander from The Boys. This over the top collaborative nature was popularized by Fortnite, but I’ve always felt that seeing characters like these would just make sense in current era of Call of Duty given the ridiculousness of its gameplay. It’s cool to see! Not only are the playable characters wild, but so are the camos you can apply to your weapons. With a staggering 834 total unlockable camos, you always feel like you are making some sort of progression. Some of them are super interesting, some aren’t. Some of them are legitimate camouflage, but most aren’t. The thing that keeps me playing is the fact that once I unlock a camo with a certain gun, I can apply it later to my favourite guns. As someone who is super into cosmetics in video games it’s hard to stop grinding for all the different camos here. I feel like I have a ton of cosmetic options available, but at the time of writing, I only have 92/834 camos unlocked. I’ve got a lot more grinding to do.
For the first time in Modern Warfare we finally have a dedicated zombie mode. If you were hoping for a story-rich-round-based mode like me, then you’re probably going to feel a little deflated when you realize they’ve completely changed the mode. If you’ve played DMZ or Warzone, it’ll feel familiar to you. I’m annoyed before I even start playing because they make it very tough to grind the weapons you want to use. You have the ability to pick a couple guns, and then if you die and lose the round, you are forced into picking the gear they provide for you. It makes me want to play Zombies less when I am not able to pick the weapons I want. It made sense in the previous iterations because the maps you played were fairly simple to navigate and always had little shortcuts to get back to other areas. Gone are the days of spending money to open paths to new areas, instead you have a giant open world map that is very difficult to cover in one round. There are different coloured areas on the map letting you know the threat level of the zombies waiting to kill you. You and a squad of two other players are tasked to run around the map and clear houses of spores, kill specific targets, last a certain amount of time in a building, etc. When you complete these you gain little award stashes. These often contain powerful weapons or buffs that you used to be able to get in vending machines in the previous renditions of this mode. The Pack-A-Punch machines are still around, as well as many other iconic Zombies items like the cymbal monkey, however it doesn’t feel like Zombies in the traditional sense. You are encouraged to exfil your weapons and gear within 45 minutes, but you are not able to do so until the last 15 minutes. That means you have to survive 30 minutes, which is actually grueling. This mode is unnecessarily difficult and is not something I see myself playing casually. The only reason I will dive back in is to grind some camouflages exclusive to Zombies mode. Also the third person camera is pretty cool, but unfortunately, I am just not into this mode.
Call of Duty: Modern Ware III is a strange game. It often feels like a large expansion to the previous installment. If you were able to play the previous maps as well as the MWII (2009) ones I think the game would be better for it. They have announced that there are brand new maps on the way, as well as some new weapons and a few new game modes. I am looking forward to what they add and I hope that these new maps aren’t as large and complex as the ones they have given us here. While it is nice to experience some nostalgia, the maps do feel old and a little been there, done that. I don’t have the same burning drive to play this game like I did with the others in the trilogy because I’m already so familiar with what is here. I think if you’re a long time Call of Duty player, this is probably the easiest skip the franchise has released in a while. If you’re someone who has maybe been looking for some reason to come back to the franchise and you miss the golden era, then maybe you could actually get something from this release. It is so hard to deny that the game is fun, but some of the core gameplay decisions made here ultimately soured my Call of Duty experience. Hopefully my mind is changed a few months down the line, but as it stands, this is my least favourite entry in this particular trilogy.